The naked child in art: the new arguments against
But the consent argument is hypocritical. Of course a child cannot consent. Of course they are not capable of making adult decisions. This is why responsible adults must make decisions for them. It has always been thus. And at no time has any society said that a child should not do something simply because they do not understand that thing. Indeed, the moral conservatives who use this argument do not shy away from telling children what to do. They are often moral authoritarians who generally never consider a child's wishes and compel them to do all manner of things they might otherwise not consent to. Remember the edict: children should be seen and not heard? I do not hear moral conservatives arguing that children should not be taught religion because they are too young to understand. If the consent argument is valid, it must apply to all areas. What if a child appears in an advertisement for a product that, as an adult, they might refuse to endorse? Is consent an issue then? No, oddly, consent is only an issue if the child is to appear naked or in a manner they coincidentally disapprove of, otherwise its perfectly okay. If consent is an issue, then surely no image of a child should be used either artistically or commercially until they can give adult consent? [...]
At the heart of the consent argument lies an inability to accept that some people do not have a problem with nudity. The moral conservatives seem only to imagine that a child will later be shamed. The reality is that many subjects remain proud of the work and in the case of many of Sturges's models, they continue to pose as adults (but then, many are also proud naturists). [...]
As I have pointed out, images of naked children are not, by definition, exploitative, especially when the child readily co-operates in, enjoys and gains from the process. What makes the image exploitative, and this applies equally to images of clothed children, is the use of trickery and compulsion. [...] So why are the moral conservatives using these types of fallacious arguments? The simple answer is that they know that their original (and more honest) argument is no longer persuasive: that according to their moral order these images are indecent. Or: these images should be banned simply because we don't like them. Far better to try and claim some form of objective harm (even if false) than be honest and say that the real problem is that they are uncomfortable with nudity, especially naked children.
source: Article 'The Naked Child in Art: The New Arguments Against' by Ray; novelactivist.com/1114/the-naked-child-in-art-the-new-arguments-against/; Novel Activist; 6 November 2010