The hashtag #standupstripdown has been invented to be used by people like Heather Whitten who want to post family photographs with naked children. In the latest of a string of such incidents her image of her naked husband cradling her sick and naked son in a shower has been taken down several times by Facebook following complaints by people disgusted by the potentially paedophilic readings the photograph could carry. The disgusted complainers who are having such a lamentable chilling effect on our visual culture misunderstand both semiotics and paedophilia. Even if it unpleasant to imagine  the occasional paedo using such images for sexual gratification, the psychological effect on our whole society of NOT seeing images of such rich aspects of life, love and bodies is far worse. Others complain that the children in such photographs cannot give their consent and may be shamed or embarrassed when they grow up. But image making and image sharing in our culture cannot be reduced to a infinite series of micro-contracts over ‘self image’ between two quasi-legal parties. Such a legalistic conception of self image as an owned ‘property’ also reduces the complexity and richness of our collective visual culture. I’ve previously written about this so I don’t know why people aren’t taking any notice of me. Perhaps I didn’t think of inventing a hashtag.

Heather Whitten

Heather Whitten

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