1) You can't 'sexualise' something that is already self-sexualised. Obviously I can't speak for blokes but any woman who tells you she was not sexually aware (not necessarily 'experienced', just aware) and curious by the time her breasts had begun to grow is either lying, repressed or very very unusual.
2) Adolescents are not children.
3) People who persist in framing the debate as one of two clear-cut binaries -- the 'anti-censorship v. wowsers' brigade, or the '"OMG they're enabling paedophiles, arrest them" v. "It's Art, you oiks"' brigade -- are never going to listen to each other. These four groups all appear to have plasticine their ears.
4) Kevin Rudd is a bureaucrat and a Christian. We all already knew that. Also, if your mantra is 'working families', it's dangerously off-message not to Loudly Denounce anything that appears to threaten 'family values'. Anyone who was surprised by Rudd's reaction hasn't been paying attention. Which is not to say that if he finds the Henson photographs 'absolutely revolting' then his knowledge of the history and theory of art must pretty much nonexistent. Which is depressing, but not surprising.
5) Trying to sort these issues into 'left and right', and to attach one's views to one side or the other, is the single least intelligent and most common thing I have seen commentators doing, on and off line, since this business first hit the fan, and has produced some of the most nonsensical commentary.
6) The populist scorn heaped upon the 'arty-farty', the 'luvvies' and so on and so drearily forth is to do with hysterical rejection of anything that is not understood, coupled with eleven years of thought-training in scorning the "cultural elites".
7) Freud abandoned the seduction theory -- that many of his patients' psychological problems had their origin in childhood sexual abuse -- under heavy peer pressure that mostly took the form of ridiculing the notion that childhood sexual abuse could possibly be so widespread, much less involve actual *gasp* fathers. This was in Austria. I mean, I ask you.
8) I've been looking at Bill Henson's work since Peter Craven and Michael Heyward used to publish it regularly in Scripsi, (and do read that, it's terrific, and very informative, and there are some wonderful images) of which Henson was graphics editor, in the 1980s and early 1990s, and it has always weirded me out. But the point is that that is the point. Like the painting of Goya, Heironymous Bosch or Francis Bacon, or Nabokov's Lolita, it is supposed to weird you out.
9) Here's a question: would those who scorn the claims that art is qualitatively different from p*rn in its intents and effects claim that this Greek vase is not art?
10) This is from Margaret Drabble's novel A Natural Curiosity. The character Liz is a psychotherapist; she is on a TV panel, arguing, on the basis of a recent Romeo-and-Juliet type tragedy, that the 'age of consent' law should be abolished.
'But you can't deny,' said the politician, 'that the removal of legal constraint would open the floodgates?'
Liz appeared amused, quizzical, interested.
'You mean you think that everyone is longing to have sex with the underaged, and that only the law prevents it? ... Do you really think,' she inquired, innocently, this time of the unfortunate headmaster, 'that the desire of adults for sexual contact with children is so widespread and so strong that only the most severe social and legal sanctions can control it?' While he hesitated, she pursued: 'And if this is so, does it ever occur to you that this desire itself could be less abnormal than you believe it to be? And less harmful?'
Now, Clive could tell, she really had gone too far, she had broken a taboo, she had said the unspeakable.
... When asked if her views represented those of her profession as a whole, Liz, for the first time, hesitated and then continued: 'No, I wouldn't say so, these views are my own ... But may I say that I haven't really been expressing views. The rest of you have been doing that. I have been asking questions and making suggestions.'
11) Here's another picture; this is a photograph of Alice Liddell, popularly supposed to have been the 'original' of Alice in Wonderland, taken by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll. He has dressed her up as a 'beggar-maid'; the reference appears to be to the story of King Cophetua and the Beggar-Maid, popular and well-known at the time, and in essence a love story about adults. Here is Alice. It's 1858, a date most will recognise as mid-Victorian. Alice comes from a secure, loving, educated and enlightened family, her father a classical scholar. This photograph was taken in the earliest days of photography, an art of which Dodgson was a pioneer.
Alice was six.
I find this photograph far more disturbing than any of the Henson ones, and would not like to try to say exactly where that disturbance lies.
To repeat: this post is not an argument. These jostling fragments and images are what occurred to me first in the wake of the Henson implosion, as signposts to different ways of thinking about it.
Every victim of childhood sexual abuse that I've ever seen or heard speak was in some way perceptibly damaged by the experience, and sometimes all but destroyed. But the question of the Henson photographs is entirely separate from that. The photographs are art, and art is an exploration of the human condition and the world beyond it. No subject matter should be disallowed, if we are to know ourselves.