EROTIC INNOCENCE by James R. Kincaid


The Culture of Child Molesting
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A compelling cultural history of children and sexual desire. Kincaid, a professor of English at the University of Southern California, seems to have screened every movie that ever featured a child, and his reading list is extensive as well. He takes on some obvious targets, like the legions of child actors whose images are the very essence of innocence and purity, but whose photos and mannerisms belie a darker knowledge of desire. It’s no accident that child stars seem always to be photographed in the same way: eyes wide, mouth opened in a smile. It’s a sexual gaze, says Kincaid, and while adults may argue that children’s images are entirely free of sexual connotations, there can be no doubt that these children serve as erotic objects and fetishes to the culture at large. He also calls attention to widespread hysteria over childhood knowledge of sex: the threat of kidnapping, the fear of abuse in day-care centers, the fear of the Internet being used by pedophiles. Never mind the fact that only about 100 children a year are abducted by strangers, that the McMartin day-care case was a horrible sham, or that Internet ads for “kiddie porn— are nearly always police-run dragnets. The war against such nonexistent crimes, Kincaid writes, masks the real abuse to children, like poverty, physical abuse, and simple indifference. What Kincaid proposes in this cogent work (though it’s marred by some overly snide asides) is that we accept that our children are sexual creatures and dispense with hysteria in favor of a frank and reasoned approach to a subject thoroughly obscured, at present, by fear and sensationalism. Often fascinating and sure to spark controversy among the recovered-memory and Courage to Heal set. (24 illustrations)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8223-2177-7
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Duke Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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