The sexualisation of children in high fashion – here’s who’s responsible

Many thinking people are only too aware of and concerned about the creeping sexualisation of children in advertising, but the ad game’s got nothing on the fashion business when it comes to this unethical practice.

Thylane Loubry Blondeau - ten years old

It’s hard to pin down the reasons why women read magazines showing girls young enough to be their daughters doing thinks they’d be horrified to see their daughters doing. So let’s talk briefly about the perpetrators – or one example at least. I’m not going to comment here on the role of the magazine editors, instead I’ll look at photographer Terry Richardson, a frequent and sought after contributor to the likes of Vogue etc. who has shot for Tom Ford, Sisley, Gucci, Levi’s, Miu Miu and Jimmy Choo. As that list indicates,despite the fact that his shoots are uniformly erotic often playing on the edges of porn… he’s not exactly a pariah in the fashion world.

Now I’m fine with racy shoots, so long as we’re all being adult and respectful, right? (I blogged about the pornification of advertising here).
Certainly drawing lines around what’s OK and what’s not is very hard but Richardson is actually (in)famous for stepping way over them with relish.

One of Richardson’s better known muses is Linsay Wixon, who is often breathlessly described as ‘the current fashion IT girl’ by writers who lean towards such inanities. Lindsay started modelling at 14 – which is actually not uncommon.

OK so she’s young and beautiful…so what do shooters like Richardson (seen here with her) do with such youth and innocence?

Pornify it for our titillation, of course.

This does beg the question: for who’s titillation? The readers? Well, my partner reads Vogue but finds sexualised teens totally distasteful. So it’s not for her, or, one suspects many other women.

14 year old Wexon in action for Richardson

What kind of role does the photographer play in all this? Events last year threw some light on this question, as Richardson was ‘outed’ as a model abuser when supermodel Rie Rasmussen accused him of exploiting young models.

Rasmussen — a vocal advocate of women’s rights — reportedly became upset Richardson used her picture in his “Terryworld” book alongside shots of half-naked young girls depicted as performing sex acts.

“He takes girls who are young, manipulates them to take their clothes off and takes pictures of them they will be ashamed of. They are too afraid to say no because their agency booked them on the job and are too young to stand up for themselves. His ‘look’ is girls who appear underage, abused, look like heroin addicts . . . I don’t understand how anyone works with him.”

This prompted another model, 19 year old Jamie Peck, to make claims against Richardson saying she was left feeling like she needed “two showers” after a nude photoshoot with Richardson during which he stripped and got her to perform sexual favours. “I can remember doing this stuff, but even at the time, it was sort of like watching someone else do it, someone who couldn’t possibly be me because I would never touch a creepy photographer’s penis. The only explanation I can come up with is that he was so darn friendly and happy about it all, and his assistants were so stoked on it as well, that I didn’t want to be the killjoy in the room. My new fake friends would’ve been bummed if I’d said no” she said.

As the Sydney Morning Herald succinctly puts it: To sexualise children in the way that advertisers do – by dressing, posing, and making up child models in the same ways that sexy adults would be presented – also implicitly suggests to adults that children are interested in and ready for sex. This is profoundly irresponsible, particularly given that it is known that pedophiles use not only child pornography but also more innocent photos of children.

And just how does this oh-so-fashion-darling photographer, arbiter of thing stylish and tsateful wish to be presented himself? Here he is, for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy. And under his photo is a shot of his model Lindsay Wixon – modelling and in more natural mode. Make your own decision about how blurred the line is.

Above: Terry Richardson in his work attire

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