A few years back the local Tweed Heads newspaper ran a feature on Australia's Stab surfing magazine and the comment by then writer Mike Jennings, "You can leer at the 16-year-old as you would an adult woman, so long as you're ignorant. Once you become aware of their age you must look away."
This comment was made after Stab had published a picture of a barely-covered young lady on its front cover, and it was later revealed that this local Kingscliff girl was a 16-year old who was anxious to become known as a model. www.tweednews.com.au/story/2009/11/26/model-16-poses-nude
Jennings reported in his article that although the girl's mother was horrified, the father commented that, if the girl was successful in becoming a model, the family would need to become used to this type of exposure.
At that time, the Tweed Daily News contacted Mark Pearson, Professor of Journalism at Bond University who was quoted as saying, "The danger with this kind of thing is, young people don't always realise the longer-term consequences of their actions; that is why all branches of media have to be especially careful of their management of children."
This view was confirmed by an experienced model, Ms Harris, who commented that she was worried that the girl might consider these actions a 'mistake' in years to come; that maybe it might not have been the smartest move. She further stated that models need to draw a distinction between "high-fashion" and "men's magazines".
It was claimed that Stab magazine "is known for its edginess and celebration of parties and sex" and 'leering' appears to be a central focus of the magazine. According to the apparent philosophy, stated above by Mike Jennings, 'leering' is legitimate as long as you're aware that the boy or girl is not under age.
I stated then this philosophy of Stag on the one hand, and the accompanying social commentary on the other was fascinating in that the dictionary states that leering is "to look with a sidelong glance, indicative especially of sexual desire or sly and malicious intent." www.thefreedictionary.com/leering
Stab avoided the most obvious and critical question about who is responsible for determining if the person is under age, and how this is perceived by the reader. In other words, it purposefully avoids responsibility, as if it hadn't a clue. It seems happy to publish a picture it knows its readers will find attractive, then wash its hands of responsibility by claiming that its readers are at fault if they 'leer' inappropriately.
Summer is not far away.
The beach and summer attire in which many young people (boys and girls) enjoy wearing ‘whatever’. Therefore, it becomes problematic upon "everyone" to ponder the Stab statement as either holding some truth or being evasive.
The incisive question is how can anyone of us, particularly in a magazine, know the age of an attractive young person with the skill of make-up artists and electronic photo-enhancements?
The quotations from community members were equally interesting. The girl's mother apparently realises the possible future, unsavoury consequences; however the father seems to accept the path trodden so far is a necessary and appropriate one if the girl wants to be a model.
On the other hand, an experienced model suggests the sixteen year old wasn't mature enough to realise where that pathway might lead and the academic concurs, and raises serious issues about the wider social consequences of the use of under-age models in the public arena.
This summer will once again illustrate the dilemmas about social responsibility that exist for every young person and parent. There are unspoken and legal boundaries about what is 'acceptable' public behaviour. If parents are in doubt, there are many advocacy groups that they can turn to.
Both Wesley Mission and Baptist Community Services (to name just two) can provide such wisdom and guidance while any Commonwealth or State Government Youth and Community Services Department can provide statutory information.
Baby-Boomers' of my generation (I'm now 67) grew up in the Rock'n'Roll era where young people's attire was just as alluring as today, but the magazines were not as adventurous. Two Bible verses come to mind as the Scriptures are realistic about the inner sexual desires of men and women where they are as many positive aspects (Song of Solomon) as negative (David and Bathsheba):
Psalm 103 verse 17: "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children's children."
Proverbs 5 verse 21: "For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings."
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html