Despite a half century of moral decay, there is something about sexualized child beauty pageants which still gives people the creeps. In a surprise move the upper chamber of the French parliament this week passed a bill banning participation in beauty pageants for anyone under the age of 16. Offending parents and organizers would face a $40,000 fine plus two years in jail.
The Senate considered but rejected a less categorical ban and less draconian punishments, though these may be insisted upon by the lower house. If, however, Senator Chantal Jouanno prevails, the severe measures will stay in place to help protect children – especially girls – from those who would push them into precocious sexuality.
Jouanno, previously a national karate champ, rightist politician and cabinet minister, is no prude. She was reputedly a mistress of former prime minister Nicolas Sarkozy and appeared on French Playboy’s cover in 2011 modelling a black brazier and a generous quantity of cleavage. However, she draws the line at pre-pubescent girls being taught and paid to prance seductively around in public wearing layers of makeup, gaudy jewellery and skanky lingerie.
Though France has seen less of this than North America has, the appearance of 10-year-old Thylane Loubry Blondeau and two other sultry lolitas in the pages of the French edition of Vogue in 2011 caused an outcry.
Indeed, in France, as elsewhere, clothing designers and retailers are pushing highly sexualized styles of clothing, underwear and even lingerie to girls as young as six. For example, this travesty from four years ago.
Childhood sexual latency
Sexualized children are a subject of widespread morbid fascination – whether it is the 2006 movie Little Miss Perfect, or the unsolved 1996 Colorado murder of child beauty princess JonBenet Ramsey, or the current, unedifying reality show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
It’s morbid because it’s unnatural. Children of both sexes require an undisturbed period of sexual latency between about age six and puberty. In all cultures, both primitive and developed, these are years when the human libidinal drive shifts from an infantile potty-mouth fascination with body parts to observing how the world works. The libido, naturally suppressed, allows these to be the best years for learning, drawing of moral boundaries, and character and personality development. Little girls may want to try on mom’s evening gown and lipstick now and then, but not her negligee. The French Senate looked into all this to reach its conclusions.
Unfortunately, childhood sexual latency has been under unprecedented and prolonged attack for a generation, from aggressive sex educators, online pornographers and now clothing retailers. What the effects of the assault will be is impossible to predict, because no society has ever tried it before.
In the meantime, vive la France!
- “France moves to ban beauty contests for girls,” The Guardian, Sep. 18, 2013