In The Guardian
a week or so ago was this column
discussing the removal recently (on fear that the museum would fall foul of obscenity laws) of a photograph from a London exhibition. The putatively offending photograph is this 1975 image by Garry Gross (who still holds the copyright) of then-10-year-old and obviously quite nude Brooke Shields. The image is entitled "Spiritual America." I thought of just letting the matter pass, as it seems clear to me that while Shields has been more or less systematically exploited by adults - including, at least, her parents, film directors and, apparently Gross - over the years, her experience is not terribly far from what other parents and photographers
do to other young girls. In short, I think what's problematic here is less about sex (which is, as I noted in this post
, also referring to Shields, a highly ambiguous category) than about money - the parents are venal, the photographers are like sharks at the scent of blood in the water, and the kids are exploited for adult gain. The 'gain' I would add combines monetary and psychological 'benefits' of various sorts to the adults.
Having said that, the arrest of Roman Polanski for raping (yes, that is the right word) a 13 year old in 1977 has prompted me to think about the Shields matter anew. Polanski ought to go to jail for a crime to which he has confessed. But what about the adults who exploited Brooke Shields? Surely there were pornography laws and specifically child pornography laws in the U.S. in 1975? If not, then the current exhibitions
have nothing to worry about. If you are wondering about the analogy I've drawn, please recall that rape is about power and exploitation not about sex.
Labels: Celebrity, Censorship, child porn?, Legal, sex, Shields