||From the magazine
MARIE CLAIREJan.,1997 issue; "style & gossip page:
Eccentric, a woman whose personality doesn't change because her clothes
do, a woman who knows how to move well in life: Lolita's daughter."
- Gianni Versace
on his summer 1997 woman
Photo: GQ Magazine, Versace ad, October, 1997
According to the
Canadian Advertising Foundation's Code of Advertising Standards, advertising
is defined as any paid message communicated by the media with the intent
to influence the choice, opinion or behavior of those addressed by the
commercial messages. IT FOLLOWS THEN THAT THE SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN
IN ADVERTISING WILLFULLY AND IRRESPONSIBLY ENDANGERS MINORS BY INFLUENCING
CONSUMERS TO CHOOSE, THINK AND ACT AS IF THE CHILDREN INDEED ARE THE SEXUAL
OBJECTS THE ADVERTISER DEPICTS THEM AS BEING.
According to the Committee on Child Abuse
& Neglect, North Carolina Pediatric Society, the sexual exploitation
of children in advertising that must be eliminated includes:
- uses pre-pubertal
girls made up to mimic adults in sexualized poses
- invokes adult sexual
themes by dressing or making up a child
- unduly emphasizes
the clothed or unclothed genitals and buttocks of children or adults made
to look like children
- confuses the true
age of a child-like model depicted in a sexualized pose or situation
- sexualizes the
nudity of a child or child-like model, whether the nudity is real or implied
- equips adult models
with childhood props and facial expressions that create a sense of helplessness
and vulnerability in a sexual context
- sexualizes a child
by association with an adult who is nude or sexualized
Of course the standards
of taste are constantly changing above and beyond the differences found
person to person and community to community. But the one thing that doesn't
change is that sexual exploitation of children is unacceptable. The Canadian
Advertising Foundation states that advertising should avoid irrelevant
or dehumanizing sexualization of adults and any sexualization of children.
"There is nothing wrong with positive, relevant sexuality in advertising
which portrays a person [adult] in control of and celebrating her/his own
sexuality...Boys and girls...must not be portrayed as displaying adult
sexual characteristics. Similarly, adult women must not be portrayed as
girls or with child-like characteristics while maintaining adult sexual
characteristics." And a consortium of representatives of the worldwide
press presented a paper at the August, 1996, World Congress in Stockholm
calling for limits while still protecting freedom and rights. Exploiting
children is NOT protecting freedom. It is putting children at risk and
contributing to society's readiness to hold children responsible for their
own victimization. And it's wrong - even members of the press are willing
to take a public stand.
According to Michele Elliott in her chapter
"Images of Children in the Media: 'Soft Kiddie Porn'" from the
book PORNOGRAPHY: WOMEN, VIOLENCE, & CIVIL LIBERTIES 'soft kiddie porn'
is contributing to the problem of child sexual abuse.
- It is condoning
the use of children in inappropriate sexual contexts.
- It is desensitizing
the public and setting new standards for what is acceptable.
- It is strengthening
the argument of paedophiles that children are asking for sex.
- It is exploiting
and dehumanizing children without their informed consent.
- It is glamorizing
children as sexual objects.
- It is saying to
children that adults agree with the idea of them being sexualized.
- It is suggesting
to other children that this is a desirable way to be portrayed.
are now seeing daily images of children being used as sexual objects to
sell products...While more advertisers are careful to portray children
as children, some have stepped over the bounds...SOCIETY CANNOT CLAIM TO
ABHOR THE SEXUAL ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN...IN PORNOGRAPHY AND
YET ALLOW THE PORTRAYAL OF CHILDREN...AS SEXUALIZED OBJECTS IN THE POPULAR
PRESS AND IN ADVERTISING," Elliott concludes.
Actor Roger Moore called for media responsibility
in his role as the UNICEF Special Representative for the Film Arts at the
World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Stockholm
"...increasingly we seem to see images
of a young child whose sexuality is used to sell products in the adult
market, to titillate and to tease. Even non- child models, in fact, are
increasingly chosen for their child-like bodies. THE LINE BETWEEN CHILDREN
AND ADULTS, BETWEEN SEXUALLLY READY AND WAY-TOO-YOUNG IS BEING BLURRED.
Moreover, these images are offered to us silently, with no sense of judgment
that they might be inappropriate, harmful, confusing to our children and
to the adults who see them. THE CREATORS OF THESE IMAGES, OF COURSE, WILL
ARGUE THAT THIS IS 'ART'. And goodness knows we all want to protect art,
creativity and the freedoms that they require. BUT LET'S START THINKING,
TOO, ABOUT 'ART WITH RESPONSIBILITY'. Surely we can't accept that the dignity,
childhoods, maybe even lives of thousands of children might be sacrificed
for the sake of art without responsibility?...AS A CONSUMER OF IMAGES -
A TV VIEWER, FILM-GOER, MUSIC- LOVER - I AM ALSO A MEMBER OF THAT CIVIL
SOCIETY THAT IS OVERWHELMINGLY MADE UP (WE ALL HOPE, AT LEAST) OF RESPONSIBLE,
CARING HUMAN BEINGS WHO KNOW, FROM DEEP INSIDE, THAT THE SELLING OF CHILDREN
FOR SEX IS SIMPLY WRONG. From the bottom of my heart I know, as you do,
that it has to stop."
IT IS CRITICAL TO CLEARLY DEFINE BOUNDARIES
TO STOP THE SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION OF CHILDREN. IT IS CRITICAL TO DEMAND
ADVERTISERS STOP USING SEXUALIZED DEPICTIONS OF CHILDREN TO SELL PRODUCTS.
The stripping of children represents the chiseling away of our commitment
to protect them from exploitation - the exploitation of innocence and vulnerability
- and making it sexual. Those concerned with the well-being of children
must unite, and with one voice, ask those companies who promote this dangerous
image of children to stop and accept responsibility for the material they
present. But above all else, to stop. Part of the promise of a democratic
society is to be able to grow up in a community that fosters safety, trust
and care. Sexual exploitation in advertising traps children in more dangerous
communities built on lies. It is the right, but more importantly, the RESPONSIBILITY
of citizens of this same democracy - especially professionals working with
children - to take to task these industries who exploit children. Making
opinions known...getting educated...AND involved is what participation
in the democratic process is all about. And an integral part of protecting
children. Following shortly after the Calvin
Klein simulated-child-pornography ad campaign to sell over-priced,
understated casual clothing this Versace ad in GQ (Gentlemen's Quarterly)
appeared in the October, 1996 issue. The campaign by Klein, a pioneer in
expliotitive media-child-abuse advertising generated considerable controversy
and free access to mainstream media. While we don't know the strategy behind
this brazenly explicit Versace ad displaying the nude image if a small
girl in order to sell expensive, barely visible, men's clothing to the
upscale male GQ reader, this can only represent "crass mainstream
commercial exploitation of childhood nudity" and grossly socially
What was that experience like for the toddler
at the photoshoot with strangers busy with lights, cameras, etc. and intensely
focused on her wet, nude body with suds carefully dabbled at sites other
than her vagina? The male model, holding her up without any apparent nurturing
interaction or hint of intention to dry her, has his eyes looking at male
viewers while he presents the child to them for consumption.
Versace has a history of using explicit,
hypersexualized, and bizarre or startling images to sell clothing. Although
he believes in irrelevant and dehumanizing nudity displays, the commonness
of nudity does not mean that it has in fact become so insignificant that
the public may now have free access to the nudity of children. Whether
the motive is commercial, sexual, or artistic, children must be protected
from intrusions into their intimacy. According to one child advocacy agency:
"...children must not be asked to undress for the sake of any adult
interests. Regardless of the motive, it is far too easy for an adult to
make a child feel unable to refuse, even though the experience is often
just as traumatic and unfair as forced nudity would be for adults. ...A
minor's inexperience, impressionability, total dependence on adults, and
vulnerability to adult pressures prevent a truly free choice or informed
conse nt--even under the "best" conditions. Minors simply are
not ready to make the important, irreversible decisions involved in posing
OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT NORTH CAROLINA PEDIATRIC SOCIETY, Resolution
#64T-l996 AAP Annual Chapter Forum on "SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
OF CHILDREN IN ADVERTISING".