The Kids Free 2B Kids manifesto states that "Childhood is recognised as a time of innocence, playfulness, fun and spontaneity. Children should be able to develop at their own pace, without undue pressure and influence from mass media marketing and advertising."
Childhood itself is a relatively modern concept. Only since the seventeenth century when families shifted to smaller groups did we begin to support the experience of the individual child. Prior to that, children were perceived as participants in adult society. The important boundary was not between child and elder, but dependent and master. Today, childhood is increasingly disconnected from the remainder of society and extolled.
Citing innocence as society's most valuable asset may, inadvertently, be the reason why we fetishise and sexualise children. Organisations like Kids Free 2B Kids and other modern moral groups idealise the vision of innocence that is attributed to children. The child has become the most forbidden (and therefore most highly prized) fruit of adult sexuality. Our fascination with innocence and its coexistence within a sexual culture that values vulnerability is reflected in modern advertising, music and children's products.
Today, children are increasingly captured by popular culture as consumers and objects of desire. The child represents freedom from the constraints of society - the carefree existence that we are denied. Whilst adults are afflicted with guilt about our craving for more, more, more and the sticky web of obligation that is its consequence (career, prestige, mortgage etc.), our children have become 'desire free objects of desire'.
When I was growing up, kids were free to run around the streets for most of the day as long as they were home for dinner - their presence was more of an irritation than a celebration. It was foreign to our parents to view us as objects of lust and fascination - hence the freedom. It wasn't until the dreaded paedophile pervaded the public consciousness that we were observed through a different lens.
(One of Bill Henson's photographs labeled 'revolting' by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd).
Now children are protected, sheltered and watched vigilantly for signs of overt sexuality in case it invites unwanted attention. We are seeing the policing of 'good' (innocent) children and 'bad' (those who threaten it by recognising their sexuality). We're watching our children through the eyes of the paedophile and, unwittingly, doing what we are paradoxically guarding against. We sexualise and fetishise.
(Witchery were labeled "Corporate Paedophiles" for their 8Fourteen campaign).
Germaine Greer says that "After centuries of conditioning the female into the perpetual girlishness called femininity, we cannot remember what femaleness is." Fed on a diet of youth, slenderness, 'pretty' vaginas, lustrous, silky locks (on our heads), big, wide eyes and ruby-red lips, women aspire to child-like proportions with adult-like fuckability. No wonder the actual child is coveted.
(Jenna Jameson, America's most famous porn star, Katy Perry and Barbie).