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on 3 February 1999
Aside from the lurid title, Mr. Kinkaid's book on the "glorification" of child sexuality is a harsh study on America's fascination with all manner of things erotic. Born in Europe, I can say with some knowledge that Americans do seem to have a bizarre need to know all the details of molestation cases...almost as if they were suffering from the same desires as the perpetrators. Mr. Kinkaid's points are well presented, although to the point of monotony. After several pages devoted to Shirley Temple, I will never be able to view "Heidi" in the same way again. The dichotomy of writing a book of this sort is that Mr. Kinkaid becomes almost as guilty of the very activities of which he accuses Americans. Yes, some ideas and subjects must be broached in a manner that borders on exploitation, but still....a little less detail of certain elements would have sufficed. All in all, Mr. Kinkaid has written a very disturbing, yet highly important work. Perhaps the next time a mother or father decides to dress a nine-year-old girl up in a skimpy bikini, they will think twice before doing so. Cute? Maybe...But what message are we sending, anyway, when we show as much young flesh as we tend to do? Remember Jon-Benet Ramsey?
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on 22 February 1999
Kincaid begins from the premise that our culture's stories are flexible, and reflect our underlying cosmologies. He demonstrates convincingly that myths about childhood innocence and concurrent vulnerability arose historically as we created a separate cultural identity for children. This stoked a quasi-erotic love of children as innocents, and a hatred of those who act out that eroticism. There is a widespread obsession with children, and an obsession with those who act on that societally generated eroticism. Those who are inclined to hate have fostered a bitter hatred of those who are trapped by the wrong kind of love of children. Dahmers and Gacys are rare and twisted individuals, but they are held up by these haters as representatives of all who break the rules for touching and loving children. Kincaid shows, though, that society dotes on cute, eroticized children, as long as appropriate hypocrisies are maintained. He suggests that the frenzied hatred of child-abusers is fed by this same hypocritical eroticism. Up to this point, Kincaid is bold and persuasive. Children themselves become damaged by the myth, being taught that be be desired or contacted erotically by an adult is to become the most damaged of society's victims, and even potential abusers themselves, and that any love expressed in these relationships, perhaps by the only adult who has shown them love, is absolutely thereby discounted. The truth is that "hard-core" sexual contact with children is a harmful and abusive practice, and only the most blind or self-serving can deny this. Kincaid does not attempt to deny this, although he questions its frequency. Kincaid challenges all of us to find ways to reconcile the awareness of this cold harm with our "warm" behaviors in the unmapped areas of love. The book fails however in developing effective and compelling alternative stories. The tortuous paradigm he describes throughout the book exists, besides serving a "pleasure-principle motive", as a societal adaptation to prevent a shift into the wholesale abuse of children. The current and hypocritical arrangement kills and imprisons some relativey innocent adults as a means of controlling and containing erotic impulsivity towards children, but much of life seems to work this way. We may need new stories if we are to act in a more wholesome and communally suportive fashion, but Dr. Kincaid does not succeed in outlining them. Thus the pain and hurt (and titillation) will go on. Maybe there are no better stories. Still, the gauntlet has been flung.
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It is a pity that those who most need to learn from this book are not the ones who will be reading it. Mr Kincaid`s work is greatly needed at the present time, in this era of anti-"paedophile" hysteria. As he points out, 99% of child disappearances and of cases of child molestation have nothing to do with sex nor with paedophiles. Paedophiles are the current scapegoat for the ignorant, who would otherwise be targetting Jews, Africans, Gypsies (who were considered to be child-abductors for a long while due to our obsession with "the Child" as an eroticized image) or ~ as is the case in Britain when "paedophiles" are less in the limelight ~ asylum-seekers and immigrants. Mr Kincaid points out that most, non-sexual, cases of child abuse are comparatively ignored: neglect, poverty, domestic violence, exploitation. Yet it takes one tragedy with a sexual ingredient to launch a hue and cry against "paedophiles" in the age-old tradition of the pogrom against minorities. The assumption in society at large is that all is well with the world if only we eliminated criminals, sex-offenders specifically, etc. The fact is we live in an exploitative and alienating society which produces crime and violence. Sexual offenses and sexual hysteria are two sides of the same coin, the name of which is social despair. Mr Kincaid rightly suggests that we change the dialogue; experiment with new dialogues on this issue that take everything into account. Hysteria cannot bring any solution. It leads directly to more exploitation and to more alienation from one another (so much so that touch between humans of any kind is rendered more suspect). Only knowledge is the answer: rational thought. Therefore, it is more to be regretted that this book will only be read by the rationally mature who already understand the issue; not by the vigilante street-hordes of confused and frustrated proletarians who are the very ones needing to familiarise themselves with clarity of thought. Highly recommended! Anthony Walker.
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on 5 May 1999
Want your eyes opened? Read this book. I must warn you though, after flipping through channels a few hours following the introduction of this book, you may want to get rid of your television. Kincaid really ticked me off initially in his intro, but by the end of it I was mesmerized clear through to the end of the book. The thought that we have and still do sexualize children in our country (and world) really sucks at first, but then you realize its true and it almost makes you sick to your stomach. It took so much strength to write this book. I commend you Mr. Kincaid.
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on 22 August 1999
Mr. Kincaid presents the reader with an in-depth look at what lies behind the average person's idea of what a child is. Similarly, he shows how this (apparently flawed and dangerous) concept is commonly fit into what he calls a "story," which is a subjective, but shared, view of a certain type of situation. He concentrates on accounts dealing with sexual abuse. Whenever someone is accused of sexually abusing a child, Kincaid says, there is an almost universal compulsion to put people into roles of innocent victim (the child,) protector (the police, and others) and inhuman monster (the accused,) even if it does not fit the facts. Further, he says, this ideal of "child" is very commonplace in works of art, showing that adults have a strange compulsion to be entertained by a certain kind of child, in a certain kind of situation. Then, Kincaid comes to his emphatic conclusion: The reason children are treated and thought of in this way is because adults, all adults, are sexually attracted to children, and simultaneously feel that it is wrong and act to deny and hide it.
The above explanation does not follow from the book's contents. The author presents no evidence (short of listing countless plots of novels and movies involving children, then insisting that they are erotic,) makes no attempt to validate or support his thesis with either psychological, empirical, or sociological data, and worst of all, acts as if this methodology is just hunky-dory. His irrational and similarly unsupported contention that all knowledge and accounts of past events are merely malleable, subjective "stories" is simply a sloppy way of covering up the fact that his entire explanation is arbitrary and unsupported by any logic or truth.
I was certainly willing to consider his ideas, indeed, that is why I read the book at all. In fact, _Erotic Innocence_ is not without its worth. Buried underneath the rambling, egg-headed prose lie some interesting insights. For example, that many people do have a false and harmful idea of what children are or should be. That these same people obsessively and emotionally try to make a predetermined Gothic melodrama play out in every sexual abuse case involving children, even in defiance of facts. Those points, to varying degrees, are reasonably well argued. What is not, is his fantastic explanation of why this is so.
The most ominous thing about this book, though, is that Kincaid purports to be one of but a few people who can cut through the hysteria with truth, when in fact he adds to it a hundredfold by saying that EVERYONE is a pedophile and that (nearly?) every work of art involving children eroticizes them. Furthermore, his solution is not for people to wake up from the "story" and see things as they are, but to instead construct new "stories," i.e. to delude themselves into believing something else. This, he has the gall to call "rational."
"I believe most adults in our culture feel some measure of erotic attraction to children and the childlike; I do not know how it could be otherwise," he writes, in a statement which summarizes the book's logic.
Sorry, Mr. Kincaid. I need a lot more than your testimony of faith to believe such a fantastic story.
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