Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's All About Context

The Facebook page of the T-Base store at Sunshine Plaza, Maroochydore, features a photo of a boy wearing a "Boobies make me smile" T-shirt, and the store stocks tees with nipple-exposed shots of Kate Moss.

Adidas Global said there was no move to withdraw the T-shirt but they told The Sunday Mail they apologised to consumers affronted by the design.

Owner of the T-Base store claimed the store made the T-shirt specifically for the boy at his mother's request.

"We don't do sleazy," she said. "That was just for a laugh ... I don't sell the porn-style shirts - only artistic ones like the Kate Moss item."

People who know Nicky and I well would be the last to call us prudes. We have a playful attitude to nudity and sex as some of our classic pinup entries on Nifty Knick Knacks demonstrates.

So our endorsement of the Australian Christian Lobby's objection to the sale of what the Sunday Mail describes as 'sleazy T-shirts' is not hypocritical but logical.

Our society quite correctly regulates the age of consent for sex on the basis that one should enter a sexual relationship with a degree of maturity and that children are too physically and mentally vulnerable and immature to develop a healthy sexuality.

We quite rightly deplore paedophiles but how much do we unwittingly groom our children through the exposure to highly sexualised images in the public space and then get all surprised when teenage girls are sexting - thus turning themselves into child pornography producers?

In this case, if the owner of the T-Base store is correct and the mother of the child (he looks about 10 years old to me) had the T-shirt made for him, then I would be questioning the woman's fitness as a mother. Is there a bit of an Oedipal thing happening? What message is she giving her son with respect seeing girls and women as mere body parts? How will this impact on his ability to develop healthy relationships as he gets older?

The owner of the store is being disingenuous is suggesting that she 'doesn't do porn' and that the nude images on the T-shirts are 'art'. Indeed they may very well be art, but context is the thing.

On a gallery wall where adults can make the determination for themselves whether their children are mature enough to appreciate the work is context is one thing, having the images thrust in front of them is quite another.

Also, a further difference - are these people wearing T-shirts of nudes because they're art lovers but because they like the shock value or the mobile titillation of wearing a bit of tit and arse?

In the privacy of one's own home one can wear (or not wear) anything one chooses but in a public space we all have the responsibility to be mindful of others and to be as 'inoffensive' as possible to maintain civility in our society.

-- Nora

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