Last year we exposed global dancewear company California Kisses for posting sexualised images of underage and even pre-teen girls on their Instagram – images that attracted hundreds of comments of a sexual nature from adult men which CK failed to even moderate.
But it seems the message is not getting through. Yet another dance wear company (which also sells swimwear) is regularly posting sexualised photos of underage girls on its popular social media account. Frilledneck Fashion is an Australian company trading online internationally.
Note how the young girls pictured are dressed, styled and posed. Even when dressed in dancewear, girls are not depicted dancing (see the image above of the girl in red lying supine with an arched back.) Clothing is designed to emphasise certain parts of the body, drawing attention to adult, sexual features children do not yet possess. Girls replicate poses and sultry facial expressions that would be common in sexy adult female models. There are many other examples of even younger girls we have chosen not to show.
It is important to remember also that these images are carefully constructed. Every detail is deliberate, designed this way to sell a product. This is not about girls’ self-expression, this is about adults directing them children in costuming, how to pose and how to look at the camera. This is not how children look playing at the beach.
This comes in the wake of advice from E-Safety Commissioner Alistair MacGibbon, who warned that images on children online were increasingly being co-opted and misused by paedophiles. Does Frilledneck Fashion not care about where images of its young models might end up?
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2007 Task Force into the sexualisation of girls, sexualisation occurs when:
a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person
Sexualisation is not the same as healthy sexuality, or natural, age appropriate curiosity and discovery. Child directed play, dress ups and trying on mum’s lipstick and high heels does not constitute sexualisation. There are several common misconceptions or defences for sexualisation we’ve addressed below.
“Sexualisation is in the eye of the beholder”
Micki Wood, mother of US child beauty pageant star Eden Wood, made this same argument in response to child advocates and health professionals who spoke out against sexualising and exploitative pageants, claiming that if an individual looks at a child and thinks ‘sex’ the problem is with them. At this time Eden was six years old and famous for her Vegas showgirl routine.
This notion that viewers are simply choosing to view children though a sexualised lens is a deliberate misrepresentation of the issue, one that obscures reality in such a way as to let advertisers and marketers off the hook completely, as if deliberately contrived ads somehow happened by accident and viewers are seeing something that isn’t there. This argument is either disingenuous or indicates a lack of understanding into the significant global body of research into the harms of sexualisation. (See our resources page for more.)
“Critiquing sexualisation = shaming girls”
A common refrain is that to acknowledge sexualised clothing is to ‘shame’ girls for their choices. The fact is, the sexualisation of girls has very little to do with girls choices, and much more to do with adults- companies, advertisers and marketers- whose financial interests are at stake, as can be seen here- corporations who make choices to sexualise girls for their own financial gain.
Calling out retailers that manufacture and sell padded push-up bras and g-strings for pre-pubescent girls, clothing and underwear with sexualised and suggestive slogans and merchandise embedded with the logo of global pornography brand Playboy is not shaming girls. It is holding these companies accountable.
“Critiquing sexualisation = victim blaming”
Another accusation from sexualisation deniers is that accurately labelling children’s clothing as sexualised is tantamount to arguing children are inviting sexual attention or even sexual assaults from grown men. Identifying sexualisation and outlining the harms for girls is in no way suggesting girls or victims are responsible for crimes against them. What the research does indicate, however, is that the sexualisation of children may play a role in ‘grooming’ children for abuse.
Dr Emma Rush, co-author of Corporate Paedophila report said, “Premature sexualisation also erases the line between who is and is not sexually mature, and as such, may increase the risk of child sexual abuse by undermining the important social norm that children are sexually unavailable.”
The American Psychologial Association concluded that “Ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs.”
We contacted Frilledneck in early June with our concerns. So far they have ignored us.
I heard this ABC Background Briefing Program while driving this morning. I arrived at my destination but couldn’t get out of the car, so riveted was I by the appalling treatment of these remarkable women who spoke out about a child abuser in their midst – and beyond that, by their phenomenal courage. It’s hard to believe what they have endured. If women like this are not supported for speaking out, then others won’t step forward and the scourge of child abuse will grow worse.
Agnes, Veronica and Joyce – my colleagues and I stand with you and honour you.
Women speak out about ‘cone of silence’ around child abuser Dootch Kennedy
Speaking out about child abuse is difficult, and often resisted. But after a prominent Aboriginal leader was jailed for the repeated sexual assault of a young girl—and despite an ongoing campaign to keep his critics quiet—some Aboriginal women are taking a stand, and calling on their leaders to do the same. Bronwyn Adcock reports.
Earlier this year, a prominent Aboriginal leader and activist from the Illawarra region in coastal New South Wales, was sentenced to 17 years’ jail for the repeated sexual assault of a young girl.
Roy Noel Kennedy, known as Dootch, pleaded guilty to four charges of sexual assault.
I was always fearful that coming forward and telling the truth would create backlash from my community.
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT
In the woman’s victim impact statement, which she read in the Wollongong District Court earlier this year, she described always feeling like she hated herself.
‘I struggle to live every day without feeling very anxious and lost,’ she said.
‘I think I feel this way because I have lost so much in my life. I was never able to be the little girl I wished I could have been.’
Kennedy’s assaults resulted in her having a baby at 15, another at 16, and then a miscarriage with twins when she was 17.
‘My miscarriage with twins was also very hard,’ she said.
‘Even though it was a forced pregnancy, they were still my children.’
The woman, also from the Aboriginal community, described how she never got to finish school, and how she now struggles with her mental health.
‘I feel like my mob don’t believe me, and talk about me when I am not there,’ she said.
‘I was always fearful that coming forward and telling the truth would create backlash from my community. Especially because in our community Dootch was seen in a positive light, and as an elder he has a lot of power and responsibility.’
Dootch Kennedy was one of the Illawarra’s most powerful and prominent Aboriginal leaders. He was a respected elder, the chair of the local Aboriginal Land Council, and the leader of the Sandon Point Tent Embassy.
On the day he was sentenced to 17 years in jail, two local Aboriginal women, Veronica Bird and Agnes Donovan, organised a small group to come along to court to show their support for the survivor.
However, a much larger group turned up at court to support Dootch.
‘They were getting right into our personal space and they were making comments, “We know where you live, we know who you are,”‘ says one woman who supported the survivor, who only wants to be known as Sue.
‘The supporters of the perpetrator were photographing us quite often with their mobile phones.’
Veronica Bird was targeted for verbal abuse, mainly about the fact that the Illawarra is not her country.
‘It was more about the fact that I don’t come from here, “you have no right” to be doing what I’m doing,’ she says.
‘He didn’t call me what he usually calls me—he did that later, when I went outside the courtroom. He always makes reference to me a baboon, a gorilla, those kinds of statements.
‘I’m not a traditional owner, and so therefore, “you had no right”? I had no right to be speaking out against Dootch or anyone else in relation to this matter.’
Inside the courtroom, the abuse continued, this time from Dootch Kennedy himself as he was led into the dock.
‘He was disgraceful,’ Veronica Bird says.
‘He came in and he saw his family and he saw us sitting there, and the victim, and he saw the amount of people that was supporting her.
‘Then he looked over at his family and said: “Did you see all the ass wipes sitting on that side of the courtroom?” And then he stuck his finger up, he was sticking his finger up, laughing—it was like a joke.’
Breaking the silence around child abuse
Outside the court, Veronica Bird held an impromptu press conference, where she dropped a bombshell.
‘The community has had a cone of silence around it for so long,’ she said.
‘I am only a newcomer to this community, and didn’t realise that there was this deep-seated secret that was being held by members of this community.’
The secret she was talking about was rumours that Dootch’s crimes were long talked about within the community, even as he rose in power and prominence as a leader.
Joyce Donovan, an elder in the Illawarra, says it was never a secret—his crimes had been talked about for ‘a long, long time’.
‘We knew because people say, whether you live on the north coast or the south coast, that person only has to tell one person, it might be a friend, and that spreads like wildfire,’ she says.
‘We knew, we knew what was happening and we probably know more than the courts know.’
Joyce Donovan has long been an outspoken advocate of breaking the silence around child abuse. She says her community is struggling to confront not just Dootch’s crimes, but those of others.
‘This happens in mainstream communities too,’ she says.
‘I think in our community it is just the taboo was on the subject then, you couldn’t speak about it, no one wanted to hear.
‘I have been to meetings where young women have stood up and cried and said we need to speak up, and elders say “you can’t”. I’ve seen those young women stand up and cry.’
Some women are now calling on their leaders to start taking a stand.
‘They don’t want to get involved, they don’t want to know about it, and yet there are these organisations out there that can make significant change, if they were to stand alongside Agnes Donovan and Veronica Bird, and my elders and all the other black women out there that are saying enough is enough, this won’t be tolerated anymore,’ Joyce Donovan says.
Paying a price for speaking out
The two women who rallied around the survivor at court, Veronica Bird and Agnes Donovan, are paying a price for speaking out. They say they’ve been abused on Facebook with photos of gorillas, monkeys, and bunches of bananas.
Veronica Bird says she wants to make sure that lessons are learned, from the experience of having Dootch Kennedy rise to such a position of power.
She describes events at a recent meeting of an Aboriginal organisation to discuss governance.
‘We were putting together documents, and to ensure that people sitting on our board were reputable people, and I said I want to ensure that whatever we do, we ensure we never allow someone like Dootch Kennedy to sit on that board,’ she says.
‘But you had someone sit there—because I mentioned his name—and say I don’t believe we should mention people’s names.
‘I said, you have got be kidding. This man, it’s public knowledge, this man is in jail for what he has done, but you don’t want me to mention his name? I mean, this was last Wednesday.’
Time for a new code of practice to stop sexualisation of girls in an unregulated industry
In 20 years of involvement in Australia’s dance industry, I have seen first hand the impacts on girls and young women, as a result of the imposition of hyper-sexualised messages – from broader culture of course. But also from within the industry I love. Too many girls are expected to engage with adultified choreography, costuming, music and language. From body weight obsession and appearance dissatisfaction, to ‘yo yo’ dieting, anxiety and other poor mental health outcomes, the consequences of growing up in an environment conditioned by the sexualised pressures young dancers absorb, will only become more prevalent if we don’t act soon.
In April 2015, the first of a series of articles I had written surrounding the sexualisation of children in the industry was published here on MTR. Titled ‘The Sexification of Young Dancers Inside Australia’s Booming Dance Studio Scene’, the article gained traction quickly – reaching thousands of readers nationwide and attracting mainstream media attention. It was said to have generated the largest and most widespread discussion so far on the state of children’s dance education. What was originally a final assignment to complete my Journalism degree, it so very nearly was filed to collect dust and remain unread before I sent it on to MTR, in the hope she might be interested.
The article’s publication has now lead to my involvement in a national call for a total overhaul of the industry as it relates to children.
With over 418,000 children enrolled in dance across the country, the industry is quite possibly the largest unregulated child-related industry in Australia. Detrimental consequences of the industry’s self-regulatory state are reflected in the sentencing of prominent Sydney dance teacher Grant Davies who has pled guilty to 47 charges of child pornography and sexual abuse.
Dance educators have a significant responsibility to actively safeguard the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of all children within their care. It is in recognition of this responsibility, and my passion to see our young people thriving in the safest, most positive and supportive environments possible, that I have written a proposed ‘Code of Practice’ for dance educators and service providers. The code is an ethical framework designed to specifically combat sexualisation and harmful messages in children’s dance education, and empower teachers to adopt practices that holistically safeguard the well-being of our young people.
Such a policy does not exist. A governing authority to implement a policy in the 6,000 studios across Australia does not exist, and the Department of Education do not have a dance-specific policy in place for their in-school programs.
Until this day arrives, I and other concerned people have launched an association to bring this proposed policy to the Australian community. KidsPace Code Incorporated was set up in NSW March 2 and has developed the KidsPace Dance Code of Practice, which is included in a submission to the current NSW State Parliament inquiry into Sexualisation of Children and Young People. With the endorsement of well known and respected psychologist Steve Biddulph AM and a committee of passionate people from a range of sectors including education, welfare and child safety, we are excited to play our part in ensuring young dancers are thriving in positive, safe and supportive environments.
Parents, studio directors, teachers, school principals and anyone involved in the provision of children’s dance education can head to the website and register their interest to view the code.
Jemma Nicoll is a UTS Journalism graduate and freelance writer. She directs Inspire Creative Arts, a dance school in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire and is involved in mentoring and self-esteem development programs for girls.
Company slammed for aiding sexual fantasies for young girls
On Tuesday night, young Melbourne supporter (and kayaking buddy) Verity Thompson sent me a link through Facebook messenger, to the website of Chemist Warehouse, which featured a disembodied ‘virgin pussy’ – a replica vagina of a young girl with ‘realistic hymen’ just waiting for a man to ‘pop’. Many people send me links to horrible things most days and while I (and Collective Shout) don’t have the resources to action everything, this product demanded a response. I shared with my activist colleagues and, within hours of us taking to social media about it, the product was removed from Chemist Warehouse’s site. While this once again demonstrates the power of collective action, we have to ask: why did Chemist Warehouse think this product was OK for them to flog in the first place? Where are its corporate ethics? And where is the Pharmacy Guild in all of this?
Here’s how News.com, Daily Mail and Smart Company reported on our win.
Chemist Warehouse pulls Virgin Pussy Palm Pal ‘realistic hymen’ sex toy from its website after backlash
Campaign group Collective Shout slammed the retailer for stocking the product.
“Since when have chemists become defacto sex shops? Chemists are supposed to be selling products with medicinal and health benefits, not promoting pedofilic fantasies and eroticising young girls for profit,” Melinda Tankard Reist, co-founder of Collective Shout, told news.com.au.
Ms Tankard Reist said she had seen similar sex toys before, including a “Lolita Teenage Vibrating Vagina” and “realistic” sex dolls made to look like nine-year-olds, but never at a chemist.
“We see a lot of horrible things in our line of work as you can imagine, but this is incredible. For a company that might want to be seen as having corporate social responsibility, this seems like a radical departure,” she said.
“Don’t they care about the wellbeing of girls in the community? Why would they want to contribute to these fantasies of young girls existing to be ‘popped’ or ‘deflowered’?”
Chemist Warehouse removes virgin sex toys following social media backlash and activist campaign
Caitlin Roper from Collective Shout told SmartCompanythis morning the product sexualises girls and was clearly inappropriate for a chemist to be selling.
“We come across some pretty awful things in the course of some of our other campaigns, but I think with this one I was really genuinely surprised to see this item sold by a chemist under the guise of sexual health,” Roper says.
“I thought, what does aiding men in their sexual fantasies for children have to do with their health or wellbeing? We have campaigns to shed light on this epidemic on child sex abuse in schools and churches, but as a culture we continue to sexualise girls and present them as sexually appealing and even available.”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the recent sentencing of Daniel Morcombe’s killer along with the imprisonment last week of former television star Robert Hughes after being found guilty of nine sex offense against three underage girls, have all heightened public attention on the scourge of child sexual assault.
There is deep distress in the community that defenceless children are used in such evil ways. But the broader culture that encourages the abuse of the children goes unaddressed. The same loathing that is directed toward child sexual abuse has not been extended to the mainstream promotion of paedophilic fantasies for profit.
Predators are emboldened and more networked through thriving internet child porn rings. But there are other drivers of the trade in children’s bodies. Products in local newsagencies, milk bars and retail outlets and online, normalise and eroticise child sexual assault.
Bookworld, Barnes & Noble and Amazon have been exposed for selling hundreds of rape and incest titles in categories emphasising terms like “taboo,” “forced,” and “reluctant.” Titles included Daddy takes my Virginity, Daddy forces himself on little teen, Daddy’s Sex Slave and I tempted Daddy.
On the same site as Bookworld’s Father and Daughter Erotica section, was Repair Your Life: A Program for Recovery from Incest and Childhood Abuse. There are currently 30 titles listed under ‘‘Daddy Fantasy’’.
Amazon was forced to withdraw The Paedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Childlover’s Code of Conduct, written by a paedophile. But other pro-paedophile titles continue to be promoted.
Novels with incest themes typically eroticise sex between an older male relative, a father or sometimes uncle, and a young, virginal daughter or niece. We know that the prevalence of abuse by men known to victims, such as family members, is particularly high. So why allow publications that normalise it? Read more
As published in the Sydney Morning Herald 14 April 2014
I haven’t seen the latest photographs by artist Bill Henson to go on show at Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne.
But I have seen these.
So I know what Henson is capable of and how he likes to depicts and shoot young girls.
The girl (image to the right) who featured naked on the invite to the Roslyn Oxley gallery was 13. While that photo was widely circulated, an even more graphic one of another girl (image to the left) was not. She is ‘Untitled 1985/86’, quietly auctioned by Menzies Art Brands, Lot 214, for $3800, only weeks after the original Henson controversy.
And when Tolarno Galleries refuses to reveal the age of the youngest naked girl in the new exhibition, you have to suspect there is a problem. Why the secrecy? Was she at an age where she could consent? As respected teen psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg put it when I asked his view, would she “have sufficient cognitive or emotional maturity to fully comprehend the potential ramifications of what she is doing?”
Where will her photo end up? Where did the photos of the other two girls above end up?
Why does calling it “art” make sexualised depictions of young girls OK?
It is right to question Henson’s sexual depictions of vulnerable naked young girls – and other overtly sexualised imagery of children – a point I made on Channel 7’s Morning Show last Thursday. Media academic and researcher Nina Funnell also reveals here that Henson’s images have been found in the collections of paedophilies.
[trigger warning for survivors of child sexual assault]
After a global protest and threats of boycott, on-line bookseller Amazon removed The Pedophile’s Guide to Love & Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct from its site yesterday.
The book endorses sexual crimes against children.
The E. book by Phillip R. Greaves, which was available for Amazon’s Kindle electronic reader, is an instructional manual which teaches pedophiles how to break the law so as to avoid getting, caught or so as to attract ‘liter’ [sic] sentences” if they are caught.
In using the term ‘pedosexuals’, the book asserts that the sexual abuse of children (often their own children) is simply a sexual preference. The idea is that pedophiles are a misunderstood sexual minority who ‘love’ children. The book compares the plight of pedophiles to the plight of Jews in World War 2. This is a deadly idea that covers up the reality of what is being promoted: the rape of children.
In its initial statement, Amazon said it “believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchase.”
Yet Amazon’s own policies prohibit content of certain kinds, including “offensive material,” as well as content that “may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity.”
Perhaps teaching men how to rape children and get away with it just wasn’t offensive enough?
A word about the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Here’s what it says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
This only explicitly refers to Congress making laws on speech, not state laws and not local regulations, but the way the Amendment has been interpreted however means that it is now broader in scope. However, rather than conferring a right to free speech on the part of individuals or companies, it restrains the exercise of certain power by certain (governmental) bodies. Amazon is privately owned, it can largely set its own limits (which it seemed to do, then ignored).
Should ‘freedom of speech’ trump a child’s right to be safe and not be harmed? The promotion of sexual abuse of children should be met with zero tolerance. Children’s rights to safety outweigh a pedophile defender’s ‘right to free speech.’ This book does more than promote, it falls in the legal category of ‘child abuse materials’.
The laws in Australia are aimed against not only “child pornography” but against the wider category of “child abuse material”. As this instruction manual for child abuse is an e- book, it could fall under the prohibition against using a carriage service to access child abuse materials. So this book could be actionable under Australian law.
Those defending this material don’t want any regulations. But in the absence of people regulating themselves, ie. not abusing children and not publishing how-to guides on pedophilia, then regulation is necessary.
It was great to see how one woman’s complaint against Amazon set off a global protest resulting in The Pedophile’s Guide being removed from the site . But that’s just one of the titles to which Amazon links. There are more here.
Some people ask, how do you draw the line in regulating speech? We draw the line on harm, and we need to hold the line on this.
Here’s my thoughts on the issue on Channel 7s Morning Show this morning. Fiona Patten from The Australian Sex Party appears too.
The Australian Sex Party doesn’t seem to have any issue with pornography depicting young women as little girls, which also plays into the hands of those who desire to abuse children. I’ve written about that here.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
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Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
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Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
“Melinda Tankard Reist is at the forefront of helping…educate the public on the link between pornography and violence…” – Di Macleod, Director, Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence
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