Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Loss of Sexual Innocence

I am a fan of David Hamilton's photography. His artistic focus encompasses the sensual feminine beauty of young girls on (or more likely trailing) the cusp of puberty. Sexual tastes vary, but there is a long and rich history of men - sometimes even rather old men - experiencing (or maintaining) an instinctual desire for young girls who are only just barely biologically equipped for parenthood. And yet, our modern politically correct consciousness tends to regard this attraction as something to be feared and repressed. I have observed, on multiple occasions, ignorant individuals describing David Hamilton's beautiful photography as trash that ought not to have been created - because it encourages that ages-old attraction between men and girls (who are no more children than they are women).

But what is the reason for this reaction? In truth, it is a highly complex sociological issue, worthy of much research, for those whom the subject interests. As I see it, it is the disastrous result of a lethal mixture of two incompatible chemical compounds. One being our approach towards sex, and the other, our conception of childhood. In my mind, children are often not as innocent as we credit them for, and neither is sex as destructive. But where the issue becomes complicated is not the artificial combination of these two factors, but their natural convergence - i.e., at puberty, where the child transforms into a sexual being. What I see the problem being, is that our legitimate fears of child rape are drifting to cover (and stain) legitimate acts of healthy sexuality - for the sake of being better safe than sorry.

Now if it were a simple case of choosing between safe and sorry, safe would be preferable to sorry. But is safe really safe? Or are we still sorry? What do we lose in adopting an overprotective stance? Whose growth are we stunting, and whose mental health are we tampering with? Think about our approach towards sex. Is it healthy? Does teaching guilt and shame for the sake of repressing sexual urges that might be dangerous accomplish anything worthwhile? Or does it sabotage the sexuality of healthy individuals, while exacerbating the antisocial impulses of the few who are dangerous?

No amount of sexual repression will eliminate sex crime, and I'm not even convinced that it reduces them. If somebody wants to play with fire badly enough, they're going to find some matches. Wouldn't it be better to teach that person how to wield fire safely, than to leave them fumbling in the dark? And after all, fire can be immensely beneficial to us. That it can be used toward destructive ends is no reason to discourage its responsible usage.

This is what I mean when I say that we've lost our sexual innocence: we've lost our ability to see sex for its positive aspects, and we've retrained ourselves to assume everything that can go wrong with sex. We view attraction as insult, fantasy as deviance, desire as unavoidable impulse, imagery as objectification, beauty as discrimination, and sex as obscene. And we're teaching our young these same twisted principles. We're essentially raping their sexual innocence by imposing our morbid, cynical views of sexuality on them.

That a person can look at a beautiful image of a pretty girl - like many of David Hamilton's photographs - and feel disgust is alarming. That such a person is incapable of avoiding the impulse to impose his/her views of deviant sexuality and predatory attraction onto the image, and thereby judging harshly anyone involved in creating the image, as well as anyone who willingly views the image, is to me evidence of a great social evil that has sunk into the hearts of individual citizens. Hamilton himself addressed this issue, but in doing so he condemned pornography, when it is the diseased attitude we have towards pornography (and everything sexual) that the evil originates from. That people call his photography pornography in order to denounce it demonstrates that it is not pornography that is the problem, but the way that sex (no matter where or how it is viewed - or even imagined) makes these people feel - in a word, sick, when they should be feeling elated.

How far has this evil spread? Can you even look at a picture of a naked child - something decidedly nonsexual in nature - and not get an ill feeling in the pit of your stomach? Does your mind then run toward thoughts of evil, faceless predators exploiting, raping, even murdering innocence? Is that healthy? Forget about what could happen in an extremely unlikely scenario. The damage has already been done - and it's inside your own head.

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