Let’s Mess with Texas: How Netflix Cuties’ Indictment will Criminalize Little Girls - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Let’s Mess with Texas: How Netflix Cuties’ Indictment will Criminalize Little Girls

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

On September 23, a Texas grand jury returned an indictment on Netflix for the film Cuties, a story about the pressures that young girls face in dance and, more generally, in society. The Fox article quoted, “Netflix ‘knowingly’ promoted visual material which ‘depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age at the time the visual material was created, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.’”

Let’s Cover Our Daughters’ Bodies Totally and Call Them Empowered 

I have long warned of the dangers with our legal system when it comes to how it defines child pornography in vague and subjective ways. As one that has worked on child pornography cases, I can assure you that Cuties does not come anywhere near child pornography in its “depictions” of young dancers. We can start by doing an analysis of the provided quote by the prosecutor and jury.

First, can “covered” genitals be lewd? We all, most of us, cover our genitals. If I, being one with a penis, sat on a bus with my legs open, would I knowingly be depicting my own “lewd exhibition of genitals or public area.” Kid’s wouldn’t even think of it, and in sports involving movement, such may not be possible. The truth is, we all have genitals and there is nothing particularly lewd about them unless we want to continue to harm and shame people, something our State of Texas seems to enjoy doing.

I have watched many dance and sports programs with both children and adults in them. One’s genitals or even nipples often do show, so such may be less an issue of knowing or unknowing, and more about our “moral values” or our moral compass, than any factual “proof” that such is lewd.

Our dear Texas prosecutor may find child dancers “lewd” and “strike a prurient interest in sex” for Court and Jury, but such was not the intent of the program. It is all in your heads.

Would the same apply to a young boy dancer, where often we can clearly see his genitals? Why isn’t THAT a crime? Since when is nudity a crime? Since when does semi-nudity equal abuse? We all are sexual creatures. I think Adam and Eve made that decision after Eve allegedly conferenced with the snake in the Garden.

Let’s Tell Our Daughters How to Dress, Dance, Speak, Look and Talk To Please Texas

For example, as one that had my child in dance, it is well known that dancers do not wear underwear in competition. They only wear the outfit. Why? For the opposite reason that the Jury gives: for artistic merit. Underwear looks ugly, and if a dancer goes out to perform in underwear underneath her outfit, she appears bulky and such distracts from the artistic merit of dance. The gross generalizing of the definition above: that knowingly seeing one’s genitals or genital area, a child’s, is “lewd” and “appeals to prurient interest in sex” and has no “artistic value” shows the extreme ignorance of the prosecutor, the State, and the Courts. If dancers wore more, it would take from the artistic value. Just about every dance school in the U.S. knows that. What this shows is that the Court has no idea what it is talking about. Zooming in at the body for dance is sometimes necessary because not all people see a human body as lewd and disgusting, shameful. Maybe one’s body, even a child’s can be beautiful, someone from God.

Dance is about the body. Dance is sexual, so the question is should children dance? Of course, and maybe the real problem is not our over-sexualizing of kids but our persistent de-sexualizing of them that is causing the most harm. The more the Courts drive taboo, the more will go to the dark web to find it. People that would never watch Cuties will now run to watch it, looking for that “prurient sexual interest” because THAT is exciting now. What is found in Cuties is what we see in child dance competitions everywhere. That is the point. It is a critique of the pressures girls face. It is not a video on Pornhub. Texas has some homework to do. Stop criminalizing human behavior and go after real crime, real child sexual abuse.

No Texas, A Girl’s Body is Not Abuse; Your Interpretation is Child Abuse

The nature of dance requires tight clothing or “partially clothed” dancers to allow for freedom of movement. You cannot watch dance, crotch-free or rear-end free. The same is true with gymnastics, volleyball, figure skating, swimming, diving. People have crotches and rear ends, even kids do. Maybe the State has some serious reflecting to do. If we try to censure out parts of kids’ bodies, the whole thing becomes bizarre: censures spending their days looking at the clothed genitals of children, scrubbing them out.  What the heck are you all afraid of down there in Texas?

Such terms as “lewd exhibition” are very subjective, even in the courts. For comparison, murder is murder. You have a living accomplice and a dead victim. We don’t need a lot of argument over whether the dead person is alive or not. We may have a lot of discussion on the accused’s motivation or intent, but a dead person is kind of dead, right? We can have degrees of murder, but in the end, such needs a factually dead person to be charged with the crime. The terms used here are not only vague, but our understanding of these terms vary by diversity of people.

Texas Christmas Wish: I Wanna be Saudi Arabia When I Grow Up

Here lies the Court’s and the Jury’s fatal flaw. What they find as lewd or illegal has no factual basis and is based on selective moral imperative, often influenced by religion, and should have no weight in a secular court. It is extremely offensive to me that one would compare a dance, even an inappropriate dance, to child pornography. If most of you only knew: Child porn is like Pornhub but with kids. It is not dance, even if the kids dance provocatively. Stop the nonsense and get a sexuality education.

I find nothing remotely lewd about Cuties. I find the program to shove truth in our faces, and we often, the whole State of Texas in this case, prefer to run away from the truth. What is the content of Cuties, not your prosecutor’s and the jury’s perception of the truth. Subjectivity, our interpretation of what we see, is not seeing and is not proof of a crime. I cannot say that guy murdered someone because I interpreted murder to be the horrific waving of a gun at a person that I will now call dead. It would have to be clear. We have to distinguish, as I often say and has been said by others, between what pisses us off and who is a danger to society. Little girls dancing like women is an act, a performance, in a safe space, regardless of how we all feel about it.

Such an indictment depends on “prurient interest in sex.” Can this good, wholesome, and moral jury tell me what the hell that means? Tell me what healthy sexuality is? In this case, we have the blind leading the seeing. I study human sexuality and was involved in hundreds of child pornography cases. I am studying as a sex therapist. Who gets to decide what is healthy sexuality? The law? Are you serious? Do you all want lawyers in your bedrooms and masturbatory spaces shaming your every thought and fantasy?

In humans, we are typical or atypical, not normal or abnormal. Most men, we find, do have some sexual interest in minors, and if the Court does understand that such IS typical, especially for kids on or after the Tanner 2 stage of development, they would recognize how idiotic the charges are. Sexual interest has nothing to do with criminality. It is about diversity of attraction. We have legality, but here the Court is conflating sexual interest to illegality and attempting to say what is “normal’ and what it not. Such is beyond the Court’s scope and should have no merit whatsoever. Oh, and that IS science by the way. Science is something the Courts seldom ever consider.

Excuse me, Texas, I Am Afraid Your Child Has Genitals

This may come to a shock to our folks in Texas. Kids have genitals. Kids have sexualities and will display some sexual behavior. It is not as if the adult fairy dings us on the shoulder at 18, and we suddenly become sexual adults. Adults can and do have some attraction to kids; such goes down as the child gets younger, but sexual interest is still present. That is natural, but there is no harm here unless we want to talk about “subjective” harm, creating harm so that kids can feel bad about themselves.

Cuties’ main character is a Black girl. The director of the film is a Black woman, a French interpretation, of the risks associated with child competitive dance. What about Dance Moms?  It has been on for over ten years, but the focus there is on white girls, not minorities. Where is the Texas Bible Belt outrage over Maddie Ziegler’s SIA video, where she is 11 and looks nude and is dancing “provocatively?” She is dancing with a dude my age. Take a look at how many views the music video has, well over 1.2 billion. Should over a billion be sex offenders? Is that what Texas wants? I think it does. It wants all those for-profit prisons, buying and selling human flesh. Maybe we love more than oil over in Saudi Arabia?

What about all those Texas child beauty pageants? What are they selling? As a literature professor with four advanced degrees, one in social work and child sexual abuse prevention, this film has literary and artistic merit. It does because it is looking at the complexity of what it means to be a girl in the West. It shows it like it is. Texas, not only wants to run away and play Whack-a-Mole with such issues that are all around us, but such would criminalize these little girls. How do the child actresses feel about being publicly shamed by the Texas Court because IT sees dance the way it wants to, not the way dance is? In my opinion, the prosecutor is abusing these girls and the Court is signing off on it.

Seriously, this Indictment is Anti-Girl, Anti-Feminine, and Anti-Feminist

If such a suit holds up, it could set a precedent. What you see in Cuties is what we see in ALL competitive dance. Suddenly, dads, moms, and their child dancers will become child pornographers. Texas has no problem putting a nine-year-old girl on the sex offender registry for pulling a kid’s pants down. How exactly will this precedent protect children? And this is exactly where we are headed, the mass incarceration of men, women, and children because we think something may be sexual, though that “sexual” is more an issue for our dear prosecutor than it is for the society. Maybe the Court is afraid that such visuals will make them pedophiles. I can assure them that nothing makes one attracted to children. It comes with our genes and does not equate always with sex offending against kids.

In closing, our real problem with kids and sexuality is that we believe kids have no sexuality. They are asexual. That is a damaging mistake. Dance can be sexualized, but that is because we are sexual beings. Our Puritan past has made a mess of our understanding of human sexuality and sexual interest. Expanding child sexual abuse to sports and genitals that are covered, where there is no sex happening, is very dangerous. We will have our next failed drug war. We will spend trillions locking up moms, dads and child dancers as “sex offenders” and “pedophiles.”

So let’s mess with Texas. Stay the hell out of our damn heads, and stop promoting moral and religious dictatorship masked as child protection. And, while you are at it, get a little education on human sexual development. I find that issues like this have little to do with protecting kids. It is our own fear that a kid may “turn us on.” It is the “disgust’ that an “old man” is looking at a girl. It is a fear and panic response. I would like to suggest therapy for Texas. This problem is in Texas’s head.


About the author

Earl Yarington

Earl Yarington is a social worker (LMSW) and an associate professor in literature, writing, and cultural studies (PhD) at Prince Georges Community College and adjunct professor at Indiana University East. He is the author of many publications under his name and under pen name Justin Forest. Earl's focus areas are the representations of girlhood in media,, eroticism, and child pornography law, paraphilia, sex offending and criminal justice. He is especially interested in the treatment of those with sexual challenges such as minor-attraction (pedophilia, hebepedophilia) to help prevent child sexual abuse while providing humane support for individuals seeking help. His book Lolita in the Lion's Den challenges readers to address what is so often hidden and misunderstood about minor-attraction, sex offending, and the child emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. Earl provides sex therapy under supervision for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Earl writes about sexual issues, education, and occasionally politics. His writing is based on his expertise and knowledge, and such does not represent the opinions or positions of agencies, universities, and colleges that employ him, nor that of the Baltimore Post-Examiner. Contact the author.
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