Artists who create nudes with naked children in them almost always encounter difficulties with the authorities and conservative public. These artists often are accused of creating “child pornography” and of being “paedophiles”.
Assuming that there is such a condition (or state) as paedophilia, and leaving aside the debate about just this point [Malon2012
], the question Does it matter who is looking?
needs to answered—we want to know if it matters if a paedophile is looking at such art.
A paedophile is someone whose primary sexual attraction is to pre-pubescent children, although pubescent and post-pubescent children often are included in this definition, i.e., anyone beneath the age of consent. This is a simple enough and commonly held definition which seems clear, but which is not, especially in it’s current incarnation in DSM-5, where the distinction is made between paedophiles and those who have a paedophilic disorder.
This distinction appears to serve the purposes of law enforcement rather than being informative or meaningful in terms of human sexuality in that all it really tells us in that there are people who have a sexual attraction to children who do not act on that attraction, and that there are people who act on the attraction who, when they fall foul of the law, can be categorised as suffering a psychiatric disorder.
This compromise position came about because it is not clear that paedophilia is a perversion of “normal” human sexuality. Child-adult and child-child sexual activity have been common throughout human history; often illegal or in other ways forbidden, but just as often accepted (under approved circumstances) and occasionally promoted. Knowledge of this, coupled with contemporary research, [Blanchard2010
] has led to the claim that paedophilia may be a normal, but relatively rare, aspect of human sexuality which no longer has acceptance or approval, but which in itself is not a matter of mental health as a psychiatric illness.
By accepting this distinction between paedophilia and paedophilic disorder, the American Psychiatric Association, in effect, has given half-hearted approval of the idea that child-adult sexual attraction is normative as long as it is not acted upon. Once acted upon, it becomes a psychiatric disorder which acts to support conviction in any associated criminal proceedings.
If we accept this distinction—and avoid thinking about the idea that paedophilic disorder exists solely on the basis of the illegality of child-adult sexual activity, the description of such a disorder being unnecessary if child-adult sex is legal—our problem becomes one of discovering what paedophilic behaviour may be when it is not child-adult sexual contact.
Benjamin Costello, [Costello
] using the DSM-5 criteria and distinction, maintains that there are two characteristic types of morally reprehensible (and illegal) paedophilic behaviour:
- Actual sexual contact.
- Looking at child pornography.
Actual sexual contact cannot occur when looking at an artwork. The question, therefore, is whether or not artworks featuring naked children are pornographic or non-pornographic. Alternately, and perhaps more importantly, is looking at artworks of naked children morally reprehensible, and a sign of paedophilic disorder, if the works in question are not pornographic?