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You can watch 'Lolita' or 'Desperate Housewives', but donít download!

By Chris Abood - posted Wednesday, 25 May 2005

On May 6 this year, Justices Frank Callaway, John Batt and Peter Buchanan of the Melbourne Court of Appeal, sentenced 37-year-old Karen Louise Ellis to six months jail for having consensual sex with 15-year-old Benjamin Dunbar. The sentence came about upon appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions against the leniency of the original sentence handed out by Judge John Smallwood.

The previous night, SBS screened the movie Lolita, a story about a man who falls in love with a 14-year-old girl. This is not the first time SBS has played a movie that deals with adult-children sexual relationships. Some of the movies shown on SBS have been very explicit in their portrayal of these sexual relationships. But this has not been confined to SBS, with Channel Seven’s Desperate Housewives running a story line last month of a thirty-something year-old woman seducing a teenager into a sexual relationship.

In the eyes of our governments, it is perfectly acceptable to watch these shows on TV.  However, under current legislation, if you were to either download or watch any of the above-mentioned shows via the Internet, you will face arrest and ten years in jail. No wonder there is confusion in the community when at one moment you are told that viewing adult-children sexual relationships is acceptable entertainment and the next you are being hauled off to jail as an evil monster.


While what Karen Louise Ellis had done was inappropriate, her actions are entirely consistent with what the media is portraying as acceptable behaviour. I wrote in On Line Opinion recently ("Tackling Child Pornography on the Internet") why it is unclear why mainstream media are allowed to continue to sexualise our children and why this government continues to turn a blind eye and apply double standards. And it is not just what we are being shown as TV shows that this double standard exists.

During 2004, Samsung ran a television advertisement depicting a young man sitting in a café. He was taking photos of a young girl walking across the promenade with his mobile phone with an in-built camera. The young girl was not aware she was having her photo taken. However, she soon realised and walked over to the man sitting in the café, took the mobile camera phone and began to take pictures of herself rolling over a car.

Later in the year, LG ran a television advertisement where a girl on a beach phones her friend in a shop to show her a live video feed of a muscular man applying sun tan lotion. It is obvious the man is unaware that he is being videoed. The girl in the shop receiving the images passes the phone to a male companion to view. The catch phrase for the ad was “LG, official sponsors of eye candy”.

In both cases, these TV ads depict voyeurism as a legitimate activity. In the Samsung ad, it goes further to suggest that people like having their photos taken with or without their knowledge or consent.

However, despite mobile phones with an in-built camera being advertised in this way, Peter Mackenzie of Coogee was fined $500 when he pleaded guilty in Waverly Local Court for behaving offensively in a public place on November 6, 2004. He was arrested for taking photos with his mobile camera phone of topless women sunbathing on Coogee beach. Peter Mackenzie has not been the last to be convicted in this way.

Although what Mr Mackenzie had done was entirely inappropriate, it is consistent with current advertising showing that it is perfectly acceptable to photograph people without their consent or knowledge. Governments at all levels have been busily enacting legislation to make it illegal to photograph someone without their knowledge or consent, but at the same time have been turning a blind eye to manufacturers who advertise the use of these devices in contradiction to the legislation. It is the same blind eye that allows television shows to run movies about adult-children sexual relationships in contradiction to existing legislation.


Again, there is confusion in the community when advertisers are telling us that it is perfectly acceptable to use this device in this manner, but then watch as people are arrested and led away. It is time for this government to spell out precisely what is and what is not acceptable at all levels.

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About the Author

Chris Abood is a teacher and computer programmer. He has taught at TAFE and private RTOs, and has worked as a computer programmer mainly in banking and finance. He is concerned with the effects and use of technology within society. These opinions are his own.

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