The Slate article, titled “Little Miss Sunshine” in an opportunistic of-the-moment pop culture reference, has this to say about the return of the JonBenet case to the media:
It probably shouldn't surprise us that JonBenet, like Roderick Usher's sister, won't stay buried. It's the return of the repressed all over again, here before us, strutting its stuff and doing its cultural work because we so badly need it. Where else can we find forbidden material served up to us in ways we can both enjoy and disown? We have to deal with a most uncomfortable heritage: an "innocent" child who is also deeply eroticized…Somebody else finds the bodies of children irresistible and we want the chance to rail against these monsters, meanwhile relishing the details of the very bodies we claim indifference to. It is a classic example of scapegoating.
Kincaid’s deconstructionist double bluff is that anyone who takes an interest in the Jon Benet case is guilty of the exact same eroticisation of children that the media accuses her killer/s of perpetrating.
My mistake, I would have thought that the furor was because we care about the welfare of children.
The ta-da nature of Kincaid’s collapsing of binaries is pure sleight of hand and hence essentially false; the world is not always binaries fused at the node and there are more realities than Kincaid cares to acknowledge. In trying to insist that if we are horrified by child predators, we are in fact horrified by our inner demons, Kincaid attempts to gag us with projected uncertainties that are not our own.
(The if-you-are-disturbed-by-it-you-must-desire-it diagnosis has its limitations. I’ve used the if-you’re-so-homophobic-you-must-be-totally-gay line too, but tell you what, it only works flawlessly as speculative insult, never as serious philosophy or analysis.)
While the schadenfreude that Kincaid implies is rampant in a variety of scandalous situations, recently and most transparently in the Kaavya Vishwanathan case, when it comes to child abuse, I’ve never been able to detect schadenfreude in either tonal nuance or attitudinal stance. I refuse to believe that public alarm at child sexual abuse is because we are titillated by it, it’s because the majority of us are aware of the danger of it, because we seek to prevent it.
My long-standing distaste for children in pageants, or cabaret-style dance routines for that matter, is mostly aesthetic--the garishness of wedgie-inducing costumes, the unsubtlety of the performing-monkey make up, the manneristic ugliness of stage mothers, the hideousness of getting children to compete on grounds of attractiveness… But my distaste is increasingly ethical too. The human body is beautiful and lovable; parading underdressed and overly made up children is doing them a disservice, an indignity, and in our times, a treachery. So, I’m coming off as a prude, but whatever.
Perhaps I’m still recovering from reading the following gem from Kincaid who presumes to speak for all of us:
Tell ourselves the truth: in our culture kids and the erotic are overlapping categories and we cannot help but find kids erotic, which is not so bad, considering that we find lots of things erotic without attacking them. Most of us do not, for example, hump the legs of guests at parties.
Never mind, for the moment, that after previously arguing that society’s stance towards those who view children as sexual objects of desire be softened, Kincaid practically admits that it is social etiquette alone that precludes everyone from humping or having their legs humped at parties…
He said, “we cannot help but find kids erotic.”
Stand back, everyone.
Kincaid isn’t talking of the allure of young women or even unsuitably young women--think Brittney Spears on debut--we live in a mostly patriarchal society, I‘d get that. He’s talking about children--JonBenet, Shirley Temple--who look like children.
I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse Kincaid of being a pedophile as Lee Seigel does in The New Republic, but Kincaid, clearly, is screwing theory. Screw him.