There is nothing sexual about a baby.

Linguistically, a “baby” does not even have a gender, never mind sex. There is no word for boy-baby, no word for girl-baby. In German, that most admirable of languages, das Baby has the neuter gender, neither male nor female. In Spanish and French, the only other languages I know anything of, the gender of the noun word “baby” is masculine regardless of the gender of the baby itself.

A baby is all innocence.

It (“it”!) can romp naked in the garden or on the beach and nobody thinks twice about it. A baby can bath naked with its daddy, suck on its mummy’s naked breasts, sleep in the same bed as its naked parents and have its genitalia washed and looked after by a carer of either sex – without there being anything awkward or taboo about any of it.

Babies just aren’t sexual.

So when this morning I was looking on the internet for pictures to help me diagnose whether or not my own baby might have the dreaded thrush, I suffered more than a few moments of confusion. The pictures I found all featured tongue depressors, those broad wooden things like oversized chip-forks which doctors use to hold your tongue down when peering into your mouth. I was confused. What were they for? Were they being used to point out some special feature in these pictures? If so, what was I supposed to be seeing?

Then I got it. The point is, what am I not supposed to be seeing? The tongue depressors were there to cover up the baby’s modesty, to conceal her genitals. By all means, look at her yucky bespotted rashy bottom, that’s not private. But her genitals, don’t whatever you do look at those. (And what if my baby’s problem had been on her genitals?)

It made me feel sick. Are there really people out there who get weird sexual kicks from seeing the exposed genitals of a small baby girl, covered in horrible, painful-looking red rashes? Or is it the medical photographer, or the website publisher, who is trying to “protect” this baby from a wholly imaginary risk of oglement? Either way – whether it is by a foul paedophile or by an idiotic publisher, or perhaps both – it is pretty sickening that a baby, any baby, can be viewed as a sexual being whose modesty is there for the violating.

My baby, sex object?

NO!!! Please, God, No. I thought we had years of joyful openness ahead of us before the inevitable objectification and sexualisation would start to creep in and change everything.

My baby, small and innocent and sexless.

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