Ah to be 10 again! Running carefree in Vuitton couture, the hooker shoes and makeup, the adoration of mothers mixed with the letchery of dirty old men! Those were the days! Some of the details have grown vague over time, but I’m pretty sure that’s how I grew up too.
French Vogue has us all asking the question that’s on literally no-one-healthy’s lips, is a 10-year-old too young for turning on daddies and making mummies jealous enough to want to buy couture (which is in this case, frankly, just a sleeping vest, shapeless silk drapery and those hooker shoes like I used to have)?
Unsurprisingly, many commentators are eager to show that they can be ‘cutting edge’ enough to keep pace with such ‘progress’. Readers on the arbitrarily selected Canada.com (the first place I looked) say:
Am I the only person who doesn’t see anything wrong with this? If I were their mom, I’d be happy to have the money. (Abigail Weinberg). [Because selling your child’s body for money is merely a matter of economics, Abigail. Kudos.]
French Vogue’s racy child models: Creepy in a good way, I think. (Creeperjess)
Of course, moral issues are not about finding a new way (and being the first to pat yourself on the back for being able to stomach it). Ethics is about finding the right way. Ethics exists to chastise progress when the new becomes dangerous.
Pushing boundaries can be good and necessary, and some ‘moral’ traditions are merely dressed-up prejudices. Some of these do need to make way for progress. In our own country, it was considered immoral (and criminal!) for ‘whites’ and ‘blacks’ to marry. Fortunately such laws have been exposed for the evils that they are. In our age, the moral rules of the past with regard to sexuality have been disputed and changed, and so Vogue presumably sees itself as taking part in this process. Fashion currently adores androgyny and is getting its kicks casting pretty men in women’s modelling roles, a practice so cutting edge that it was first tried only as recently as the Ancient Greeks! If it’s open season on gender boundaries, why not push at age boundaries too?
Unless anyone wishes to discuss the matter from first principles, we can agree (at bare minimum) that sexual activity belongs between consenting adults. Children do not have the level of maturity to understand what is involved in it. We also freely recognise that an adult’s sexual interest in children is an aberration.
What Vogue has done (as with the very clever transvestite trick) is to deliver the expected scene with an unexpected subject. So where we were expecting to find a sexy woman getting paid for the magazine to use her body, we now have a ‘sexy’ child in her place. The effect is to prime us for sexually interesting imagery, only to transfer that interest onto a child. Perhaps they were hoping that this would startle us into recognising (men) that the way in which we normally approach fashion models is also unhealthy, and (women) being jealous of fashion model figures is exactly this ridiculous. I’m guessing they were as interested as they usually are in integrity, and thought that provoking paedophilia was an effective way to get attention and sell magazines. Isn’t this the point at which ethical principles are supposed to intervene to avert danger?