Bill Henson rated PG ~ theatre notes

Friday, June 06, 2008

Bill Henson rated PG

This morning comes the news that the DPP has told NSW police that they don't have a case to prosecute Bill Henson for obscenity or possession of child pornography, and Federal Police have said that they will not press ahead with charges over the Henson photographs in the NGA. Moreover, the Classification Board has given the image on the exhibition invitation - the one that sparked this whole farce - a rating of PG. Apparently, it's "not sexualised to any degree". You could knock me down with a feather.

Moreover, Kevin Rudd is - at last - saying publicly that his personal opinion has nothing to do with the decisions of legal authorities.

So that's that, then. I guess we can claim victory for common sense, although there's little to be triumphant about in the spectacle of the past weeks. But at least the police can now get on with chasing actual paedophiles.


Alison Croggon said...

Straw men, indeed. I do get a bit tired of commentators ignoring the "arts community's" very polite acknowledgements about community concern about the sexual exploitation of children, the rights of others to hold their own opinions, and the need for public debate. It seems that the mere fact of standing up for art with any sort of collective voice is an outrage that obscures any other issue. Oy veh.

Russell Blackford said...

It's a good outcome, but the whole thing has been a nasty reminder of the ugly attitudes to nudity, the body, sexuality, and art that are still common in our society. I'm not hinting that all these are somehow the same thing. They're not, which has been a point that's needed to be made again and again. But they are all good things that are, evidently, viewed with suspicion, as well being conflated with each other in stupid ways.

Well, I'm sure there are lessons to be learned, and we all need to think about them. For the moment, it's a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

Alison, it is child pornography in other countries, do you follow,

I'm not making that up, it really is, in Britain for example, it is very definitely and most certainly child pornography.

We've sa teleconference in the USA next Wedensday, and it is about Henson and the VGT.

Best wishes


Thursday June 5, 2008


Australian Authorities Permit Publication of Nude Photo of 13 Year-Old Girl

By Tim Waggoner

CANBERRA, Australia, June 5, 2008 ( - Australian officials have cleared for publication an uncensored nude photograph of a 13 year-old girl and have issued it a PG rating. The Australian Classifiers Board found that the "image of breast nudity…creates a viewing impact that is mild and justified by context…and is not sexualised to any degree".

The decision has outraged anti-child-pornography activist Gregory Carlin. "Material which is child pornography in Britain, is now considered child friendly viewing in Australia," Carlin, a U. K. campaigner against child pornography, told today.

Numerous controversial photographs featuring nude girls as young as 13, which were taken by photographer Bill Henson, have been under investigation since Australian police confiscated many of the photos from an Australian art gallery on May 23.

After the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) received a complaint from Carlin regarding the image of the nude 13 year-old girl, they referred the photo to the Classification Board, which deals with official classifications. Upon a brief review, the board stated that "at the time of ACMA's investigation, the content...was not prohibited as defined by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act)."

The act reads, "Under the Act, the following categories of content (other than content that consists of an eligible electronic publication) are prohibited: (a) Content which is classified RC or X 18+ by the Classification Board, including:...child pornography."

Carlin says that many are left wondering what constitutes child pornography.

The Commonwealth of Australian Law website states under the Guidelines for the Classification of Publications 2005, that, "depictions of nudity involving minors under 18 generally warrant a RC [refused classification] as they deal with matters of sex…in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults."

It continues by saying, "the Code states explicitly that publications which describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offense to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not) will be classified RC."

The board's decision comes only two weeks after they deemed acceptable nude photos of a 16 year-old girl found in Russh magazine. After investigating the pictures, which depicted the girl sharing a bubble bath with a 15 year-old boy and included four champagne bottles in close proximity, the board said the publication "does not need to be classified."

Carlin says he is particularly alarmed and disturbed by the board's findings because they convey the message to publication companies that child pornography is acceptable.

"This is the first occasion anywhere in the world that a nude photograph of a female child who was subject to a police investigation relating to a sexually motivated crime has been cleared for publication," commented Carlin.

As reported by, Federal Youth Minister Kate Ellis, was also unsettled by these recent events.

"The sexualisation of children and young people in magazines and advertising is disturbing," she said.

In light of these decisions, police wishing to prosecute Bill Henson will now face a tougher task in convincing a court that the "artist's" photographs precipitate "offence to reasonable persons."

Furthermore, Carlin alluded to the fact that the confusion about what constitutes art and what constitutes pornography throws a veil of deception over the photographs of "artists" such as Henson, making prosecution of a blatant offense a laborious and possibly futile chore.

See related coverage:

The Creeping Push to Legalize Child Porn as "Artists" Defend Nude Photos of 13 Year-Olds

Nudes in Sculpture and Painting vs Nudes in Photography and Film



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Anonymous said...

"It seems that the mere fact of standing up for art with any sort of collective voice is an outrage that obscures any other issue. Oy veh."

It is not over in the other VGT countries, do you think we are going to flip-over on this?

We have money too and powerful friends.

So, I don't think so,

Henson can do exhibitions in Australia, maybe, it is not up to Alison's friends to clear him for anywhere else.

By the way, the menstrual blood on the thighs of the naked little girl what rating did that get, a PG or a G?

And was that one about sex? Or is that dumb yanks imagining things again?

Bill will be famous in Akron, Ohio before this is over.


Russell Blackford said...

Thankfully, the idiocy is now over - or so it seems.

My further (quite detailed) thoughts on my own blog (based on a long comment I made here yesterday) are over here:

Anyway, it looks like those of us who believe in freedom of speech and expression, and in artistic freedom as a sub-set of that, have something to celebrate. On this occasion, the prudes and panic-merchants have failed.

But we've learned quite a bit about who are the friends, and who are the enemies, of freedom of speech and expression in this country. That was a lesson worth learning. We've also learned who is ready, at the drop of a hat, to advocate paternalistic interference by the state in families' decisions and lives lives. Another worthwhile lesson.

Unknown said...

I may be asking for the impossible, but ...

Seems to me that an object is either pornographic or it is not. That the intent or qualifications of its maker are not material to its legality. The Classification Board interprets a set of guidelines, apparently successfully, in judging films, videos, etc. Would it be too hard to ask complaints to be referred to them before Police raids and prosecutions are considered?

Anonymous said...

Gregory, the suggestion that if something is illegal in Britain it should then be illegal in Australia is spurious. Women were given the right to vote in Australia around 1902. It was about 16 years before Britain gave any women that right. With hindsight most people would now agree that Australia's electoral laws were more sensible and progressive.

I've seen the British laws relating to child pornography online and at a glance I find them problematic. I'd need a far more detailed, informed and nuanced discussion of the laws and the cases that have been tried under them before I'd accept them as a good role model.

On a more general point of interest, I found these comments from a Swedish blogger describing a Sally Mann exhibition last year in Oslo interesting.

Bjørn Smestad:

"Sally Mann is a controversial artist, and the most interesting thing about her is the reception of the art. According to her, she decided to photograph what was close to her, what she loved. As she was a mother, her children were natural subjects. A mother sees her children as beautiful beings, and does not consider her naked children as "dirty" or "perverted".

When her photos were displayed, there was a storm of protest. People felt that her photos were on the border of child pornography. I find this immensely interesting. The pornographic aspect was not in the mind of the creator or in the mind of the children depicted, but in the mind of the viewers. Was it also in the photos as such?

When watching this exhibition, I understand Sally Mann's point of view, but I also understand how the protests came about. Close-ups of the genitals of children are not often seen, and then most often in the context of child pornography. The reception history of these photographs say so much about the mindset prevalent in our society. The paradox is that because of the protests, it is now impossible to watch Sally Mann's photos without having to think in the context of this discussion. The pure, motherly love for her children is forever contaminated."

Anonymous said...

Worth a thousand words...

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks for bringing up Sally Mann, Abe. Jock Sturges, who takes radiant photographs of naked girls, is another.

Gregory - the point is that. contrary to your assertions, no crime has committed. Which is merely what all of us were saying. You can be quite certain that if there were any suggestion of child sexual abuse in this case, artists would not have been standing up for Henson. They simply don't equate nudity with pornography, and neither does the law.

And even basic biological knowledge should tell you that menstrual blood on the legs of a "little girl" is an impossibility. The model in that photo is hardly prepubescent, and to my untutored eye looks well over the age of consent. Those of us who don't consider menstrual blood an obscenity will continue to be unshocked.

And I didn't know I had "friends" at the DPP or the OFCL or the Federal Police, but thanks for alerting me.

Inkster said...

Hi, Alison

The commnets on Guy Rundle's article on your blog made me go away and develop a more detailed response.

I also thought it worth analysing the provisions of the NSW Crimes Act a bit more closely, because I don't think we have seen the end of this debate, in court or outside.

Rather than weigh down your blog, I have placed them on mine.

I am happy to engage in debate with anyone interested in the issues, although I will be pretty busy in the foreseeable future and mightn't be able to respond promptly.

Thank you for your courageous fight on behalf of civilisation!

You have done many things in your own name that I wish I had had the courage to have done in my name.

Unforunately, there are too many moral bullies out there and they aren't finished yet.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Inkster

I fear very much (as above comments demonstrate) that you are correct. This is by no means the end of this debate.

The claim that child nudity of any sort makes life easier for paedophiles is dubious in the extreme, and leads the kind of excesses that saw not so long ago parents arrested in the UK for sending some naked photographs of their children to be developed. And this also makes me think of the kind of public hysteria that saw a paediatrician bashed up by a vigilante mob because they didn't know that he was any different from a peadophile. Mob law and hyped up hysteria is not the way to run a just society.

Child porn is, despite claims to the contrary, easily identified. And most usually it is a picture of a crime of sexual abuse.

There have to be clear distinctions between this kind of activity and others which are not connected to child sexual abuse, no matter what the prurient imaginations of some Calvinist observers might say. Otherwise we will see these sorts of injustices happen here.

Anonymous said...

Mr Carlin - I perceive the difference between a pro-life soapbox and a 'news' service, but thanks anyway for providing links to the 'coverage'. Anyone with about 2mins spare to google 'lifesitenews' will find dozens of complaints about journalistic standards being made a mockery of by said 'news' agency, as it lacks any objectivity. However, perhaps they are in this way relevant to your thoughts and comments.

Anonymous said...

"Gregory, the suggestion that if something is illegal in Britain it should then be illegal in Australia is spurious."

Not if he tries to do it in London, which if he is smart he won't. If he does, I will ask the police to intervene. It will go differently in England.

So there you have it, there is a VGT related conference next week to discuss Henson.


Anonymous said...

"Mr Carlin - I perceive the difference between a pro-life soapbox and a 'news' service"

And if the pro-Lifers decided to call the Attorney General of the USA about a visiting artist?

Is there a numbers game there? Can Henson get anybody elected to anything?

Henson is an absolute objective, what he does, is unacceptable. That's my campaign, mission, goal, call it what you want.

I rarely lose, on the home turf. The US/UK examples cited in the Oz media, are a bad preparation for the realities of the FBI and Scotland Yard.

Trust me on that. I was in at the beginning of the G/TIP program with President Bush, a good fight is one with success attached to it, there are no prizes for losing, because if you can lose once, you might make a habit of it.

So, to win always is my objective.

Henson has that future.


Anonymous said...

"The claim that child nudity of any sort makes life easier for paedophiles is dubious in the extreme,"

Posting photographs of naked 13 year old girls on the internet *always* delights many millions of internet using pedophiles,

"and leads the kind of excesses that saw not so long ago parents arrested in the UK for sending some naked photographs "

Tell you what, I won't do people like that, I'll get somebody else arrested instead.

Great Britain has over a million people using child pornography. They do need to keep some kind of a handle on it.

Some of the Australian linked pedo-crime networks get more business in a few days than O'Hare airport. Can you think of any recent examples?

So I think Oz is a bit bad as well.

The more naked photos of kids which are on the net the more they get traded by pedophiles.

It is an addiction. Some men will pay 50K for a special photo of a naked little boy.

Toilet-cam material in Japan is worth a pile of loot, pedophiles, like iconic material as well, that reflects their 'identity', they want to make what they do normal.

They also have a sense of their own history at a political level. They really do, they worked very hard to preserve it.


Alison Croggon said...

Thanks Gregory. I looked up the UK laws and they define pornography remarkably similarly to Australian laws (with, insofar as I could see it, a great deal more discretion for individual judges): they require the children to be sexualised. But I suppose that won't stop you picketing the V&A.

Our laws seem to be fine for convicting those who actually are paedophiles, thanks, and the rest of us want to live somewhere civilised. I'd rather live in a democracy, myself. And I can assure you that very many Australians feel the same.

Alison Croggon said...

Those who want to know how paedophiles and child porn networks actually operate (and what child porn actually is) should check out this New Matilda article.

They certainly don't exhibit their work in public art galleries. And despite the many claims to the contrary, no artist is involved in making what the police correctly call "child abuse material". And if they were, they would be subject to the law, like anyone else.

Anonymous said...

"The users of this material, then, are not likely to be living in your street, only because they form such a minority of the population"

Which is why the last Oz linked one had as many hits than CNN.

A select series of images, just a few had 14 million transactions in the UK over three years.

So we'll classify tht article as G generally and PG in bits.

"Child pornography shows children - legally defined in most Western countries as people under the age of 16 "

Great research there.

"To give another example of the scale of the problem, in 2004 the biggest police operation ever mounted in Australia to target consumers of child pornography netted 194 men out of a population of 20 million."

It is like Cambodia or Vietnam, very hard to get arested.

The tens of millions are living somewhere else etc. So the UK has more than a million and Australia, well it has virtually none.

I'll rate that PG. It is no wonder Hetty Johnston is worried.

So that so-called 'research' is pretty naff at a first glance. The trafficx in abuse can be measured.

Pretending the UK has a pedophile living within yards of every urban dweeler and Australia being pedophile free is complete lunacy.

'Map shows where child porn has been downloaded 14 million times in last 3 years'

It is no wonder Henson is on your patch, he'd have been clocked elsewhere, even in Cambodia.

"In total the operation identified about 200 Queensland targets out of the more than 1,500 in Australia."

Australians seem to do child pornography via art galleries or by accident.

'The site got 12 million hits worldwide in the the days that followed and Australian police have traced some of those back to home addresses'

!2 million is quite a lot, they all knew where to show up, I would imagine a art show was cancelled somewhere and they had a diary space.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks Gregory. I looked up the UK laws and they define pornography remarkably similarly to Australian laws (with, insofar as I could see it, a great deal more discretion for individual judges): they require the children to be sexualised. But I suppose that won't stop you picketing the V&A."

The SOA 2003 targeted Henson's type of material.

The police in London will arrest anybody with Hension images of the type discussed.

If he wants to give it a try he'll be in jail. The material will not be knowingly allowed into the country.

The SOA 2003 has no bail-out for art. It is that simple,

The Protection of Children Act does not allow for defences of context or social and cultural merit.

The effect of the SOA 2003 is retrospective, applying to all such images, regardless of when they first came into circulation.

If he wants to givew it a go, I'll put him in prison.

The simple nudity exception is for babies in bathtubs, and delighted fathers holding up naked boy twins.

A closer comparison is the material cleared in relation to your under-age celebrity model in a bathtub.

That's a sex crime in Britain. Alison,,23599,23713504-2,00.html

That one there, read it, tht's significant sex crime in the UK, it is the reason the SOA 2003 exists as explained here in the NSPCC presser

I don't lose campaigns. I'll put your fella in clink if he so much as thinks about it in London.

NSPCC - Media Centre - Media Briefings - Sexual Offences Act 2003The NSPCC believes that if sexual abuse of children is to be addressed .... It is now illegal for papers and magazines to show pictures of topless girls ... - 26k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

I've given you a promise Alison, your hero, does it in London, he'll be in jail.

Before God, nobody how much it costs, I'll be there to see his demise.

I'll have a leg-up, because he has a bit of a rep, and it just happens to be child pornography in London.


Anonymous said...

"Our laws seem to be fine for convicting those who actually are paedophiles"

Nah, you need the FBI, Interpol, RCMP, and other agencies to find them for you. Then when we do, you people whine about it.

Henson is being discussed next Wedensday by folks (USA) wanting the VGT thing sorted out.

A solution is needed. In fairness to the Aussie cops, they did start a child pornography investigation in relation to Henson.

The cops in London however, would have finished it.

Best wishes


Inkster said...

The UK Act doesn't expressly mention any artistic defence.

However, it uses the term "indecent photgraph" and it doesn't define the word "indecent" either.

This means that a court would have to resort to common or case law about the meaning of the word "indecent".

Although I haven't researched actual UK cases on this point, it's here that the concept of artistic merit or purpose would be introduced.

The issue was relevant in the Elton John case where the Police decided not to proceed.

Anonymous said...

The Baltic Centre management asked the police to investigate. I gave it a miss, however I was in the area at the time.

So, give me an example of a win in court. Topless photography for example of 16 or 17 year old girls is plain illegal, as is glamor photos along similar lines, and so on and so forth. How old was Henson's?

'Although I haven't researched actual UK cases on this point, it's here that the concept of artistic merit or purpose would be introduced'

One isn't allowed to, that is the entire point of the legislation.

For example if you go to the film censor's web-site, they don't care either, they just warn the industry it is retrospective.

They don't say, the Henson stuff is ok, they don't say that. So for example, and this is close, the really tasteful, wonderful, nothing wrong with it at all bubble bath, it is not porn, it is my daughter etc.

That's a sex offender job, straight in, plead guilty to get a reduction, don't even dream of pleading not guilty, or it will be more jail.

'The most provocative of the images was shot at Sydney's Sebel Pier One Hotel in March, gratuitously depicting the pair sharing a bubble bath nude, with Seven topless and Clarke's eyes closed as if he has passed out. In the foreground are four bottles of Moet & Chandon champagne.',23599,23713504-2,00.html

That is serious sex crime in the UK, and apparently a hobby job for kids in Australia.

There's the difference between the UK and Oz. WE also have the classification board common to that example, which is clearly illegal in the UK.

"The picture shows Zippora and 16-year-old male model Levi Clarke in the bath together, with four bottles of champagne also visible. In another, Zippora is again topless while riding a horse."

That's jail in the UK


Anonymous said...

"There is one exception under the new Act. This allows people who are married to (or living as partners with) 16 and 17 year olds to possess indecent images of their partner. However, it is a serious offence for them to distribute these images to others. The 'child' (i.e. the 16 or 17 year old) also needs to have consented to the image being taken. The relevant parts of the Act are Sections 43 to 45. "

"Images of 16-17 year olds that are perfectly legal now should not suddenly be considered evidence of a crime of the utmost gravity. It does not seem fair to tag an 18 year old looking at sexual pictures of a 17 year old as a paedophile when it is perfectly legal for them to have consensual sex."

From a pro-porn web-site, that's the exception, they were opposed to it, we shut that part of the industry down. So a 17 year old as per Henson's 12 or 13 year old, he'll be arrested and charged in London for that one.

The folks organizing the bubblebath teens, they'd be done as well, a bavy on a rug without sexual sub-context nah, that wouldn't happen. The gallery, Baltic Centre, they asked the cops about sexual sub-texts etc.

Henson's stuff is far more definitive of the pro-pedophile arts movement.

"This means, however, that the BBFC has classified scenes that involved 16 and 17 year actors in potentially indecent situations. The new Act will now make such sequences illegal."

Was how the film censor viewd the arrival of the legislation.

If it will really hekp you out, I know Bill Hension will be arrested in Great Britain if he tries it there.

Does that help?


Alison Croggon said...

I wouldn't be proud of living in what looks more and more like a police state, Gregory. And you've made your point, such as it is. I'm still to be convinced that any reasonable (ie non paedophiliac) eye would call Henson's photographs pornographic. I hope you're planning to take down Anne Geddes with him, since at least then you'll be doing something for aesthetics.

Anonymous said...

It is like this, his photographs, have an essence, they are pedophiliac, and remarkably so, they are iconic, of that dark thing.

Some pedophiles complain of a vulgar present, of mass-consumerism, of the globalization, of somethig which was for the select tribe.

Some pedophiles, in fact, are opposed to pornography, they're into art. I'm not saying Henson sought that, I'm saying that it is just so. It just is, and I have to deal with it.

Henson is scary, he is so much more than

well him, he was second rate. However he was an icon in his day. he was also one of them.

So the SOA 2003, the legislation reflected upon myriad problems.

for the purposes of reaching a conclusion as to whether photographs are indecent, the circumstances in which they were taken and the motivation of the taker are irrelevant, that is the law in Britain, REGINA v. GRAHAM-KERR,

indecent is at the lower end of the scale and obscene at the higher end of the scale, the essential elements of indecency being offence caused, and inappropriateness, rather than shock or disgust. R. v. Stamford [1972] 2 QB 391

I was able to get a law passed, SOA 2003, I am prepared to defend that law, before God, with my comrades in the abolitionist movement, and to do so at any hazard.

If you are his friend, here is my advice, tell him, he is becoming very famous, that's a mistake, he is being identified as 'the problem'.

It is not the Classification Board, or the AFP, it is Bill Henson who is the reason we're losing, in Australia & elsewhere.

What I am, is linear not to Wilberforce, but to the Salvation Army in the East End of London, in the 1880s.

I'm coming at it, from that sort of religious angle, rather than a straightforward US conservative anti-sex trafficking sort of thing.

Anne Geddes? I don't campaign against the neo-Victorian ideal because, as I've said, my head is still in the 1880s.

BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | Inquiry told of 'naked' drama examThe witness told the Clywch inquiry that he performed the scene from the play Equus ...

That helped, our campaign and is not a million miles away from the oz thing.


Alison Croggon said...

Sounds as if in that case the laws worked, and an actual child abuser got done. I note that he got done for abuse, and Peter Schaeffer didn't for writing the play (were you out there picketing poor Daniel Radcliffe?) There are no complaints, after 15 years, of any abuse against Henson, rather the reverse, since the models who have spoken out (and the parents of the girl at the centre of the storm) have all defended him: and you can be quite sure that were there any questions about his conduct, they would be out by now. I suggest you devote your admirable energy to worthier targets than Henson.

The Victorians didn't exactly have a good record with children's rights, despite (some of those abused might say, because) of their "ideal" of childhood innocence.

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Alison Croggon said...

I'm sorry, Gregory, but I'm a bit sick of being spammed and of your unpleasant insinuations and threats. I get your point: Henson is a filthy paedophile and you're going to get him. You're wrong, and I hope that your associates are more interested in justice than you are. I am now closing this thread.