The innocence fetish

The commodification and sexualisation of children in the media and popular culture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past century, a great deal of cultural energy has been invested in the ideal of childhood innocence, to the extent that innocence is frequently cited as our society's most valuable asset. More recently, however, the dominant sentiment — frequently represented in news and current affairs media — has been that childhood innocence is imperilled, and that the ‘less responsible’ aspects of our popular media are putting it at risk. This article argues that the reasoning that engenders innocence with cultural value invites, and even demands, its violation. Specifically, the very same influences through which the child has come to be valorised also lead to the desire for and consumption of innocence. Innocence has become a ‘fetish’, positioned as a lost freedom and plenitude inciting desire. This article draws upon psychoanalytic theory to place into its correct context the anxiety about childhood innocence. It argues that these ‘responsible’ lamentations about the sexualisation of children and the loss of childhood innocence contribute to (rather than avert) a fetishisation of innocence that both prepares the ground for childhood to become the ultimate commodity, and ignores the concrete circumstances, desires and capacities of children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-117
JournalMIA Media International Australia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

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