The New Era of Girl Sure Looks A Lot Like the Old Era of Kiddie Porn

I'm not given to long post titles, but I think in this case it's called for. In the mid-1990s, Calvin Klein garnered many a tongue lashing (and a Justice Department investigation) for its notorious ad campaign styled after 60s era pornography, which featured teens as young as 15 years old removing their clothes. Having not learned its lesson the first time, four years later CK was again the focus of public outrage when it took out full page ads in popular magazines and newspapers and put up a billboard in Times Square to promote its underwear line for children. This time the backlash was so fierce that the campaign was shut down within 24 hours. A decade later, American Apparel has been the subject of similar critiques, though CEO of sleaze Dov Charney refuses to yield to censure, despite his much maligned public image.

2009: Enter Hudson Jeans.

No doubt realizing that sex scandals get a ton of media attention, particularly when they involve naked pictures of girls who aren't legally adults, the UK clothing manufacturer has put a half-naked 17-year-old girl (who just happens to be Mick Jagger's youngest daughter Georgia May) at the center of its Autumn/Winter 2009 collection controversy. While some have reacted to the press release with humor and others with what can only be utterly oblivious bliss, others are none-too-pleased with the company's blatant exploitation of the teen girl's sexuality. "[Girls are] off limits when it comes to sexual references in advertising. This kind of work perpetuates the notion that children and sex somehow fit into the same category, which they clearly do not," writes Agency Spy.

Clearly something is amiss with global consumerism when it is deemed appropriate for an international ad campaign to use the semi-naked body of a teenage girl to sell jeans. It's high time this kind of misuse of the female body ceases to be business-as-usual.

How 'bout you tell Hudson Jeans what you think of the commodification of teen women's bodies.

Guess what? Subscriptions to Bitch—our award-winning, 80+ page print quarterly—are 20% off to help us reach our $25,000 funding goal by September 30. Pitch in to support feminist media: Subscribe today

Subscribe to Bitch


Comments

31 comments have been made. Post a comment.

i don't think its that big of a deal

First of all, she's not half naked. She is wearing a bikini top and a pair of jeans. Secondly, would it really be that different if she was a few months older at 18? Teenagers are sexual beings. The ad is meant to appeal to young women it seems, not 50 year old men. It's not like she is propped up on her hands and knees or with her legs spread out. She's just lying on a background. I don't think it's that big of a deal.

you haven't seen...

all of the ad campaign photos then.

even the ones with her top

even the ones with her top off...she doesn't look like a child. calling it kiddie porn is such a stretch.

i mean if she was sitting in

i mean if she was sitting in a playground or surrounded by stuffed animals (like that britney spears rolling stones cover), then i could see the child association. she just looks like a regular model, who will be 18 in a few months. and then at that point, would you still feel like it is kiddie porn because she is legally an "adult"?

Know Your Misogynist Fantasies

The Hudson Jeans ad campaign references less the school girl/innocent child porn fantasy, and more the "barely legal" porn fantasy. In the barely legal porn fantasy, the girl is fully mature physically, perhaps even a little more than for her age. She is virginal and inexperienced, but curious and willing. In this type of fantasy, the girl is basically the initiator of sex, but because she is inexperienced, you can “do anything to her.” This is a fantasy that runs through a lot of really misogynist pornography, like for example, Barely Legal Magazine. In another permutation of this fantasy, a girl is essentially molested or tricked into taking nude photos when she shows up for a fake modeling or acting audition. The girls in these cases, obviously, deserve and want the treatment they receive. Right? Because she wants the attention?
Not all kiddy porn is based in fantasies about molesting very young children. Nevertheless, the barely legal fantasy is still harmful to women as well as anyone who values sex based in mutual respect. Perhaps, if you are unfamiliar with porn, you would miss these references. However, I find it hard to believe that the photographer or marketing person behind this campaign is unaware that photos of a topless 17 year old girl draw on this type of sexual fantasy.

The Barely Legal magazine sounds like

a very different situation. Those I do think are creepy.

If this ad campaign was specifically counting on people knowing the model is underage and using that as a way to draw attention to their company then I can see how that would be playing off of the barely legal fantasy and perpetuating child porn or encouraging general misogynistic attitudes, which are spawned from seeing women presented in sexual terms too often. But it's not meant to appeal to men. It's a clothing campaign for girls jeans marketed to girls (but maybe it's too sexually mature for teen girls for a whole different reason). That is why I don't think it's meant to be like that. Also, the title of this article called it "kiddie porn" which is what i was responding to.

If you didn't know she was 17 would you say it was a "barely legal" fantasy just based on looking at it?

I don't get it

How is any of what you're describing/reading into the photos supposed to sell jeans to teenage girls? They do not tend to be the loci of the cited "barely legal" fantasies, do they?

p.s. I am not going to argue against exploitation or misogyny in advertising, especially women's fashion advertising, I'm just not following the thread past what is regular (albeit being visited upon a younger-than-usual model) soft sexual exploitation.

it is always a big deal

The sexualization of a young woman or child, take your pick of the verbage, is always a big deal. It's made to seem like it's not in our everyday media, thus proliferating the problem.

The quote, "This kind of work perpetuates the notion that children and sex somehow fit into the same category, which they clearly do not, writes Agency Spy."-- is the key here. This must be avoided at all costs. No measure is too extreme to eradicate it.

I am guessing the anonymous poster is male. Just a hunch. I am open to correction however. :)

The sexualization of women?

The sexualization of women? Women ARE sexual. And no I am not male. The girl in the picture does not look like a child If you want to see something that I believe is a better example of associating children with sex look at number two of this list http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/note.php?note_id=94075356597&id=507524...

I agree with the poster below, that focusing on much more horrifying things like the child sex trade should have people standing up taking notice, not a 17 year old in a pair of jeans with part of her boob showing.

How about the fact that the

How about the fact that the child sex trade and selling the sexuality of a 17-year old are inherently related?

Kiddie porn?

I think not. No inappropriate parts of her body are showing, besides the side of her breast from what I have seen. I'm even going to guess that Georgia wanted to pose for the company. On top of the fact that she's virtually an adult, and I don't think Mr. Jagger would have let the photos out if his daughter weren't 100% okay with it.

Sex is the world's oldest profession; and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere in the advertising world. So, if we are going to worry about the commodification of women and forcing them into professional sex - why don't we focus on human trafficking? Girls taken against their will, across racial and age barriers, and turned into prostitutes. This is the "kiddie porn" we need to be worrying about. Not the 17-year-old who wants to start a modeling career or make a little money of off Rock Star Dad's name.

While I agree with the Calvin Klein instances being close to kiddie porn, I just don't agree with telling a woman only a few months from being a legal adult that she can't pose in pictures clothed to the level of her comfort.

For the record, I'm a 26-year-old female, single, with no children, and four younger siblings: three of which are girls, two of those are legal adults.

lousytshirt... while i agree

lousytshirt... while i agree that actual pornography and human trafficking are way more dire and serious issues, the link between this type of advertising and those very problems is not a long one. as long as we tolerate the sexualization of minors and young girls in advertising, we will ultimately be perpetuating a global culture of the lolita taboo, the trophy of the young girl's virginity. that is how we create consumers for kiddie porn and human trafficking. if you think it's just some coincidental spontaneous phenomenon, you might want to take a closer look at advertising and the messages it sends out.

totally disagree

she is a young girl on the brink of womanhood. she looks like a young woman not a child! i understand that there have been links made to domestic violence and other things of that nature from the "objectification" of women in the media. but women should be free to show part of their breast or bodies in general without being accused of perpetuating the abusive behavior of males.

i can look at a picture like that and not feel uncomfortable or like i want to go out and molest a child. if a man gets some weird impulse to do that after looking at this advertising campaign then he has a problem that stems from something else.

exactly.

That is exactly what I was saying. I agree with you implicitly. The bridge is shorter than most realize. And it is never worth the compromise.

lousytshirt... while i agree

lousytshirt... while i agree that actual pornography and human trafficking are way more dire and serious issues, the link between this type of advertising and those very problems is not a long one. as long as we tolerate the sexualization of minors and young girls in advertising, we will ultimately be perpetuating a global culture of the lolita taboo, the trophy of the young girl's virginity. that is how we create consumers for kiddie porn and human trafficking. if you think it's just some coincidental spontaneous phenomenon, you might want to take a closer look at advertising and the messages it sends out.

Excellent points, Michelle.

Excellent points, Michelle. The phenomenons are deeply connected. The photos are erotic and powerful because of their Lolita, kiddy porn aesthetic. These aren't a set of cultural references that we can make in a vacuum and say that they have nothing to do with the realities of the exploitation of young girls in the sex trade.

I think we need to be able to acknowledge that though sexy photos and even porn have their place in the world of adult sexuality, there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. Using the suggestion of a 17 year girl's naked body to sell jeans is a pervy, creepy thing. If we are truly advocates of teen sexuality in general and girls' rights to express their sexuality specifically then we should not be supportive of these images, which really only exploit teen sexuality.

why is it pervy and creepy?

she's modeling jeans and you can see her boobies. she does not look like a little girl. if she looked like a little girl then that would be creepy, but she doesn't. she looks like a woman. in some states 17 is an adult!

aren't you just...

proving jordanb's comments about kiddie porn right? that the fantasy is to f*ck a child who presents like an adult. and how many times have we heard statutory rapists say, 'i didn't know she was 13. she looks like she's 20.'

seriously

get a life, if this is what you are fighting against then I feel sorry for you. I'm not talking about the objectification of women, I'm talking about trying to get corporations to somehow change their methods. They aren't...ever...it's not going to happen...if any of you have ever been part of any aspect of "production", be it photography, graphic design,film, ad campaigns, etc. you will know that it's such an exhausting ridiculous bureaucracy that by the time it gets to even a 1st draft everybody is so over it, they just wanna get it out there and start over. You don't think women worked on this ad campaign? What are they to you? Mindless morons? I understand that mass media as a whole (tv,film,ads,THE INTERNET) can be extremely influential on peoples daily lives, in fact it's sadly probably the most influential thing in our lives without us even realizing it, BUT...that doesn't mean you're not still a human being with YOUR OWN LIFE...if TV disgusts you, DON'T WATCH IT! If magazines disgust you, DON'T READ THEM! If certain films bother you, DON'T GO SEE THEM! You have something called free will, and I'm sorry to tell you but making stupid ad agencies and pr firms remove "sexist" or "objectifying" ads doesn't make sexism or objectification go away. It exists in society and whether we like it or not it's here. Go do something positive like teach a young girl to play drums or expose them to incredible books and films, they're smart, they'll get it. You have too little faith in the intelligence of humanity, we're not really that stupid. We're just...complicated. And now look what i've done...wasted my time on the internet responding to something instead of going for a walk...OUTSIDE.

People who spend 20 minutes

People who spend 20 minutes ranting on the internet that the original posters of a blog should "get a life" or "get over it" endlessly amuse me. After all, without such hypocrites we wouldn't have a thriving internet, right? Why do they never take their own advice and just not rant in the first place? And more importantly... if they aren't interested in feminist topics, why are they here in the first place?

really?

don't consume mass media? is that a joke? it's pervasive to the point of being unavoidable. though your comment begs the question, if it's just a matter of not reading something, why are you reading this post and commenting with such vitriolic fervor?

the examples of CK pulling their ads is proof that change is possible.

do you think all women are alike? that women don't disagree?
newsflash: we're not, and we do.

i think you're confusing my exercising my free will with your poor attempt to silence my critique. sorry dude, this is a democracy. dissent is patriotic.

all things are impermanent. sexism and objectification included. or did you not know that in the not-too-distant past women and people of color weren't considered fully human? nothing is ever a completely fixed condition.

and finally, a point of agreement: humanity is complicated. indeed.

It exists in society and

It exists in society and whether we like it or not it's here.

It's sentences like that that allow sexism to continue in society. All of this bullshit we create as humans is not something that actually, truly exists in the sense that we cannot change it, it is all us and we are all just humans.

Yes, seriously.

This attitude of "if it makes you angry, don't see it/watch it/hear it/ look at it/ pay attention to it" is also commonly referred to as "apathy." Especially when it comes to something as important as the sexual objectification of women in the advertising industry. If no one ever speaks up, nothing will ever change. Of course, your argument is just a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you never speak up against things that are sexist, misogynist, etc, then they will never go away. If there is no movement that demands a change, no change will come.

People like you allow the system as is to continue on its path. Thank goodness for the other people, who realize from looking at our history that nothing is permanent and also that those things that have changed would never have done so without individuals speaking out.

Differences and Unity

It's awesome to me how we can see and vocalize our differences of opinion regarding advertising, pornography and how the two are totally and completely intertwined in a patriarchal society - and it only takes one little anonymously posted rant to bring us all together. *big feminist hugs*

Everyone has points here.

Everyone here has made valid points in their critique of this ad. For those who dismiss the power of the ad and denounce its connection to kiddie porn, I would have to agree with you to some extent. While the nudity and body language of the model did strike me as being overtly sexual (and the model is young), some of you pointed out that women ARE sexual, and it is not necessarily something we have bash. I agree that women are sexual, and that women should be free to celebrate their bodies. But here is where I must break off a bit, for this ad exemplifies and follows a pattern which says that there is ONLY ONE WAY that women can be sexual and proud of their bodies. Like countless ads that have come before, it promotes female sexuality through passive display of one's body and flashes of nudity. And while this does not necessarily have to be bad in it of itself, it is the belief of laymen and experts alike that such imagery has fed into the objectification and commodification of ALL women, be they the models on the screen or the girls who are solicited into prostitution. And while I agree that sex trafficking is far mores serious and dire, you must admit that sex trafficking and this ad both tie into the problematic belief that it is okay to use women's bodies, be they for advertising or a client's sexual pleasure. In other words, this ad (though it stands on one end of a bigger continuum of harm against women) still holds the risk of feeding into a bigger attitude about women that bears potential for harm, that holds the attitude that women may be commodified. I do not believe we will be able to label this ad or any ad like this as harmless until our society has moved past this belief, and until we have found MULTIPLE ways in which women can pubicly celebrate their sexuality. Though you say that this ad is geared towards young women (and not men) it still serves as a guide for young women. It is fair to say that young women will look at this ad and believe that this is what sexuality is, and this is how they should feel about their bodies. (Keep in mind too, that this is slowly happening with males in ads, and may potentially affect how young men feel about their self image).

And while it is fair to point out that people (including this ad's audience) can criticize ads and NOT be taken in by their message (which, to be honest, is a process that we are engaging in on this very blog), to make the assumption that the ad is harmless for this very reason is to underestimate and grant strength to whatever influential power the ad still might hold.

Thanks all for your insightful comments.

about teenage girls (from a teenager)

I agree with this article in that the ad campaign is damaging; it promotes, as you say, commodification of the female body, portraying women as vulnerable objects, promoting an unrealistic body image, etc. etc. - pretty much every issue taken up with the ad campaign so far.

However, as a 17-year-old female (the same age as the young woman in the ads!), I want to stress that teenage girls, especially those of this young woman's age and stage of development, are not "innocent children." They are sexual beings. Not all of them have the self-awareness to realize what kind of messages they are sending with their body language, their clothes, etc., but many are capable of making informed decisions about their bodies, how they present themselves, and how they express their sexuality.

I understand the pedophilic and misogynistic sexual fetishes attached to this kind of advertising, and can see how a young woman could be coerced into something like this, but I find it insulting when teenage girls are lumped into the same category as innocent young children. It simply promotes the stereotype that women cannot be sexual, that they should be virginal, that female innocence is something to be protected at all costs, that any young woman with a sexual identity or even - heaven forbid! - sexual knowledge or experience is dirty or sullied or must have been forced into it somehow. We all assume that teenage boys are sexual. Of course they are - they're all just horny boys, right? Yet when a teenage girl attempts to express herself as a sexual being, every adult in the nearby vicinity leaps to either protect her or condemn her. She's being exploited! She's a whore! She doesn't know what she's doing! She needs to be locked away!

You were all teenagers once. You know what it was like. Do not fall into the overprotective parent role, which is well-meaning, but, in my opinion, ultimately does more damage than good.

I agree that the message this campaign sends is damaging. And I don't want to be exploited or see others be exploited. But I am not a child, and I do not wish to be treated as such.

Yay!! and then sigh...

Woooo! Thanks be to Laura, for laying it all out. As a teenager, albeit an older one, I have to agree that insisting we are the same as "innocent children" does more harm than good. Yes, 17-year-olds are not legally adults (in any state, though the legal age of consent to sex in most is lower than 18), but that doesn't mean that they ought to be treated as children. It only serves to reinforce the virgin/whore dichotomy.

That being said...for me the issue is with the larger objectification of women that this ad supports. Yes, there were surely women who worked on this ad, and NO, they are not mindless morons. Yet, how sad is it that we live in a society where advertisers (even female ones) believe that only sex sells. Truth be told, only young glossy glamorous sex sells. Miss Jagger was not featured because she was 17. She was featured because the average consumer would KNOW she was 17 (hence, the link to "Barely legal"/"teen"/"cheerleader"/"schoolgirl" porn). Thus, my letter to Hudson Jeans chided them not so much for the use of an underage model as for the inability to craft a more interesting ad. What kind of company copies its competition's marketing strategy. Time to get a new marketing director, folks...

sorry, but

the "average consumer" has no idea who this chick is and would not know how old she is.

I agree with this comment. I

I agree with this comment. I had no idea who she was or her age.

I also agree with the article on the fact that this ad relies on using sex to sell and the objectification of women.

But, as a 19 year old women, I'm going to have to say that 17 year olds are sexual beings. They aren't the same as a ten year old.

Why does a few months make such a difference? If she was 18 this would just be another post about objectification of women and sexualization in advertising. If she was farther away from 18 this would seem like a bigger problem but i don't think her age should play as large of a role in this as it should in this instance. (I do think that age should play a roll sometimes though.)

In the interest of not

In the interest of not repeating what's already been said in this thread, I only want to contribute that if this blog hadn't informed me she was 17, I wouldn't have known. The use of the words "teenage" "girls" and "children" are inflamitory in this case.

Yet another teen perspective

Whether she looks young or not, I can't say I'm a fan of these ads. Yes, teens are sexual beings, but it's ads such as these that cause people to project their fantasies onto MY body. When I wasn't legal and worked in environment that consisted predominately of older males, I was constantly jokingly referred to as "jail bait," and had men up to ten years older than me trying to pick me up with the knowledge that I was underage. Yes, I was capable of dealing with the situation, despite my youth, but it would have been nice to just have been viewed as a co-worker. In my opinion, ads like these foster the sort of environment I had to deal with, where young women are seen as ready (physically emotionally etc) and willing to engage in sexual activities *indiscriminately.* Having people assume that you're sexual and want sexual attention is just as irritating as having people assume that you don't want sexual attention and need to be saved from it. Both situations aren't fun...it would be nice if young women could speak for themselves and be heard, as opposed to managed.