Looking at pornography issue from the wrong point of view

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2007, 12:00am

The recent case of 14-year-old Renee Lee Wan being photographed in wet clothing has again reignited public debate on standards of decency in our media and the protection of youth from pornography.

Even among university students, some disagree with the court's decision and believe such a depiction of a young girl is pornographic in nature, highly inappropriate and disgusting ('Magistrate clears magazine of wet T-shirt child porn charge', April 17). Others define pornography more narrowly, and agree with the judge that because her breasts and genitals were not shown, it could hardly be defined as pornographic.

I think we are looking at this issue from the wrong point of view. The usual standard for 'obscene' publications in Hong Kong is whether an article or photo is suitable for all. Such a test focuses primarily on readers' reactions. Applying such a test is difficult because people have differing standards about what is appropriate or suitable. It is almost impossible to reconcile public opinion.

Furthermore, society's attitudes evolve over time. Certainly in Hong Kong, where conservative Chinese views intermingle with more liberalised western ideology, the standard of decency is constantly shifting and hard to pinpoint.

I believe the court's decision was correct, not because I commend such a portrayal of girls, but because ultimately the girl was not harmed, abused or forced in any way during the photo shoot. She was accompanied by her mother and could have refused to pose for any pictures, had she or her mother expressed such a wish.

This case does, however, raise one question: what is it about Asian societies and their obsession with underage girls? Seeing Renee's picture reminded me of photo albums of teenage Japanese singers and actresses dressed in bikinis or posing provocatively in revealing clothing. Of course, teenage girls in bikinis are very common in western magazines, but my impression is that those pictures reveal the vibrancy of youth. However, pictures such as those of Renee only make me question why it is necessary for young girls in the entertainment industry to be depicted as submissive sex objects.

Yvonne Lin, Pok Fu Lam