09 April 2013

Kids and Nudity

I'm getting increasingly worried about society's attitude towards children and nudity. Both allowing kids to see adults nude and adults to see children nude.

Neither is actually a problem, but society is making it into one.

There's an interesting opinion piece by Laura over at Catharsis under the title Why NOT Being Naked In Front Of Your Kids Is Weird:
[A] single father, recently found himself under Child Protective Services investigation after some mothers of his 6-year-old son’s friends reported him for showering with his child.

These mothers apparently think because the dad showers with his son, he’s a pedophile. NOT because the kid reported his dad touched him inappropriately or because the kid reported his dad demanded to be touched inappropriately by his son.

Simply because the dad showered with his 6-year-old son. Period.

You know what I think about that? I think that’s bullshit. And I think anyone who takes an innocent act like being naked around a child to the level of pedophilia ought to be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

There are real cases of sexual abuse out there — cases of children being seriously harmed by the adults around them. THERE ARE REAL PREDATORY ABUSERS OUT THERE SCARRING CHILDREN PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY. Simply because a parent is naked in front of his children does NOT make him an abuser, and threatening a parent’s custody of his child with no evidence of such activity is both negligent and irresponsible.
(Emphasis in the original.)

Which, of course, is absolutely right.

OK, so that's in America. But we're very little different in this country.

I am concerned at the vilification of artist Graham Ovenden for his portrayal of naked children. OK, Ovenden has recently been convicted of inappropriate conduct with some girls many, many years ago. I don't know how much abuse, if any, really did occur; I wasn't there at the time, I wasn't at the trial and I haven't seen the evidence only some of the press reports. But the very fact that an artist can be pilloried in the way he has, so long after the event, and when he appears to have taken care that children he was drawing/painting were chaperoned, is deeply worrying. The fact that the charges relate to events 30-40 years ago, and in large part it seems to be the girls' word against Ovenden's, smacks of trumped up complaints and something which probably should never have got to court. Although as I say I've not followed the details closely, so I may be wrong. But it has been enough to set my alarm bells ringing.

That's not to condone paedophilia; far from it. As Laura says (above) there are predatory abusers out there; and it is right that where there is sufficient evidence they are brought to justice. But I worry that we are straying into witch-hunt territory, where merely making an allegation is enough for a conviction and that having to provide evidence and to prove a case "beyond reasonable doubt" has gone by the board. This is gutter-press, mob justice.

Merely painting, drawing or photographing a child naked, or showering with a child (yours or anyone else's) does not constitute paedophilia. Just as a mixed, nude, adult sauna (the norm in Scandinavia!) does not ipso facto mean there is sexual abuse.

We are rapidly approaching the stage where it will be a criminal offence for anyone to see any child nude at any time: parents will not be allowed to bath their newborns; and doctors will not be able to examine child patients. Clearly this is a nonsense and would lead to a major deterioration in health.

As I have observed before nudity and sexuality need to be normalised, not marginalised and ciminalised. I have always maintained that if we had a healthier understanding and acceptance of desires, sexuality, nudity and our bodies it would have far reaching positive effects on our health and our attitudes. Bring children up to understand their bodies, their sexuality and to accept nudity as something normal and they will be more balanced as individuals; more able to discuss their inner feelings and worries; more at ease discussing their medical problems with their doctor. All of which has to be good, if only in terms of catching serious disease earlier and when it is more easily, and more cheaply, treated. But I believe it would also be of great benefit psychologically.

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