In the Cancellation Age, what’s next for those who exploit ungood sexuality?
Uncomfortable as it may be, we have to confront those who normalize abuse, taboos and fetishes
Sexuality, like all things, comes with the good, the bad, and the ugly. It can mean incredible closeness, intimacy and affection between you and your partner. It can mean a slightly embarrassing crush at college. And it can mean having an attraction that is so monstrously warped that an individual ends up causing serious harm, or even death. As the big media platforms and mediums rightly take aim at sexual abuse and violence, it does however raise an interesting question: how should we, as as a society, navigate harmful and dangerous elements of sexuality?
A friend of mine, a hockey dad with three boisterous athletic daughters, discusses his latest worry at navigating a safe path for them in a world where girls as young as three or four are routinely sexualized and endangered through increasingly ugly pop culture. “I get that they want to be like their friends,” he says, anxiously, “But it really creeps me out when I see them copying sucking on their fingers, lollipops and a cutesy Lolita aesthetic. I’ve had to ban Arianna Grande in my house.”
It’s not really hard to see why. Queen of Lolita Pop, Arianna Grande makes for a highly uncomfortable watch for any adult. With kitten ears, candy and a petite aesthetic that makes her appear to be about thirteen or fourteen, the same age as her fans and target market, she humps the floor, moans suggestively, sucks on phallic objects and hides her hands like a little girl in big sleeves, her hair up in pony tails and ribbons. Astonishingly, she’s not a teenager, she’s even older than I am at the grand old age of 27. There’s no ‘reading things that aren’t there’ involved: a quick google demonstrates her images being used for borderline legal purposes, with strong ties to schoolgirl and adopted daughter fantasies in fan art. The whole thing makes my blood curdle. As a woman my own age, in her mid twenties, she must know how dangerous it is to sexualize children. To rob them of their childhood. There’s no exploitation involved: she’s an adult profiting off this. In a world where we openly shudder at Epstein, Prince Andrew and Savile, why are we silent on the women who choose to perpetuate a dangerous, abusive sexuality, that of pedophilia?
Some people might argue for the Nabokov Clause: that is, that it is art, and that in a free world, one should be free to express the darker, satirical or uglier aspects of our culture in a way that suits them. I could probably buy into that argument if I felt it was satirical, empowering or challenging: other artists such as Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and Melanie Martinez have all used Lolita themes in their work: the isolated schoolgirl, the prom queen, the lost child robbed of her sexuality. But when they have done it, without exception, it hasn’t been to perform as children in a sexual way, but to expose a story most women have experienced: that of the darker, uglier aspect of sexual attention as a young girl. The lyrics and videos don’t feature preppy pony-tails and baby voices as the star humps the stage talking about getting fucked, rather the ugliness of being abandoned, unable to tell, feeling owned and trapped in some way without ownership of your own sexuality.
I’m cautious not to make this an Arianna Grande attack piece, although I won’t pretend she isn’t the figurehead of a culture I find dangerous and oddly accepted in 2020, post #MeToo. I find it odd that no one has threatened a boycott or challenged her on her sexualization of minors, particularly in an age where we are getting better and faster at recognizing the unnecessary sexualization of minors and abusive, darker figures in the industry. I find it strange that in a world where we recognize that sites like Twitter, Pornhub, and Facebook should remove materials that sexualize little girls and fetishize childhood, Arianna Grande can still get millions of views on a YouTube video of her dressed up as a playboy bunny and deliberately made up to look like a minor.
If we are going to deal with why so many men do abuse little girls, do fantasize about schoolgirls, stepsisters, foster daughters and minors, it isn’t enough to just go to the hardcore porn sites. It isn’t enough to just arrest Epstein or cancel the latest popstar with a 14 year old girlfriend. We have to reflect on our culture. We have to look at what is normalizing this, what is exposing men to the concept of seeing their daughters, students and nieces in a sexual way. We have to challenge and discuss content creators who endanger our children and endanger our loved ones.
Sexuality was always a much bigger landscape than porn. Let’s go for the throat on who profits from it, and rewrite the future we want for our little girls.