Hyperbolic JonBenet Commentary of the Day

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Writing in the L.A. Times, Rosa Brooks considers infant beauty pageants, JonBenet's corpse, and John Mark Karr's confession, and fingers the real culprit: Hello Kitty.

In a culture in which the sexualization of childhood is big business—mainstream mega-corporations such as Disney earn billions by marketing sexy products to children too young to understand their significance—is it any wonder that pedophiles feel emboldened to claim that they shouldn't be ostracized for wanting sex with children? On an Internet bulletin board, one self-avowed "girl lover" offered a critique of this week's New York Times series on pedophilia: "They fail, of course, to mention the hypocrisy of Hollywood selling little girls to millions of people in a highly sexualized way." I hate to say it, but the pedophiles have a point here….

We should worry a whole lot more about good old-fashioned American capitalism, which is busy serving our children up to pedophiles on a corporate platter.

Brooks manages to make her point sound far more absurd than it actually is, and she can't be faulted for consistency. The author apparently can't stop herself from buying her daughter a "Hello Kitty makeup kit" she deems sexualizing, so how can we expect pedophiles not to respond to New York Minute by going a little Humbert Humbert on us?

There may well be something disturbing (though presumably not pedophilia-inducing) about mini-makeup kits and Teen Barbie (Math class is tough!). But to suggest that the girl-aspires-to-sex-object concept is new—generated by corporations rather than culture—seems contrary to, say, human history. Disney doesn't invent most of the storylines it sells; it just repackages and bowdlerizes myths. Reading Brooks, you get the impression that before Hello Kitty came along, all 6-year-old girls spent their time wrapped in burqas and buried in math workbooks.

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  1. At least she didn’t do the obvious — blame Bush.

  2. Taking the timeline of the killing into account, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for like-minded commentators to blame Clinton and the sexual permissiveness of that era. Not that either is a likely cause.

  3. Many times it’s in the eye of the beholder.

    I don’t care how they are dressed, if your looking at a 6 year old girl and your thinking sex, it says more about you than the girl.

  4. The great benefit of the free-market is that it will sell you anything you will buy. You get to choose what you consume. The great threat of the free-market is that it will sell you anything you will buy. Choose poorly and the free-market will sell you the means of your own demise.

    The free-market sells ideas just as readily as material goods. If enough people will buy it, an “expert” will appear to provide the justification for any activity or choice. You can buy prepackaged rationalizations just like you buy tissue paper.

    The idea doesn’t even have to be the actual product. Women make the overwhelming majority of consumer purchase decisions so most advertising flatters women. Men in commercials become buffoons and the butt of the jokes. Every child wants to grow up quicker so advertisers sell them idea that they can. If the parents don’t actively resist the idea little girls end up in mini-skirts and body glitter.

    It takes self-displine to live as a free person. We have to resist the allure of a pleasant but ultimately destructive idea just like we must resist an all-fudge diet. Ultimately, capitalism isn’t the threat, freedom is.

  5. I don’t care how they are dressed, if your looking at a 6 year old girl and your thinking sex, it says more about you than the girl.

    But what does it say about the companies “serving our children up to pedophiles on a corporate platter?”

    I have to say, I’m struggling to come up with any credible examples of just what she – or anyone else – is talking about when they say that.

    I have two young boys and I’ll be damned if I can think of any examples of Hollywood, Viacom, Disney or anyone else eroticizing 6 year olds….and I like to think I’d notice that sort of thing. I notice plenty of other goofy, stupid or potentially harmful things in gatekeeping what my kids watch.

    I see plenty of questionable – if not inappropriate – stuff involving teens (and occassionally preteens). But I really don’t see many (hell any) examples of young children being shown in a way designed to break down any barriers for latter day “Art Lovers” (shout out to The Kinks).

    However diluded, venal, moronic, foolish or downright stupid most entertainment execs are, most of them seem to stay away from anything that might get thim in hot water with parents of grade schoolers. Too much money to be made selling them colored plastic.

  6. Pedophiles in the 21st century have it tough. To hold together, human society needs to ostracize deviants, especially sexual ones. With premarital sex, extramarital sex, and homosexual activity now considered laudable expressions of human sexuality, society has no choice but to go down on the last few deviants like a ton of bricks.

    If you doubt this, note that at the same time that legal restrictions on homosexual and extramarital heterosexual behavior have been repealed or struck down, the punishments for pedophilic behaviors have become ever more crushingly severe.

  7. It takes self-displine to live as a free person. We have to resist the allure of a pleasant but ultimately destructive idea just like we must resist an all-fudge diet. Ultimately, capitalism isn’t the threat, freedom is.

    This is an excellent and true point.

    It makes me wonder if America is slowly becoming proof that people cannot exercise self-control when faced with a daily barrage of attempts by powerful forces to get us to indulge?

  8. Ms. Brooks is looking at pedophiles through her own eyes. Making up a young girl as a woman bothers her, therefore she thinks it must turn on a pedophile.

    But pedophiles don’t want adults. They want children that look like children. Google girl+catholic+”school uniform”. NOT at work.

  9. Good point, larry A.

    I’m still inetersted, though…can anyone provide a credible example of our culture or the media “sexualizing” grade schoolers? Even accidentally?

    Myself?…I don”t see it. And fringe-dwelling stage parents at kiddie pageants don’t really count.

    The closest thing I can come up with is those Coppertone ads from the 60s. And even then it’s a stretch.

  10. I remember in a previous JonBenet thread someone wondering what had happened to Hallie Kate Eisenberg, who they described as “the anti-JonBenet”…

    I just saw her name in the cast list for the new Fried Worms movie…

  11. madpad,

    …can anyone provide a credible example of our culture or the media “sexualizing” grade schoolers?

    Depends on where you wish to draw the line I suppose. Is a 10 year old girl in a mini-skirt, halter top and full makeup sexualized? How about a 12 year old in a “toy for boys” shirt? I saw some amazing things among my daughters peers and that was nearly 10 years old now. Granted, these aren’t media images but somebody is manufacturing and marketing those items.

    The idea that its okay to dress the prepubescent as the post-prepubescent certainly seems alive and well. I suspect that the major culprits are specialized media targeted at young girls. The rest of us may not see it but the girls get a message that they should be not only pretty but sexy as well.

  12. “It makes me wonder if America is slowly becoming proof that people cannot exercise self-control when faced with a daily barrage of attempts by powerful forces to get us to indulge?”

    Why exactly? Are we getting sicker more often and dying earlier? No. Are the crime rates going up? Are violent crime rates going up? No and no. Do people have less and less access to information and resources to help them make informed decisions on any aspect of their lives? No.

    Why should we assume it’s all going to hell in a handbasket when there are few indications that it actually is? Because we elected Bush? Well we elected Franklin Pierce and Jimmy Carter in the distant and recent past and the republic managed to survive.

    Jon Benet Ramsey got killed because some sick fcuk was out there who decided it would be a swell idea. Unfortunately this has happened all throughout human history and is going to keep happening.

  13. madpad,

    …can anyone provide a credible example of our culture or the media “sexualizing” grade schoolers?

    Depends on where you wish to draw the line I suppose. Is a 10 year old girl in a mini-skirt, halter top and full makeup sexualized? How about a 12 year old in a “toy for boys” shirt? I saw some amazing things among my daughters peers and that was nearly 10 years old now. Granted, these aren’t media images but somebody is manufacturing and marketing those items.

    The idea that its okay to dress the prepubescent as the post-prepubescent certainly seems alive and well. I suspect that the major culprits are specialized media targeted at young girls. The rest of us may not see it but the girls get a message that they should be not only pretty but sexy as well.

  14. Shannon,

    Thanks for the response. In my opinion – especially as regards the initial post and my response – there’s a big difference ‘tween a grade schooler and a pre-teen when it comes to ‘sexualization.’ As I pointed out, I see some inappropriateness (in the media) with regards to teens and pre-teens (though hardly a widespread culture) but none regarding grade schoolers. In terms of sex, t.v. seems to do a good job of handling young children.

    There’s also a big difference ‘tween a ‘culture’ that promotes sexualization of children (a claim of which I’m somewhat dubious) and parents who are disengaged idiots (for which it’s hard to blame a clothing manufacturer for responding to).

    IOW, regarding your daughters friends, I’d put that one back in their parent’s laps.

    Nonetheless, you are right that it’s questionable judgement to manufacture these items in the first place. But (I own a marketing business, BTW) responding to markets is seldom about sound judgement regarding parental choices. In fact, it’s often quite the reverse…it depends on unsound judgements.

    Still, while there are plenty of examples of lunacy, over permissiveness or plain bad judgement in parenting these day, the larger aspects of our ‘cuture’ (whatever the hell THAT means) seem to be marginally more responsible than Brooks – and many others – give them credit for.

    Brooks’ hysteria is an easy claim to make because it seems so obvious in a culture with many ‘sexualized’ images regarding girls just starting to get their curves and songs about “bitches” & “hos”. It’s a lot harder to back up with specific examples.

    In fact, much of the media (well, television and movies anyway…and country music) seeems to bend over backward catering to more wholesome images.

  15. It’s about damned time someone spoke out against Hello Kitty!

  16. Writing in the L.A. Times, Rosa Brooks considers infant beauty pageants, JonBenet’s corpse, and John Mark Karr’s confession, and fingers the real culprit: Hello Kitty.

    NMK!

    (Not My Kitty!)

    Hello Kitty isn’t about sexualizing children — she’s about making money. Take it from someone who has a Hello Kitty hairdryer and a Hello Kitty toaster.

  17. P.S. I’m surprised that Rosa Brooks wasn’t complaining about this item.

    (NSFW)

  18. shannon…

    what is this “all fudge diet” you refer to? does CSPI know about it?!

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