photographers as Wilhelm Von Gloeden and Guglielmo Pluschow in order to

Shield depictions of the bare male youth from being comprehended as the obscene
— police interpreted the pictures as pornographic, thus focusing the court

Proceeding and both the media and academic discourses on whether or not
‘Nude pictures of youngsters typical of family albums’ are pornographic
In similar cases throughout the United States, persons
who are discovered to have family snaps of nude kids are often arrested for
the possession and creation of child pornography (Kincaid, 2000). The heated-
ness encircling the breakdown of the custom of distinct contexts that
separate nakedness from the sexual feeds the hysteria around the arguments over
‘pornographic’ depictions of kids.

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This place serves as a useful example of the
instability around circumstances in which nakedness could be seen as separate from the
sexual.
Child pornography — an issue which, according to Laura Kipnis, is so
emotionally charged that it’s become difcult to approach it rationally (Kipnis,
1996: 5) — is difcult to dene. According to the Campaign to Stop Child Prosti-
tution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT), child pornography consists of ‘sexually
explicit replicas of a kid’s image — including sexually explicit picture-
graphs, negatives, slides, magazines, movies, videotapes and computer discs’

child pornography is characterized in the following scheme: (1) texts featuring
depictions of actual sexual activity involving individuals under 16 years of age
(hardcore); (2) pictures of naked models under 16 which have sexual over-
tones such as sexually suggestive poses; (3) texts committed in the main to bare
children in a nonsexual context. Such recent conclusions of what makes up
child pornography concentrate on the textual image and are not concerned with
In that
Regard, child pornography is usually dened through its reading rather than its
Creation, and most legislation of western states governing the criminality of
child pornography possession, viewing and distribution establishes the interpre-
tation of the image according to what the purportedly ‘reasonable’ person would
While it’s certainly the case that the practice of recording sexual abuse of
children should be considered a criminal offence — and as offensive — the simple
record of a naked kid can now be characterized as obscene because it’s under-
stood to sexualize the kid. For example, in a case in California, authorities were
called in by a photo developer when he found ‘family snaps’ of an 8-year-
old boy and a 6-year-old girl together in the bathroom eating sausages. What alarmed
the programmer and caused the police to contemplate the photos as ‘indecent’ and
puts it, ‘being licked, stroked or inserted’ (Kincaid, 2000). In another situation
identied by Kincaid, a woman:

… turned in bath-time photos of her 8-year old daughter to a Fuji lm processing lab in
Oberlin, Ohio. The laboratory contacted the local police, who discovered the photographs ‘over the line’ and
Detained the mother for, among other things, snapping in the same frame with her daughter a
showerhead, which the prosecution apparently intended to relate somehow to breaths of mastur-
bation. (Kincaid, 2000)
These are two instances where the record of childhood nakedness under the gaze
of the parents was deemed to be obscene through processes of sexualization or,
better, a reading that presumes the gaze of the parents through a camera lens was
The signiers that recontextualize the shots as sexual are, in these
two instances, the phallic sausage and the apparently phallic showerhead. No such
signiers are needed for the sexual reading, nonetheless, as testied by the case of
the visual arts student and many other recent cases of charges or arrests for I was newly married and living on the east coast not too far from the shores. .
What’s occurring here is a destabilization between the frame in which the
parental gaze at the naked kid (and its lmic record) is presumed harmless, and
the framework in which nakedness is viewed as sexual.
the significance resides in the reading. In Tony Bennett’s post structuralist formu-
lation of reception theory, the significance isn’t held by the text, but actively
Created in the act of reading, and in the relationship between the text and My First Nudist Experience . For Bennett, the productive activation of meaning is regulated by the
‘reading foundation’ or the ‘set of intersecting discussions which productively
activate a specified body of texts and the relationships between them in a specic manner’
(Bennett, 1983: 216). Such readings of harmless photos of naked children

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