Post 45:08 My $0.05 on Bill Henson

Every so often, society gets its knickers in a twist and indulges in an orgy of moral panic.

Hence the current Bill Henson mess.

Here’s what I reckon we should do.

If you have ever taken photos of kids in the bath or on the beach, shot a snap of your kids innocently vamping it up in an age-inappropriate costume or watched Blue Water High without wondering why the national broadcaster has made a show about buff teenagers in bikinis, take yourself to the nearest police station and demand to be charged with whatever it is one can be charged with for putting kids in a context where it might be possible for someone to imagine that you were potentially contemplating sex.

I suggest you turn yourself in because if you have done any of these things you are, quite obviously, a step away from the kind of depravity that our child protection laws are actually designed to prevent.

So turn yourself in and let’s see what happens when the courts have a few hundred of these absurd cases to deal with.

Maybe that will make the point that edgy, disturbing, art is nowhere near as dangerous as closed minds.


5 thoughts on “Post 45:08 My $0.05 on Bill Henson

  1. your argument is somewhat absurd.

    Firstly a naked toddler has no concept of their own sexuality, the same cannot be said of the adolsescents Henson uses as models.

    For me what makes Henson’s actions unconscionable and culpable is the potential for harm.

    Sure some former models have come out in support of him, there have also been some high profile cases where abductees and other victims of heinous crime have been similarly empathetic towards the perpetrators.

    Likewise the issue of parental consent is invalid, if we accept parental consent as valid in this instance we must also consider it as justification in cases where parents may permit their children to be sexually preyed upon, actively abused or other gross derelictions of parental responsibility.

    To me it seems Henson and his supporters are arguing that a person aught be free of the same ethical constraints which bind the rest of the community simply because they proclaim themselves “an artist”.
    By this logic Henson himself would have to waive his legal rights were he himself say, abducted and murdered, graphic images of his ordeal recorded and displayed publicly “in the name of art” by an individual who had proclaimed him or herself “an artist”.

    Proclaiming one’s self an artist is not a licence to engage in behaviour that harms (or has the potential to harm) other people.

    Poor ethics leads to poor outcomes and from what I can see, Henson has displayed no ethics whatsoever.
    Poor art is the inevitable result.

  2. Self-knowledge of sexuality is a point I had not considered.
    Potential for harm? What harm? What potential? How does being photographed naked potentially hurt anyone?
    Stockholm Syndrome for the models? Hmmmm ….
    Henson should waive his rights? That’s where I think you go off the rails!

  3. obviously I don’t advocate murder, I was merely higlighting the absurdity of condoning the “all in the name of art” argument taken to it’s logical extreme.

    If you concede that child pornography has the capacity to harm the children involved (which is why we have laws against it), you further concede that within our culture there is some blurring of the concepts of nakedness and sexuality (which I think is widely accepted) then you must concede that Henson’s images, have the potential to harm the developing psyches of his subjects.

    If you are genuinely going to argue that an underage girl being photographed naked has no capacity to harm them then in the interests of consistency you would have to also argue in favour of legalising child pornography in it’s most blatant and exploitative form, and I don’t think you really want to do that do you?

  4. Hmmm … the thot plickens.
    I imagine that the creation of pornography is a vastly different process to the kind of photo shoot I expect Bill Henson conducts. Were it otherwise I assume he would have been the subject of investigations long, long ago.
    I assume that the processes used to create pornography are by their very nature abusive and involve either coercion, manipulation or mis-education of the child subjects. I utterly and completely acknowledge that those processes have massive potential to harm a child.
    What I do NOT understand is the causal link between any “blurring of the concepts of nakedness and sexuality” and the potential for harm. What’s the link? Is anyone under [insert age x] so vulnerable that ANY exposure to their sexuality will scar them?
    Do better.

  5. I think the real point we have to consider is whether nakedness really equals a child being in a ‘sexual context’ which is the test in the relevant Crimes Act. Does Henson’s photo place a child in a sexual context? AlburyWodongaonline seems to argue that it does – that there is a blurring of the concepts of nakedness and sexuality (and that this is widely accepted). I absolutely disagree with that. The naked form has been studied in art for millenia. The naked form of children has also been studied in art for millenia. There is nothing that I see in Henson’s photos which place a child in a sexual context so I can not see how it is either pornographic or harmful to the subjects.

    I also dispute the idea that children and toddlers have no consciousness of their own sexuality, but that’s an argument for a different time.

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that if you accept that pornography might be harmful to children then you have to accept that Bill Henson’s photos must be harmful to the subjects involved. But I certainly think that this grubby debate is going to be harmful to both the subjects of the photos and the capacity for our society to deal with subtlety and ambiguity in art.

    Just because you see porn when you look at Henson’s work, doesn’t mean it’s porn.

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