Kiddie Porn?

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Some would consider the above Reformation painting as being obscene because it shows a nude baby Jesus with genitalia. The thought process behind the Christian paintings of that era was to illustrate that Jesus, while being divine, was also a human male.

There is nothing wrong with depicting a nude child in art or photography as long as there is no sexual exploitation. Let me be perfectly clear - I abhor anyone who would sexually exploit a child, and I personally find it impossible to understand why anyone would have a mindset to do so.

But today society has become so over-protective of children that we are over-reacting to any nude imagery that includes children. The famous 1958 Coppertone ad with the dog pulling down the bathing suit of the little girl, who is also topless, probably could not be made today for fear of offending the morally righteous. Children have also been depicted in their nude innocence on album covers such as "Woodstock Two" and Nirvana's "Nevermind".

Now we read that police have seized a photograph by American artist Nan Goldin before it was to go on exhibit in a UK art gallery.
It is thought that one of the assistant directors at the centre called in the authorities last Thursday after a private view as he was concerned that the picture could be offensive.

The picture is now being examined by lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service. Officials at the gallery confirmed that the police were involved but refused to say who had decided the picture should be removed.

Claire Byers, the communications director, said: "The police are involved in this incident and we are fully cooperating with their inquiries. That is all I can say on this at the moment."
The photograph is from the personal collection of Sir Elton John, who is a personal friend of the artist. Goldin's work is widely available on the Internet - here is one link with several of her images, including one controversial shot which features a nude child.

State sponsored censorship, such as this seizure in the UK, is a dangerous precedent. Put up a disclaimer if you must and let the public judge for themselves, but when a government steps in to define what is obscene and what is acceptable, it stifles creativity and prevents the artist from working instinctively.

Children are natural nudists. Given the chance to run around naked, they do so willingly and innocently. Painting a picture of innocence, or taking a photograph, should not be considered child exploitation when it is actually a celebration of childhood.

The problem is that law enforcement tends to view all nude images of children through the eyes of a pedophile, and lives are being ruined because of the over-zealousness of photo technicians and prosecutors. The seriousness of this type of "witch hunt" can be found in the story of the 65 year-old woman who was busted for taking nude photos of her grandchildren.

Not only is this an erosion of our basic civil rights, it sets a precedent that makes all nude imagery of children criminally suspect. Perhaps the intention is good, just about everyone agrees that child pornography is a true evil, but the end result of this sort of oppression is to actually heighten the sexualization of children, and wipe away innocence forever.

The "thought police" are like a runaway train. The easiest thing is to play it safe and just get out of the way. It takes the courage of an artist like Nan Goldin, or Robert Mapplethorpe, to stand on the tracks and take the hit, much like the brave Chinese student who stood up to a tank in Tiananmen Square, demanding democracy and broader freedoms.

It's not the body that's obscene. True obscenity lies in the minds of those who would inflict shame upon pure innocence.

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