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Perception and/or Reception of the Naked Child and Teenage Body in Art and the Media

Introduction and Research Question: The topic, which, we will research, is the perception and/or reception of the naked child and teenage body in art and the media. The hypothesis that we have concluded is that ‘children and teenagers posing nude for art or in the media is seen as the cause for over-sexualization in children and teenagers’. The naked body has been a topic of art and seen in the media as an ongoing issue.

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Child and teenage nudity has been featured in art from the 14th and 15th century, as well as in renaissance art, controversially through Bill Henson’s photography and in modern fashion shoots featuring teenage celebrities such as Miley Cyrus. This research proposal will aim to find the viewpoint of University students when shown images of teenage nudity in art and the media. This issue is an important research topic as opinions have varied in society about the impact and appropriateness of teenagers featuring in these public platforms and whether this is a cause of over-sexualisation.

The effect of this issue will rely on the individual opinions in society of the definition of art. The main people being affected by this issue are the teenage population who have access to any media forms and art. The artists, such as Bill Henson are also affected as they are accused of producing inappropriate art even though they are trying to portray youth. This topic interests a large percentage of the population including teenagers, parents, media viewers and media producers.

To carry out this research a focus group will be held involving undergraduate Mass Communications and Media students from Murdoch University. The opinions, beliefs and attitudes will be gathered concerning the chosen topic to then be able to compile a research report based on the findings of the focus group. Literature Review: Child and adolescent nudity has taken commonplace in art throughout history, from Renaissance paintings and sculptures to religious masterpieces.

As time has gone on and technology has advanced these depictions of child and teen nudity have changed, and are often frowned upon in today’s society; today photographs, artworks and media of teenagers and children naked are often challenged as being sexualized or pornographic and nudity has become a highly controversial area with regards to children. For centuries naked children have been depicted in religious painting and scenes in the forms of cherubs, which are usually naked, posed winged toddlers.

In the 14th and 15th centuries these biblical children were not seen as ‘real’ children but as symbolic religious representations of children, and this distinction was very clear. In these depictions, presenting children nude was usually seen as presenting them in the form that God had made them and was done to highlight their purity. But with the development of realism and photography this line has now become blurred. Due to the realism of photography it has lead people to believe that it is ‘real’, and as a result there is confusion between iconic symbolic children, and the general child. Gittins 1998, 119) During the Italian Renaissance era nude boys were often featured in paintings, especially in those with biblical themes. However, centuries later many artists began to depict paintings of nude children that carried no religious reference or context. For instance, Henry Scott Tuke painted nude adolescent boys doing everyday activities and although these paintings were not overly erotic and showed no genitalia they were a step away from the traditional biblical naked children. Johnson 2005, 102-104) Just a century after Tuke started depicting nude children in everyday activities professional photographers presented photographic exhibitions and books of posed naked children and adolescents. When Bill Henson’s exhibition opened on the 22nd of May 2008 many articles were written expressing the controversy and public opinions of the featured child nudity. An article written by David L. Isaacs and Thomas G. Isaacs titled “Is child nudity in art ever pornographic” was published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

This article discusses the important debate on censorship, which followed Bill Henson’s exhibition. This debate between the two authors resulted in the view that censorship laws regarding the depiction of children in art are needed to stop the exploitation of children. Yet a strong belief was evident that censorship is not needed to protect the public from being corrupted by viewing pornographic material. The knowledge and opinions of a pediatrician enables a professional opinion, which reflects the concern for childrens wellbeing.

The opinion of a Fine Arts Honours graduate provides the knowledge of what art is and what role it plays within society. The focus group planned will effectively explore University students views on censorship. This literature provides an interesting debate, which our focus group will aim to further with a sample of students to give a broader opinion than what is present in this journal article. The month following Bill Henson’s controversial exhibition, June 2008, an Australian Government Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts released a report titled Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media.

This Government document stated that the inappropriate sexualisation of children in Australia is an increasing concern. It acknowledged the complexity of defining clear boundaries and accepted that it is a significant cultural challenge. The research planned by our team will respond to the lack of research, which was acknowledge in the Government report, on the effect of child sexualisation in the Media by providing a current viewpoint of University students.

University students will be able to express the viewpoints, which for ethical reasons cannot be acquired from minors. Since 2008 many photos of Miley Cyrus some intended and some not have surfaced on the Internet. Numerous articles of the Disney star who plays “Hanna Montanna” have appeared. In the June issue of Vanity Fair 2008 a photo of Miley topless, clutching a silk bed sheet to her chest, with only her bare back exposed featured. Factors of these photos lead to controversy, even though it was an artistic piece and she was predominately covered.

The article titled “Miley Cyrus’ embarrassing photo shoot” written by Courtney Hazlett discusses how It didn’t take long for Miley Cyrus fans (and their parents) to become outraged over racy photos of the 15-year-old that appear in the June issue of Vanity Fair. “ Miley has commented in the article produced by the MSN Entertainment that “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed… I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about. “

There has been an increase with teenagers taking part in these “artistic” photo shoots but is it really art? Many reviewers argue that this is not, and that the teenagers are being taken advantage of by their parents making these decisions for them. Also stating that later on in life these photos could have a bad effect them. Psychologists are saying that it may bring on the over sexualisation of teenagers, by not giving them the opportunity to go through their teenage years naturally and mature with age not acting older than they are with sexual expectations that they are not ready for. (American Psychological Association).

With the availability of the internet other personal photos of Miley were released where she is showing her green bra and also her stomach is out as she is wearing a midriff laying on a boy does this have a link to the Vanity Fair shoot and is it a result of the medias pressure taking a toll on her personal life as her parents where not happy with the nude shot. In Disney’s release of its own statement about the Vanity Fair story, the Disney Channel, which broadcasts Cyrus’s series Hannah Montana, said: “Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines. However in the Vanity Fair issue “Miley knows best” Miley comments that the pose was Annie Leibovitz’s idea. The topless but demure portrait accompanying this article could be seen as another baby step, toward a more mature profile. “I think it’s really artsy,” Cyrus says. “It wasn’t in a skanky way. And you can’t say no to Annie. She’s so cute. She gets this puppy-dog look and you’re like, O. K. ” Leibowitz has chimed in, too, saying that it was never her intent to portray Cyrus in any negative light. “I’m sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted,” Leibovitz said in a statement released by Vanity Fair. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful. ” (“Miley Cyrus’ embarrassing photo shoot” The Scoop 2008) Research Method: The research method of focus group interviewing has been assigned. This method entails qualitative research. The aim is to find out the opinions and attitudes of the interviewees, who are selected as a purposive sample of the target market. The focus group interviewees are lead with open-ended questions that will be asked through out the discussion.

A focus group includes a role of a moderator and a researcher. The moderator conducts the focus group serving as discussion leader to the other members. The moderator is briefed by the researcher and provided with a moderators “discussion guide. ” The role of the researcher involves many preparatory and other activities including, obtaining ethics and clearance of the project, finding suitable group members, they deal with all booking and hiring of the venues and moderator, they tape all audio/ visual recordings, analysis the data and prepare the summary report of findings.

This process of interviewing and gathering research is a valuable way of collecting data, because it is a direct way of finding answers to specific questions, which may not be obtainable through other research methods. A structured interview is especially good when discussing controversial sensitive issues, such as the issue we are focusing on in our research question. From our group interview we are hoping to gain information and people’s views of teenage and child representation in art and the media today, and whether they think children are being sexualized or it is the natural and reasonable extension of art.

Each person in our group focused on a specific area of our research question. Chelsea looked at the history of naked children and teens in art and the media. Millie focused on nudity and the sexualisation of children and teenagers in art today, using bill Henson as an example. Whilst Deanna looked at the sexualisation of teenagers in today’s media, focusing on the Miley Cyrus vogue photo shoot. Focus Group Draft Questions: Has society’s view on nudity drastically changed in the last century?

Do you think one of the major reasons for these different views are the advances in technology eg mass communication, photography) Is society as a whole more sexualized than it was several centuries ago? Do you think Renaissance art was completely asexual as critics say it is, or do you think that perhaps even then there was a sexual element to the depiction of naked children? Is there any context in which you believe it is appropriate today to depict naked children? What do you define as being art? What do you define as being pornographic material? Showing a Bill Henson photograph of a young nude girl) In your personal reaction do you consider this photograph to be artistic or pornographic? And why? Do you believe parental consent should allow 12-13 year old to participate in nude photography? Do you believe that the children in these photographs will be affected by this experience in the future? Why or why not? Do you think that this photo of Miley is provocative or artistic? As Miley Cyrus is a child role model/ celebrity do you think it is a good idea for photos like this to be taking or do you think it sets a bad example for the younger children that admire her so much?

When this photo shoot was taken Miley was 15 years of age do you think this photo is age appropriate for her? Do you think that the media has placed pressure on Miley to produce a photo like this at her age? When looking at this photo what age do you think Miley looks and what do you feel that the photo is portraying? References: American Psychological Association, Report of the APA Task Force. Sexualization of Girls, 2007 (accessed August 28, 2010) D, Isaacs, T, Isaacs. 2010. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. Is child nudity in art ever pornographic?

Blackwell Publishing Inc. www. scopus. com. prospero. murdoch. edu. au (accessed August 28, 2010) Grittins, Diana. 1998. The Child in Question. London: Macmillan Press LTD Johnson, Geraldine A. 2005. Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts. Sexualisation of children in the contemporary media, Commonwealth of Australia 2008 published June 2008. (accessed August 28, 2010) Annotated Bibliography: American Psychological Association, Report of the APA Task Force.

Sexualization of Girls, 2007 This report was written by a task force which was created in the response to journalists, child advocacy organisations, parents and psychologists who have argued that the sexualisation of girls is a broad issue in society and that it is an increasing problem which harms girls. This report gave an overview of psychological theory to assist in the understanding of the psychological harms of the over sexualisation of young girls and teenagers. It defines sexualisation and gives examples of it appearing in society. D, Isaacs, T, Isaacs. 2010.

Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. Is child nudity in art ever pornographic? Blackwell Publishing Inc. www. scopus. com. prospero. murdoch. edu. au This article written by David L. Isaacs and Thomas G. Isaacs titled “Is child nudity in art ever pornographic” was published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. This article discusses the important debate on censorship, which followed Bill Henson’s exhibition. This debate between the two authors resulted in the view that censorship laws regarding the depiction of children in art are needed to stop the exploitation of children.

Yet a strong belief was evident that censorship is not needed to protect the public from being corrupted by viewing pornographic material. Grittins, Diana. 1998. The Child in Question. London: Macmillan Press LTD This Book Focuses on children and their place in the past and in today’s society. The book focuses on the innocence of children and how that innocence has changed over time. It also explores the rights that adults hold over children and other theories that society has of children. Johnson, Geraldine A. 2005.

Renaissance Art: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press This Book focuses on Renaissance art and the part it played in European art. It does focus on particular areas of Renaissance art such as the techniques used and how stories were told through the art. The book draws on many famous Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts. Sexualisation of children in the contemporary media, Commonwealth of Australia 2008 published June 2008.

The Australian Government Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts developed this report, titled Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media. The report acknowledged the issue of the sexualisation of children in the media and the complexities of defining clear boundaries. This report has enabled us to acquire a Government perspective on the issue. The research carried out in this report outlined professional opinions of psychologists, pediatricians as well as the viewpoint of Australian parents.