Dancewear label under fire for 'sexualized' photos of young girls
Australian-based dancewear company Frilledneck Fashion is being accused of sexualizing children in photos posted to the brand's social media accounts. (frilledneckfashion / Instagram)
An Australian dancewear label is under fire for sharing images of young dancers photographed in sexualized poses. But the controversial photos are also sparking a larger discussion about parents sharing seemingly innocent images of children online, and how these pictures can be misused by strangers.
Women's advocacy group Collective Shout launched an investigation into Frilledneck Fashion after the organization was alerted to images of young girls, many who were pre-pubescent, in deliberately sexualized poses and outfits on the brand’s Instagram account.
In one of the controversial images, a young dancer lies with her back arched in an alleyway, her hands above her head and her knees bent.
Caitlin Roper, campaigns manager for Collective Shout, said the image in question is one of several that blur the lines between sexual immaturity and sexual maturity.
"It suggests that young girls might be sexually interesting, sexually desirable or even sexually available," Roper told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview from Australia.
Roper said she finds it troubling that the girls in the photos appear to have been styled and posed in a very deliberate sexual manner by the adults who took them.
"This is not something that children just do by themselves," she said. "The fact is, they're not even really dancing in a lot of those pictures. They're in poses that are designed to accentuate sexualized body parts that they often haven't even developed yet because they're children."
Frilledneck Fashion did not respond to CTVNews.ca's interview request.
The company's director Amelia Annand reportedly told the Daily Mail, via email, that the images are "self-expressive art," and noted that photos shared on the brand’s Instagram account are often taken by and shared by the dancers' parents.
The majority of comments posted alongside the questionable images are supportive of the models. But, as of Monday, a number of commenters have criticized the photos.
One commenter asked: "Is this child porn," and another commented, "This brand is a pedophile's dream come true."
How 'innocent' photos of children can end up on pornography sites
Roper said the vast majority of sexualized photos of children that were shared via social media eventually end up on child pornography sites.
But she noted that even innocent photos of children are increasingly being "misused by pedophiles."
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, meanwhile, says everyday photos of babies and children are regularly stolen from social media and reposted on child pornography websites.
"There's no question that we see stolen images, posted in combination with images of child pornography," Signey Arnason, the director of CyberTip.ca, told CTVNews.ca.
"You can have an offender, for example, who's interested in shots of toddlers or babies and diapers," Arnason said. "If they can find the images freely accessible through people's (social media) accounts, they'll grab those and post them."
She said the organization recently came across a photo of a child with underwear showing in a shopping cart.
"It's an incredibly innocent photograph,” she said. “It was posted on a website tied to jail bait.
She added: “Children don't have to be nude for it to arouse a sex offender."
Arnason said parents must consider how they're sharing photos of their children, and have a conversation with family members and friends about ground rules for reposting those photos.
"You don't control other people's (privacy) settings," she noted.
Arnason said CyberTip.ca receives more than 2,000 complaints a year about images of "sexualized child modelling", which she says are "rampant" online.
"It's important for people to be readily aware that among the offending community these images are of significant interest."
As for some of the images on the Frilledneck Fashion website, in particular the alleyway shot, Arnason said, "I don't know what person seeing that image wouldn't think that was a sexualized shot."
She continued: "We need the public more engaged in this and more outraged over things like this, because it really isn't acceptable to be sexualizing children."