Pedocouture: In Vogue magazine, 6-year-olds are sex vixens


The December issue of French Vogue, edited by Tom Ford, features an extensive spread of child models presented more or less like whores. The girl above is 6. Lemme spell that for you: s-i-x! I'm a big Tom Ford fan. Or, well, was. Artistic freedom and everything, and no, this shouldn't be made illegal—but I believe this is Totally Not Cool. More at NY Mag, Stylelist, and Gawker has scans of the whole photo spread.

(thanks, Tara McGinley)

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  1. These photos, while definitely on the wrong side of ‘icky’, are infintely LESS offensive than the horror that is toddler beauty pageants.

    At the very least, the clothing and photography here were done by professionals and the girls were, presumably, well paid.

    The Little Miss Sunshine crowd does this FOR FREE, on the off chance of winning, along with horrifically sexualized song and dance routines.

    1. I wouldn’t be so sure about it. My 7-year-old is already a size 4-6. The downside is that because she can already fit into tween/junior clothes, she wants to wear them. Kind of like I wanted stilettos when I was her age because I was already wearing a women’s 6 shoe, so they had them in my size. I’m sure she’ll get over it just like I did.

  2. I love the retarded sense N American culture has of the concept of children. Pedophilia is the WORST crime! Think of the Children! And yet… let their minds and personalities be primarily shaped by the ‘culture’ of commodity. It’s not programming children, it’s ‘advertising’. Kind of like the sublimation of the denial of the toxicity of car exhaust via the transference of cigarette smoking into the realm of ethical transgression. IE My girlfriend was doing Health Sciences at a university complex. No cigarette smoking was allowed within 500 meters of the complex — those 500 meters being primarily comprised of parking lots for devices which, if left idling in a room full of humans for one hour, would kill them.
    Phew. Rant finished.
    P.S. — The irony of the photo shoot does not mitigate the semiotic ‘cruelty’ of the photo shoot. It’s the symbolic equivalent of schadenfreude, with irony being the second victim. The young ones being the first. Who is the perpetrator? Tom? The Art Director? Vogue? The pedophiles? Definitely not me. Now the rant is done. Honest!

  3. If these pictures remind you of “whores”, you’ll be happy to never have seen anything from LS Models or anything else from these mostly russian/east-european child/teen modeling sites. Really.

  4. Sick and sickening. How low will they go? Apparently exploiting teenaged females wasn’t low enough. Now it’s more lucrative to dress up children in adult clothing. Apparently pedophilia is not a crime in the fashion industry.

  5. Xeni wrote

    “an extensive spread of child models presented more or less like whores.”

    Is that really any different from how any of the models look in Vogue? Is that a judgment on all the models, or just when the ‘look’ get applied to kids

  6. Although kids playing dress up often end up looking similar to this, I think there’s a line crossed somewhere here.

    It’s not pedophillia, but it’s clearly ick. It wasn’t for fun, it was exploitative.

  7. This reminds me of a posting on this site called something like the ‘top creepiest print ads of all time’. It was from the 70s, a girl about that age pouting with bedroom eyes and heavily glossed lips. The text read “Innocence is always sexy.”

  8. I have to disagree with most of the comments here. I don’t see anything sexual about these images; rather, I think they are a commentary on/challenge to the fashion/photo world we see every day in glossies like Vogue. It’s meant to jolt the viewer, but it’s hardly child porn.

    1. How is it meant to be a valid commentary if it’s merely doing the same thing it’s supposed to be commenting on. Ironic commentary has become the method of the coward.

  9. presented more or less like whores

    No, not at all. They look like little girls playing dress-up… only they aren’t smiling or laughing.

    I agree this is something our society doesn’t need, but saying they’re presented like whores is a massive exaggeration.

    1. I agree this is something our society doesn’t need, but saying they’re presented like whores is a massive exaggeration.

      So then what do you think of children pageants? I mean there has been incredible criticism thrown against child pageants and how they damage children and sexualize them. What exactly is the difference between this and that.

      Also forcing sexuality on a human that is barely able to safely crap on their own can be considered whoring them out.

      Whores or not, these kids are damaged.

      1. That’s why I said society doesn’t need this. Girls and women already have too much pressure on them to look a certain way, and starting the pressure earlier is just going to make it worse.

  10. I think its pretty clear they are presented to the male gaze (though who reads Vogue?) whether whores or not.

  11. And thus we slipped into the abyss. Not knowing where we would end, only knowing we were finished. I will hang my head down…

  12. Geezus! This is bad on so many levels. Edgy is not automatically a virtue. What Photoshop filter did they use to remove the kid’s innocence and joy of living? It’s bad enough that Disney has gone from making funny cartoons to creating future coke whores but six is a little early even for them.

  13. Another internet dilemma. On the one hand, we mostly agree (I hope) that little girls shouldn’t be sexually exploited…. but, on the other hand, free speech. The ultimate trump card. We must defend some pervert’s right to publish exploitative pictures of six year old girls in order to sell hand bags. It’s our most important right. And if we didn’t have perverts selling sexualized images of little girls, democracy would fall apart.

  14. To me, these look more “glamorous” than sexy/slutty/whorish, and make me think of girls playing dress up (but their expressions are weird, as Soongtype noted). BTW, I believe those of you who see them as sexually exploitative, but I don’t.

  15. in a world where each ‘shocking’ event charges a positive-feedback loop of unceasing desire & expectation – bored with yesterday & horny for tomorrow’s fresh atrocities & exploitations…what else does anyone imagine could occur? Satisfaction in these realms can only be achieved by striving for each ‘new’ plateau of the shocking and taboo.

    too bad this (forgive my simplicity) Crap results in real psychological damage to real humans. The hypersexualization of children is disgusting to me. Today I noticed, curiously and serendipitously, a street sign for American Apparel which featured a 6 (or close) year old boy dressed up like a man…with a sexy adult female on the other side of the sign.

    and, btw, Pedobear approves.

  16. This is an ADVERT.

    This is not classical art.

    It advances no greater discussion for the culture at large, nor does it portray some prevalent acceptance or generally regarded subculture. It DOES NOT mark the times. Who in modern society REALLY believes that little girls should be slathered in make-up and posed provocatively. Who decided this was in bounds? The little girl, her parents, or a horny uncle? (Any of which might be a pedophile?) Are there no sexually interested adult women left, that might be attractive? What about that?

    Can the little girl tell you that this was what she wanted to get across to the masses? Is it HER free speech right that might be harmed? She cannot legally consent. How does her image in this manner promote freedom, if she was told to do this before she was legally able to consent? She had no freedom, or right to disagree, is that okay?

    How will this affect her later?


    On the one hand, I don’t think it should be censored. It isn’t porn. However, look at child stars, back to ‘Our gang’, AKA the ‘Rascals’. You will see serious psychic harm and (consistent) early deaths; and those given examples were depictions of children understanding adulthood, but without any sexualization.

    These people publishing the images are assholes, pushing the envelope for THEIR OWN attention, financial reward, with out regard to the subjects in the photos.

    Don’t censor, but call them out. What exactly is their point?- That they can take advantage of others?

    How do you say ‘fuck you’ in french?

  17. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with these images in the same sense that there is nothing wrong with photographing a young girl in various nude poses (as many parents do), and then using the images for a calender.

    Re-read what I tossed up. 2-D child porn is, visually, no worse that this shoot.

    Personally I have the same (negative) response to both.

    1. Someone taking personal pix of a babe in a tube, thinking their kid is adorable and sharing it with family, in an innocent way, is LIGHT YEARS way from creating a ‘fuck me’ pose in a magazine, to promote shit, for all the skeezy world to see.

      1. This was posed by TAGC back in the day. They released an image (from one of the members relatives) of a young girl (5?), topless and kneeling on a bed. They ‘detourned’ the intent by framing her with a calender. Operationally, no different than a ‘fuck me’ pose, as the referent is brought into existence by the intention of the body in space-time that Receives the signal. Dig?
        I don’t like it at all, and my main problem with this shoot is the probable awareness of those involved with the recipient-based operation of the pictures. I don’t appreciate censorship, but dangling this shoot out is beyond irresponsible, in my opinion. Rather it seems to indicate the degree of hedonic cynicism behind at least on producer of the shoot.

  18. This is so wrong, I won’t even make a Skittles or a bloody clown suit joke.

    I won’t even mention Uncle Spanky’s Magic Unicorn Basement.

  19. My six-year-old daughter is a little tall and just graduated from “kids” clothes (infant to size 6) to “girl” clothes (size 7-13). I was horrified when I tried to find her some age appropriate clothes and I could only find skin-tight pink shirts with “brat” spelled out in glitter. OK, that is more tacky then sexualized, but when I asked for some help from a clerk at JC Penny, she found me a set of clothes that was clearly supposed to be a stylized school uniform: plaid skirt, button down shirt, tie, but jazzed up with rhinestones, etc. And fish net stockings. FISH NET! In size 7. Which means seven years old for those of you with no kids.

    I’m depressed by this rush to adulthood where I see first graders wearing make-up. I don’t think it is the end of the world, but I wish that these girls had the time to just enjoy being themselves.

    1. Not to get off topic, but you might want to try Osh Kosh. It’s one of the few brands that makes little-girl style clothes in bigger than toddler sizes. I think they go up to size 12 even.

      1. Osh Kosh kicks ass!! They’re the only clothes my daughter can’t seem to destroy! They last forever (esp. the overalls) and when they do finally wear out, you can actually mend them (repeatedly, if necessary) as opposed to having to re-purpose/throw them out. It’s a shame they’re so expensive, but I find you can often score them at secondhand stores if you time your visit for when they receive their new stock.

  20. Kids doing these photos by themselves in the privacy of their own homes could be thought of as simply amusing — child’s play. Fashion professionals eking money and publicity out of such a distasteful idea like that could be thought of as sick. But in my mind, the real questionable behavior here comes from these kids’ parents, who after all greenlighted this. By explicitly allowing their children to do this *and* by profiting from the resulting imagery, I’d say Mom and Dad could only expect to have both their sanity and their ability to foster a decent upbringing seriously questioned.

  21. Probably the most ‘covered’ cover girl

    This magazine caters to women, I doubt it was put together with a male audience in mind

    It’s interesting in a way actually. Women, want to look younger? How much younger can you look? It’s thought provoking that a 6 year old can look so … old. It also puts into question our obsession with the ‘immortality’ associated with youth

  22. I can’t say I’m surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised. Is there even anyone LEFT to exploit any more?
    Don’t these children have parents? And how can they justify treating their offspring like some sort of …showdog?
    When the parents are old and infirm, I wonder how their jaded children will wreak their revenge?

  23. Sorry, but if Tom Ford made this, then Tom Ford is responsible. If Vogue published it, then Vogue shares responsibility. These images come from a specific context, and were created for a specific purpose, so lets contextualize appropriately. It sexualizes and sells underage girls. To summarize: great fashion “artists” and “cultural magazines” are responsible for predatory and abusive actions. The only question: what are you gonna do about it? How about stop being seduced by these peoples status and celebrity and realize they’re a bunch of assholes the next time you go to pick up Vogue, buy Tom Ford, or blindly think that power of any kind doesn’t corrupt. Do that, and you won’t be just another self righteous person moaning on a comment page– you’ll be a responsible person.

  24. benher
    When this girl turns 18 and wears the identical outfit will she cease to be a whore?

    Yes. She’ll be an adult who is choosing what to do with her sexuality on her own terms, not a child who is being victimized by adults. I guess you can’t see that distinction. Unfortunate.

  25. I find the initial characterization to be blown way out of proportion. The girls are styled and made up similarly to the late teen and adult women models in many issues of Vogue, showing a particular beauty aesthetic, usually that of the editors and stylists. Were I to see adults in those scenes, I would certainly not consider them “whores”. I seem to read the photo spreads much like stuhfoo (#36) in that first, the audience of Vogue is primarily women, and second, it does bring to mind a question of age and beauty, not to mention the use of makeup to enhance beauty, or to perhaps communicate an aspect of one’s personality.

  26. You’re doing just what they want you to do. Ford et al didn’t do this because they want us to get hip to how hot 6-year-olds can be. They did it because outrage buys free ink.

    Things that once reliably produced shocked screams now elicit only yawns. Crucifix in urine? Been there, done that. After we get numb to this what’ll they need to resort to next, working the models over with a baseball bat before the shoot? Or maybe Joel Peter Witkin has a future in fashion?

  27. Do you know how hard it is to get non-padded bras for a young teen? Sizes 32 and 34 in an A, AA or B cup are virtually unavailable without padding for teens (or adult women, for that matter). In fact, places like Target sell padded bras starting at children’s size 6 (this means age 4-5 usually).

    And don’t get me started on shoes. Did anyone else notice that several of the photos in the spread included a shot of the shoes…all adult sizes in order to show a 5-6″ spiked heel. There are a lot of terrible shoes for girls (causing spine, foot and/or posture problems), but they’re for much shorter feet so the heels can’t be that high. And then, plumping and glossing their lips to make them appear aroused and full of blood…it’s all been covered before by so many feminists that I won’t continue on with the details.

    One of my daughters is small for her age and only in middle school but already too big for women’s size 00 and 0 (except for arm length, which is too long). She’s about 80 pounds and 5’0″. How many adult women are naturally that emaciated?

    It’s all a crock. Fashion isn’t really about helping women look good. The designers and the rest of the industry are laughing at women, all the way to the bank.

  28. I’m always wary of posting in a discussion where the words “pornography” and “child” have been used in close proximity, because logic has usually flown out the window on all sides shortly afterwards.

    To get it out of the way, exploiting children is bad, mmkay? Understood? Okay, good.

    Ethical and moral issues aside, if this is an ad, it’s extremely successful, because here we are, talking about it.

    More than that, I have to wonder why I seem to be reacting differently than most of the commenters here; I generally skip the pictures until I’ve read the lede on a BB post if only because BoingBoing is a wonderful place and frequently presents me stuff that I don’t understand what the crap I’m looking at right away, so I was primed with the information that the model in the photo at the top of the post is six, but I felt an unease and revulsion because of the disconnect between the trappings of a tarted-up fashion model and the body proportions of the person on my screen. I looked in her face, and, like stuhfoo, thought she looked so old. After looking at her a bit more, I’m almost certain that her face has been heavily photoshopped (although probably no moreso than her of-age sisters normally featured in spots like this) specifically to look old.

    I’m not so sure that I want to give an advertisement the benefit of the doubt that this was done purely out of a marketing move to get people to talk about it by being so far into a controversial uncanny valley, but please don’t be so quick to forget all of the facts and possibilities just because child sexuality is implied. If this is intended to be exploitive, fuck ’em with a steamshovel. But I don’t think that it’s fair (or logical, helpful, or useful) to dismiss every possibility but that one simply because a minor is somehow involved.

    I do appreciate that until there’s some official statement from Vogue or someone else involved it’s going to be an entirely subjective situation so there’s going to be a lot of valid speculation, but seriously, guys, trotting out the “FOR TEH CHILDRUNZ” banner out in front of everything else is just giving them exactly what they want, regardless of their motives.

    TL;DR: Y’all are posting in a troll advertising campaign.

  29. I agree with you Xeni:

    Shouldn’t be illegal, but so Totally Not Cool as to alter one’s opinions of the folks involved.

  30. Sure, the ad campaign’s tacky, but it’s just the usual “buy our product to feel young and sexy” tripe. Vogue is primarily read by women, and the goal of these ads is clearly selling products to adult women, by playing on fear of aging.

    What could be worse? Well, telling girls that they’re dressed “like whores”, for one, which I find offensive from the points of view of both the models and actual sex workers.

  31. Hmmm. I have three daughters, so, of course that makes me an authority on young girls. Yes, it is true that little girls love to play dress up. But the operative word is “playing”. Once the outfits are on, the playing begins and that can be anything– taking care of baby dolls or teddy bears, making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, rearranging a dollhouse, constructing a block tower, dancing to music…. you get the idea. Little kids don’t generally put on Mom’s clothes and lie around on animal skins looking bored. These “models” look disappointed that they have gotten all fancy and there is no party to go to. These pictures are clearly a parody of the classic “Aren’t I pretty, don’t you want to f*** me?” fashion photo cliches. And as such, they put those implied words in the six year old’s eyes. Which is why, in the end, it is hard to dismiss this as just little girls playing dress up. But I have a harder time with the regular use of 12, 13, 14 year old models– who can “pass” as adults when made up and put in the outfits. These are the girls who are actively pursued by older boys and men and the age confusion has very real consequences.

  32. I could see Grace Kelly wearing the same outfit. I’ve been out of touch, is she considered a whore now?

    1. @travtastic, the comments visible in this thread are pretty tame compared to the ones BB’s moderators did not pass through. A lot of “you’re prudes, what’s wrong with celebrating a 6 year old’s sexual beauty.” Good times.

      1. Xeni; That’s an interesting take on moderation. I usually scan the comments to get a ‘feel of the crowd’, as it were, drilling down on the interesting (read: well written) ones. While I certainly find comments like the one you mentioned discomforting, it does represent a percentage of our culture, and I’m wondering what triggered a moderator to refuse it?
        You folks at the Boing do a great job, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be moderator on this topic, as it’s probably a lose/lose scenario.

  33. prettyb and soongtype’s comments, #’s 14 and 15, pretty much sum up what most rational, emphasis on rational, human beings would think. I don’t agree with Xeni’s assessment as well as most of the statements on here. Something is just wrong, but I can’t quite put my finger on it seems more of a mob mentality than critical analysis to me at least.

    I thought that this is something we strived against at BB: the demonizing of a particular subject with irrationality and bias ad hominem.

  34. Although they don’t look at all like they’re enjoying themselves, they’re just mimicking the behaviors of adult female models and are being coaxed into these poses. Yet, I don’t find it any more obscene than any form of child performance done with an audience in mind. They’re not unclothed, nor do their clothes seem fetishistic.

    Is it victimization for someone to have their photo taken, be paid, and have that photo be distributed to customers who may or may not be upstanding citizens? No, but somehow putting children into this equation makes the parents and publishers into slave-drivers and transforms the customers into pedophiles.

    Honestly, I just want the weird bee bottle from the last page. That thing looks awesome.

  35. What parent would feel OK about signing the release to have their six year old daughter appear in a magazine this way? Clearly a six year old can’t find their way into the modeling world alone, so a parent is the one who must have sought this out. I also doubt Tom Ford stumbled upon these little girls in a supermarket, made the director hands and said “Your daughter must be in my magazine!”

    1. I wouldn’t sell any of my children into advertising. Drawing the line at dressing up in cocktail dresses and looking vacant (like most fashion spreads) would be the furthest of my concerns.

      This is a non-story. The photos are lame but not sexual. But I think my bias is that I don’t seek out sex in non-sexual places like the current culture of fear often does.

  36. Yes. I hope Vogue expands on this campaign. Helmut Newton would approve of the cultural ‘consequences’.

  37. This is all a logical progression of current body image trends. When adult models are expected to have no hips, no shoulders, and be completely free of pubic hair that’s a pretty rarefied standard. Recruiting children makes more sense in terms of fitting the current feminine ideal norm.

    1. “This is all a logical progression of current body image trends. When adult models are expected to have no hips, no shoulders, and be completely free of pubic hair that’s a pretty rarefied standard. Recruiting children makes more sense in terms of fitting the current feminine ideal norm.”

      I agree: it’s utterly unremarkable that anyone would substitute six year olds for of-age models of the modern aesthetic. I’m pretty sure Tom Ford knows that, and I think he shot this straight. Not ironically. Not even especially provocatively, in the sense of intending to raise questions. This ad campaign doesn’t beg questions about women, beauty or consumerism, it declares the state of the industry and us as consumers of it. I don’t think it tells us anything we didn’t already know.

    1. Yeah! One is Art, and includes a helpful Statement about the ‘tensions’ it expresses, thus we have maintained our precious distance and it is Totally Cool; this one was in Vogue and stuff, hence Totally Not. Also these girls were tarted up particularly for this shoot, whereas in the case of the Russian children, that is how they live their actual life.

      All of the subjects, however, are Totally Messed Up, for reasons only tangentially related to their sexuality.

  38. Pedobear is unimpressed. He thinks he looks ‘shopped. He can tell from some of the pixels and seeing quite a few ‘shops in his life time.

    Seriously though – inappropriate, Vogue. Having a 4 yr old daughter, I can’t imagine her posing like that.

    I think people who have their kids model are a different sort. I have one friend whose daughter has done it for awhile. I think she is around 13 now, but I have seen some pics a few years ago where I was like, “Wow… those are really.. grown up… pics.”

    1. re:”Brooke Shields in the 1970s Calvin Klein jeans ads, anyone?”

      I would contend
      1) A 15yr old actually has sexuality, unlike a pre-pubescent little girl. We should have some evolutionary biology that clicks here. When you only lived to 25 or 30, getting married and pumping out babies at 13-14 was the norm.

      2) The Vogue spread wasn’t the first or last case of inappropriate imagery to sell clothes.

      re: “A lot of “you’re prudes, what’s wrong with celebrating a 6 year old’s sexual beauty.””

      Uhhhh maybe because they don’t have any? Creepy.

  39. NOT COOL!

    little girls presented as sexy ladies is not cool at all. Too much effort has been put into the illusion of sexy grown uppedness for this to be anything else. This is not an innocent game of ‘dress up’.

  40. Actually, I find them to be dressed and presented like the majority of fashion models in the industry.
    Nowhere near as disturbing as the kid’s beauty pageants.

  41. I dunno, folks.

    These pictures seem awfully tame, and to be honest I found the ‘whore’ comment in OP a bit more offensive than the shoot itself. (And to be additionally honest, on my unified scale of outrage neither photoshoot nor response, nor anything to do with sex and children short of actual child rape, ranks very high.)

    The gold lamé dresses with lots of bare leg and accompanying bunnies are the most troubling of the lot, whereas the photo in the post and the rest of the shoot seem to be just young girls in dresses with heavy makeup on. Ooh, and they’re not smiling. (You could say they exhibit a ‘come hither’ stare, to which I would respond: pervert!) This counts as looking ‘more or less’ like a whore? To me that reaction says more about the responder than the content to which they are ostensibly responding.

    Anyway, said reaction is gonna sell a heck of a lot of magazines.

  42. While I fully agree this falls clearly in the “NOT COOL” category, I wonder if the general idea was less perverted and more at an attempt to show what the world is coming to. Reductio ad absurdum–taking fashion and models to an extreme to show how absurd the culture has come–show what modern fashions look like on 5-6 year olds to show how ridiculous it is these days?

    Maybe? I really don’t know, just throwing out a thought. Gawker’s coverage mentions this: “Roitfeld has been known to mockingly indulge the fashion industry’s worst impulses.” Which to me reads as “is showing how ridiculous fashion has become obsessing over younger-and-younger (14-15 years old) models”, but I could be completely wrong.

    Again, I’m not defending this, because it is definitely not cool, but maybe it’s not done with the intent of being perverted…?

  43. A lot of the comments I’m reading, here and at Balloon Juice, are outraged that this photo shoot makes kindergarten-aged girls look like prostitutes. Some are going so far as to accuse the editor, John King, of promoting child pr0n.

    Personally, I just think they look like 6 year olds dressed up and made up to look like adult Vogue fashion models. In other words, they’re clothes-horses. Adult Vogue fashion models generally don’t look very sexy to me, and these girls look even less so, since they’re so very young.

    If the goal was to cause cries of righteous outrage, it certainly worked – which was probably the whole point. According to Carine Roitfeld, the outgoing editor of Vogue Paris, “I like to have something every month that is – how you say? – not politically correct. A little bit at the limit.”

    Or a lot.

  44. I don’t think they look like “whores”. What does a “whore” look like, anyway? They look like little girls dressed up in grown women’s clothes. I like #5, #3, and the right half of #6. #1, #2, and the left half of #6 make me kind of uncomfortable.

    I’m not sure what the photographer was getting at here, but to me it looks like there is some commentary on the prevalence of the “waif look” in high fashion photography as well as reminiscence about playing dress-up as children.

  45. Don’t know the photographers and Vogue’s intents, but I think it’s a combo of the following: 1) Being avant-garde enhances our image and reputations, especially when the unwashed masses have a negative reaction to the work, because 2) publicity = profits. We’d like to thank all you haters.

    My reaction is much like what tweaked said in #77: “[your] reaction says more about the responder than the content to which they are ostensibly responding.” Comments about what is improper about the Vogue piece are to me about as useful as asking an adult who is afraid of the dark about the proper use of night-lights.

  46. To the people who are saying these girls don’t look like whores, perhaps it is a bit of editorial hyperbole, but I don’t think so. At the very least, you could say that they’re being presented, more or less, to look like girls who are TRYING to look like whores.

    Sure, it may be unfair to say that a lipsticked child in a sexually suggestive pose, lying on a Bengal tiger rug with a leopard print backdrop isn’t being made out to look like a whore, but I think you’d be way off base. The definition of “whore” is ultimately subjective, true, but Xeni preemptively acknowledges this by including the phrase “more or less.”

    And more or less, this child is being made to look like a whore. In my mind, at least. She’s being used as an object of titillation. “Whore-like” is pretty decent shorthand, I’d say. If this is a commentary on exploitation, I’ll feel a lot better about it. As it is, it appears to be a 6 year old child being paid to cast a “come hither” look in a fashion magazine.

    So, all of you people taking opposition to the editorializing should understand that that’s precisely what it is. One woman’s opinion. What do you think your comments consist of, anyway? Is it irrefutable fact, or your own, proscriptive definitions of the word “whore”? I mention this only because I think making children sex objects is a far greater crime. And no, I wouldn’t like to see this made punishable by imprisonment, but I think it’s a dangerous road to go down. What’s the difference between Jock Sturges’ work and kiddie porn?

    Sexual suggestiveness? Because to some people, being naked by itself constitutes suggestiveness. Shades of gray. Disagreement as to the best characterization of these images is expected, but if any of you are honestly saying that this little girl isn’t deliberately being presented in an ambiguous sexual context, as a potential object of sexual desire, you’re crazy. “Whore,” “slut,” “Lolita,” whatever you call it, she looks far more experienced than she should, and, to me, at least, it’s fairly disturbing that some of you are so desensitized that you can’t at least acknowledge that Xeni made a compelling point.

    Because you don’t need to be one of the ridiculed “for the children” types to give a fuck about ethical standards, and you don’t need to be a genius to see that this no doubt virginal child has been made to look trashy. In an undeniably extra-sexualized manner.

  47. We were recently approached by a local modelling agency about representing our (then) 5-year-old daughter. I told their smarmy representative if I ever saw or heard from him again I would personally cripple him for life.

  48. Also, there’s a big difference between saying “presented to look more or less like whores” and “this little girl looks like a whore.”

    She doesn’t look like a whore to me, but the photographer, scene consultants, whoever had a hand in this picture’s realization had an unmistakable interest in portraying her in a very specific, not very classy light.

    So, whether YOU think she looks like a whore is beside the point. In fact, the entire argument over the use of the word “whore” is diversionary. Unless the artist’s intent is suddenly unimportant, and anyone who disagrees with the exploitation of children is pro-censorship.

  49. “I have to disagree with most of the comments here. I don’t see anything sexual about these images; rather, I think they are a commentary on/challenge to the fashion/photo world we see every day in glossies like Vogue. It’s meant to jolt the viewer, but it’s hardly child porn.”

    This, pretty much. This is a commentary in the same way that the plastic surgery spread they did once was.

  50. Maybe this is the cutting edge in unrealistic beauty standards. Little girls dressed up, made up, and photoshopped up to look older.

    This particular image isn’t quite there — maybe if they shrunk the head they’d get a more adult head/body ratio. Or maybe they’re counting on everyone just getting used to it.

  51. It’s common to dress up kids this way in France, by the way. They only think of it as beauty, not necessarily sexual, and most French people don’t think it’s a big deal. In fact they think “anglo-saxons” are strange.

    1. Um, when was the last time you were in France? We lived there for three years and never saw kids tricked-out like prostitutes. It’s true that the French have a much more relaxed attitude toward sexuality in general than uptight North Americans, but that doesn’t extend to treating their kids like pedo-bait.
      Oh, and I’ve never heard anyone from France refer to English speakers as “anglo-saxons”. “Les anglais” is the most common expression. Sometimes even “les maudite anglais”, but anglo-saxons? Maybe a thousand years ago.

      1. I am French, and when we use the term “Anglo-Saxon” all the time. We use it to refer to the American/British ways and culture, that are from a French perspective, quite similar.
        Its used the same way that people refer to “Latin” culture or “Scandinavian” culture. Each of which group numerous countries…

        1. Si vous dit c’est correct…

          Just saying that I never heard it while I lived there. Maybe people were just being polite to me!

          1. It’s used more in intellectual discussions and articles than colloquially. Also, people were probably being polite to you, as you say.

          2. I’ll have to keep my ears open next time we’re there. We were living there while my wife completed her Masters, so we certainly participated in plenty of intellectual discussions! And we definitely heard “anglo” used a lot (usually in a derogatory sense), but not “anglo-saxon”. I wonder if its use might not be a more recent thing – we were there in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Man – hard to believe that was 20 years ago now. AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  52. “If the goal was to cause cries of righteous outrage, it certainly worked – which was probably the whole point.”

    What shocked two decades ago does not shock today. So in order to -Épater la bourgeoisie- one must do more.

    When society becomes accustomed to images such as this, explicit sexual images of children will be the inevitable next step.

    Don’t believe me? Thirty years ago, could you put an ad on prime time TV which discussed “erections lasting more than four hours?”

  53. Another vote for the “not-whores” faction.
    They are disturbing images indeed, seeing as they seem to rob childhood of much of its innocence by molding self consious fashion slaves out of 6 year olds.

    But I cannot see why clothes and poses in any way could prove whether a woman (or child) is more likely to agree to have sex for money. Such attitudes are, to me, just as disturbing as the images shown.

  54. Never mind how I feel about this, isn’t this the skinquality/bodytype that so called high fashion is all about?

  55. Kind of like the sublimation of the denial of the toxicity of car exhaust via the transference of cigarette smoking into the realm of ethical transgression.

    Hey! You stole my masters thesis, dick!

  56. As someone who has treated, supervised treatment and published about treatment of sexually assaulted children, and treated pedophiles, I find this disturbing at best. Those who sexually abuse children are convinced that they are in love, and that what they are doing is fine. Otherwise they couldn’t do it. This kind of display only contributes to the pedophiles’ cause.

  57. J’ai vecu a Paris pendant cinq ans, et je vais en France souvent.

    I have French familiy. You’re right. But my point precisely is what is seen as sexy in the U.S., Canada and Northern Europe is only regarded as “beautiful” in France. They would think accusations that this has anything to do with pedophilia are “ridiculous”, just as they think Crazy Horse and Moulin Rouge and general toplessness is artful and not pornographic.

    1. Merci pour le clarification de votre commentaire.

      I agree that many North Americans are absurdly naive and alarmist when dealing with anything related to sexuality – as MrPlow helpfully suggested, it very well could be that our Puritan/Methodist/Anglican forebears are to blame!

      As to what the French would think of these photos, why don’t you ask around next time you’re there and see what some French people really do think of them. I’m not being sarcastic, either – I honestly would like to know. Most of the French people I know/met while living there are definitely connoisseurs of female beauty; but they also have enough common sense to know when kids are being intentionally sexualized.

      1. “Most of the French people I know/met while living there are definitely connoisseurs of female beauty; but they also have enough common sense to know when kids are being intentionally sexualized.”

        I will. I think most people won’t see it as a big deal, but there are probably some who don’t like it. I know some people in my French family really dislike how women are expected to dress up and put on makeup in all sorts of occupations where they aren’t expected to in Northern Europe, for example.

        Personally I don’t think it’s a big deal, and that it’s more of a problem that people label this kind of stuff as “pedo”. That kind of hysteria contributes to a watering out of a problem that is very serious. Only images of real abuse should fall into the category.

        Sorry if I was a bit brash earlier.

    2. “They would think accusations that this has anything to do with pedophilia are “ridiculous”, just as they think Crazy Horse and Moulin Rouge and general toplessness is artful…”

      I don’t know about the rest, but that Crazy Horse is artful, I’ll agree:

  58. Xeni, you’ve never seen a whore have you? I’ll agree that it’s inappropriate, but they’re clearly dressed like adult Cosmo models.

  59. In Sweden and Norway, this picture is completely illegal. Any picture or illustration (!) of someone under 18 in a sexualized situation is considered child porn. However, the police has chosen not to confiscate art at a recent display of pictures by Bjarne Melgaard at Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo. Melgaard is an acknowledged and controversial artist who has recently used NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association) images in his work.

  60. I have to say that I’m somewhat ambivalent about these pictures. When I pick up a copy of Vogue, I’m generally looking at the clothes as clothes and the models as clothes-horses, so Xeni’s remark about whores seemed wildly off-target last night.

    Looking at the pictures again this morning, I could kind of see what she might be getting at, but I don’t know if some of the poses are objectively sexually suggestive, or if I’ve been trained to see them that way. Is it bad that I had to strip away the filters of first seeing these as pictures of fashion models, then pictures of children, before seeing the (possible) sexual exploitation? If the sexual exploitation is there, how much of it is the viewer bringing to the pictures, and how much has the photographer put there? And if the photographer has put it there, has he or she done it because he or she is a closeted pedophile, or was it with the intention of making the viewer uncomfortable and the pictures thus memorable? Or is it simply an accident, the photographer just having a wild idea one day and running with it, and the editorial staff picking the pictures that conform best to Vogue’s house style?

    It’s easy to see the reaction to this shoot as being part of our society’s continuing neurosis about children, where any unusual picture of a child is examined to a fine degree for any evidence of exploitation, sexual or otherwise, the close inspection creating artifacts of meaning where there is deliberate ambiguity. Are the pictures exploitative? Of course: everybody involved has had contact with grubby money as payment for their part in it. But that’s the way our society is arranged. The question — one of the questions — is whether the children were excessively exploited. I don’t believe that can be easily answered.

    1. re: “Would it make a difference if these were photos of six-year-olds dressed as soldiers?”

      Are you playing devils advocate, or can you really not discern a difference.

      1. If you’re going to ban the possession of images based upon their content and with heavy penal sanctions for any violation, you’d best be crystal-clear as to what is forbidden, and what is not.

        These photos are not, under the Law as it now stands.

        Do you think that they should?

        By the way, I think that ALL child labour whatsoever and without exception ought to be outlawed – or subject to heavy, detailed scrutiny and regulation by the Child protection Authorities.
        Including child modeling, and any performance for profit whatsoever – including toy ads.

        Indeed, all advertising directed at children ought to likewise be outlawed. IMHO.

        1. Even better, it is always good to know precisely WHY one set of images is banned (children posed as sex workers), while another is not (children posed as warriors).

  61. I’d think that the propriety of dressing children up as adults, and then photographing them, must depend crucially upon one’s view of the propriety of the “type of adult or adult situation” the children are being dressed-up to re-present – and to the extent to which such mores are reflected or embedded in the Laws.

    It is interesting, where those lines are drawn, where those bounds are set.

    As is how the Public Authorities choose to exercise their discretion as to whether or not to attempt to enforce those Laws in any given instance.

    I think children ought not to be working at all.

  62. You know, I kinda like fashion in that I like colours and how interesting tailoring and neat accessories look… But for something supposed to be about beauty and creativity, the fashion industry is just freaking creepy and morbid.

    It’s filled with self-aggrandizing morons who are so desperate to be ‘edgy’ (whatever that means anymore) that they just end up acting fu*ing insane, and NOT in a cute way.

  63. Any thoughts to the composition of a “vixen” six year old atop the pelt of an endangered species? Any deeper meaning?

    Photoshop contest: how many elements of the picture (jewelery, shoes, hairstyle, makeup) need to be removed for the picture not to be “sexy”? Would removing the tiger and replacing it with a Pokemon plush doll and sticking in some Pokemon cards fix it?

    The picture to me is unarousing yet eye-catching. Should I be worried that I don’t see the sex in this picture?

  64. I’m not going to log in to my regular account before I post. This is just tacky. It’s not artistic, and the people involved are too young to make it erotic. I’m not a prude; I believe you’re allowed to _think_ whatever you want so long as you cause no harm to other people. That’s why I personally don’t have a problem with lolicon artwork/comics/etc. This is different, though. These are minors who can’t make an informed decision, and it’s not good to sexualize real kids. I can’t approve of this sort of thing.

  65. Next photo spread: 6-year-old boys as ancient Greek catamites, with sultry expressions. Hey, they’re just playing dress-up!

  66. I can hardly scroll down boingboing right now because that picture offends me so much. And I keep worrying that some rich pervert, some Saudi prince, has already managed to have sex with those children, encouraged by their parents allowing them to be so sexualized. I find the picture itself obscene. And I do find it even worse than the child beauty pagents where the kids do look like kids, heavily made up kids. That child look more like a little person prostitute.

  67. 131 comments and still no mention of the book that puts this kind of crap into the proper context.

    Everyone, go read The Disappearance of Childhood by Neal Postman.

  68. To everyone saying “all I see is kids dressed as adults”, give your head a shake. Most adults don’t dress like that. If these kids were dressed like most adults I know, we wouldn’t be having this talk.

  69. I’m wondering if the folks in charge of this thing spend a lot of time hanging out with the people on that “Toddlers and Tiaras” show? Because it’s the same crowd, for my money.

  70. Whores wear regular clothes, and a lot of whores are the same age as these girls.

    I find these photos ugly and disgusting, but so are most things.

    1. “Whores wear regular clothes, and a lot of whores are the same age as these girls.”

      Speaking from your own experience, are you?

      Because I have NEVER seen a sex worker the same age as these kids….maybe you read different magazines than I do – please tell us – hell no, tell the Police – where did you see those child whores you claim exist? Perhaps a Hollywood movie?

      1. Sadly – read up on it. Child prostitution is rampant in Thailand and in Asia and South America in general.

        Warning – you might get mad at the video.

      2. To be fair, blueelm was probably talking about Third world child whores…that wear Dior and Gucci. uhhm…

        One thing is certain: Thanks to this well informed, pertinent and well thought out post by Xeni, I shall hence forth assume that anyone, of whatever age, that is dressed up in Dior and cavalli, is a whore.

        – Because kids don’t ever dress up and try on their mom’s makeup and therefore dressing up kids in fancy clothes is obviously an attempt to sexualize children and pandering to pedophiles.

        1. I see that the kids involved in Winnipeg are from 12 to 16 in age, not six.

          Bluelm was being sensationalistic – and thereby exaggerating the actual evil, by glossing the facts to make it appear greater or worse than it actually is.

          That kind of exaggeration can easily lead to an over-reaction by the Public Authorities, and those over-reactions inevitably bring with them their own set of evils (see “Marijuana prohibition”).

          These photos are in bad taste, IMO.
          But I feel that way about ANY commercial exploitation whatsoever of children, including any such activity in or by the media.

          Ought these photos be criminal and their possession and creation subject to legal penalty? Why or why not?

          Are they then simply in bad taste?
          If that is so, why bring any attention to them at all?

          Think about it.

  71. @Xeni

    While I have absolutely no sympathy for the fashion industry, or child abuse, the only thing I find really offensive here is your use of “whore” and “Pedocouture”.

    Were lexical logic still intact on what I assume to be the far side of the Atlantic, the latter would mean “children’s couture”, as a paediatrician is a children’s doctor and not someone who treats paedophiles. I’m all for puns and neologisms, except where they obscure meaning and/or push a moralising and sensationalist agenda. As others have pointed out above, Vogue (France, Italy or whatever) is hardly aimed at heterosexual men, let alone the very small subset of them who are attracted to under-age girls, the only people I have ever known who read it are either gay men or heterosexual women, mostly within the fashion industry at that.

    On that note, if you want a really interesting blog post, you might want to examine who actually controls and defines the image of women/girls within that lovely industry. Unfortunately, that would probably both go against the current habit of dumping all the world’s ills at the feet of heterosexual men and deprive you of passes to shows.

    Finally, since you claim to appreciate fashion, at least until this “event”, pray tell us how this is any more offensive than the standard fare of semi-naked and undernourished 14-year-olds?

    Where do you draw the line: 10, 11, 12, 13?

    1. re: “Where do you draw the line: 10, 11, 12, 13? ”

      You can’t draw a line, as it varies and is grey. Though there is a pretty damn clear line between a pre-pubescent little girl, and a 14 year old waif.

  72. If you looked at that kid and felt guilty, you knew it when you saw it, didn’t you? Oh, hex! Now you’re desensitized. Just remember, when your first fully proficient kidbot arrives in a box, it’s not human, and you can do whatever you want to it. The devil has all the best tunes. Best part? Sure, ‘bots go out of style, but you call always subscribe to rolling updates.

  73. No wonder pedophilia and human trafficking are thriving business’s.

    Where the hell is interpol while this is going on (being promoted).

  74. Xeni:

    Artistic freedom and everything, and no, this shouldn’t be made illegal—but I believe this is Totally Not Cool.

    What she said.

  75. The makeup, hairstyling and presentation is grotesque and inhuman. I do not think this image is titillating to a normal human male, or even to a happy mutant. It’s just tasteless and incongruous – as someone already said, children playing dress-up look happy and less posed, and less like grim wage-slaves hawking overpriced crystals to privileged drones.

    It’s said that paedophiles enjoy forcing children to perform grotesque and unnatural acts, though, so I think I see the connection Xeni is making. There’s something about advertisements featuring children with weary, dead eyes that makes one feel uncomfortable about the ad creators.

    1. Hence Tom Ford and everyone over at French Vogue is a pedophile? And who said it was supposed to be “titillating”? The African continent is full of child soldiers. THAT is grotesque and inhuman. this is dressed up kids getting well paid to sell Dior.

      I guess that the Coppertone girl and Jodie Foster (who made her acting debut as the Coppertone girl in a television commercial, when she was three years old, showing her butt, hence is much worse than this) is a tool of hard-core child pornographers then..

      1. If you think it’s OK for your child to be a soldier, or for your child to hawk product for the wealthy, I don’t suppose I can stop you.

        But I think it’s creepy, and I wouldn’t allow you to do either one with my children.

        1. I did not say it was ok that there were child soldiers, quite the opposite. What are you even talking about? And who cares about your children? When were your kids ever relevant in this discussion?

  76. Perhaps a larger social issue these pictures bring up is the encouragement of prepubescent kids, both male and female, to take up their sexual roles to the point of suppression. “Never mind encouraging her that both girls and boys can be mathematicians, scientists or anything else she decides! We need to get her comfortable walking around in a pair of 3 inch heels first!”

    As a typical male, I’m here to tell all those moms who choose this path, the ones who choose to have their 8 month old daughter’s ears pierced; She’ll draw enough attention to herself when she and all her peers turn 14 without all that ‘prep-work’ you’re doing. Teach her the self-confidence to be whatever she wants to be. That age in which boys are recognized as being ‘icky’ is the best time to teach them that boys are not better than girls, no matter what popular society has been saying for centuries…

  77. re: “If you’re going to ban the possession of images based upon their content and with heavy penal sanctions for any violation, you’d best be crystal-clear as to what is forbidden, and what is not.”

    Nothing I’ve talked about had to do with banning anything or penal anything.

    What is ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’ is often NOT a clear line, as this discussion has clearly shown. The further away you are from the line, the more clearly you can spot the differences.

    What is legal and illegal should be clearly defined – but I haven’t even mentioned legality.

    re: “I see that the kids involved in Winnipeg are from 12 to 16 in age, not six.”

    Yes, but there are many places where children that young are put to work in the sex trade.

    1. The most appropriate thing is for children not to be themselves involved in commerce in any way.

      I personally hate seeing kids used in ads or films, as much as I hate ads directed at children.

      Any exploitation of children is vile. And ought to be subject to penalty.

      1. I don’t think I’d go that far. Then again… it would have saved us from the worse parts of The Phantom Menace.

        1. Well, I doubt it: a computer-generated Anakin could have been used – and indeed, such would be OK in my book, as I’m most concerned with preventing the actual harm done to actual children, due to their exploitation by adults for ends venal or otherwise, which are not in the child’s own best interests.

          The policing of people’s thoughts, OTOH, holds no appeal nor interest to me whatsoever. Nor do I think that such an expensive – and IMHO, inevitably fruitless – exercise ought to be undertaken by the Public Authorities.

  78. I agree with you actually, I don’t think this is really criminal (just creepy as hell). I just saw that you had written you personally had never seen a prostitute of this age and my brain kind of snapped. I’ve never personally seen a murder, but it still happens around here. With the example I gave the children in the sex ring may have been 12-16, but there was 11 kids who were as young as 18 months living in that environment.

  79. As others have pointed out above, Vogue (France, Italy or whatever) is hardly aimed at heterosexual men, let alone the very small subset of them who are attracted to under-age girls, the only people I have ever known who read it are either gay men or heterosexual women, mostly within the fashion industry at that.

    Because the target market for this cover spread is not pedophiles, this content is condonable? Really? And what about the daughters of women who flip through this issue? Will they not want to emulate this look? Beyond that, there is a larger sexualization of children that has been going on for a while in media of dressing girls up in slutty outfits. But this imagery portrays women not just in the clothes, but using poses and suggestive expressions which present the girl as an adult, sexual woman. If the editor’s intent was to present a satire of this trend, I don’t think Vogue is a right venue for that.

    Finally, since you claim to appreciate fashion, at least until this “event”, pray tell us how this is any more offensive than the standard fare of semi-naked and undernourished 14-year-olds?

    The difference is: these girls are SIX. Not fourteen. SIX. They are not of a sexual age, but are being presented as such. Six is what…first grade? It’s a whole different level of fucked up.

  80. er, pedophilia sounds a bit drastic to me, seems a little more like it’s making a parody of a cultural youth-based obsession. none of the girls seem to be wearing any less than what i’d see on your average kid on a summer day in the park, of course the effect of “dress-up” is multiplied by the fact that they’re styled and photographed professionally. obviously it’s ridiculous to put a little kid in heels and makeup, but perhaps that’s the point of this editorial.

    i’m not really a fan of fashion publications, but that’s just my two cents.

  81. Children have something adults don’t…Innocence. This visual depiction of children as adults tries to get rid of that. Maybe the photographer ran out of ideas and went for pure shock image. It really doesn’t add anything beautiful, or new, or creative to the world. The magazine probably ran it in order to sell more as if it were a sensationalist publisher.

    Kids like to explore their imagination and push their boundaries. They have fun by dressing up as well. The cover on its own doesn’t even show the kid having fun which defeats the purpose as well and doesn’t add anything.

    The only way that this magazine issue can be useful to the world is by being recycled.

  82. @Anon: I remember finding the Brooke Shields “nothing comes between me and my Calvins” ads unsettling as well.

    To the present:

    I showed the layout to my 19-year old son. He said, “What?” I asked, “What do you think?” His reply: “It’s French, Mom.”

  83. They don’t look like they are enjoying themselves because they have been directed to look that way. It’s a photo shoot for an ad, not candid shots at a sleepover. As for all the “slut” and “whore” comments, where is that coming from? The makeup? Who cares? The poses? Other than the one above (which looks more sleepy to me than sultry) I can’t really see what is so provocative about the poses. One of the girls is brushing her teeth, for crying out loud! The outfits? Like the makeup, what is the big deal? Is this why most of Europe thinks we are still so puritanical? We can’t look at an ad where little girls are dressed up like grownups without yelling “Whore!”?

    As for exploitation, I agree that children should not be forced to do things like this if they don’t want to. But do we have any reason to think that these girls didn’t want to? If we forbid children from doing these things out of fear of exploiting them, aren’t we just forcing our opinions on them in the other direction? Sorry kid, you can’t act. That would be exploiting you. How about just asking the kid? If I hear that these girls were forced to do this photo shoot against their will, then I’ll be outraged. Until then…well…I don’t read Vogue. And I don’t find these photos all that interesting except in how they make people react.

  84. I would have to disagree about the assertion of this spread looking like child pornography. I think it is extremely artistic. Seems like Tom Ford is trying to convey something about how little girls at 6 years old do not play dress up to that extreme, yet that is how many women want to look when they get older. Maybe as women we should reclaim the girlish innocence that is surely lost as we get older in trying to look seductive and sexy, as depicted in Vogue.

  85. I belly dance, and there was one dance party (a hafla) at a coffee-roasting cafe where there was a troupe of young girls performing, none over 10. Their leader/teacher had them in a routine and in attire that was inappropriately sexualized for their age. Many of the other dancers were very uncomfortable with their performance.

    1. Our daughter (turned 6 today!) used to take part in a local dance class, and my wife and I were horrified to see the year-end “Revue” they put together – kids 10 years and younger tarted up like Madonna circa 1983, fishnets and all – carefully shaking what their mamas gave them under the tutelage of their “teachers”. She lost interest in that class, thankfully!

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