As you probably know by now, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the movie, It–not just because it’s the first major motion picture of a Stephen King in some time, but because everyone who’s read the book has been abuzz about an infamous scene. That scene is what everyone’s calling the “child orgy” or the “kid gang bang.” Everyone was wondering if it would be in the film and thankfully, it wasn’t.
That didn’t stop various websites from raising the specter of that scene in anticipation of It’s release, anyway, which prompted them to track down a statement from Stephen King to finally explain what the hell he was smoking when he wrote it. The closest anyone came to was a somewhat flippant response made a few years ago that said it was fascinating how people were more up in arms about children having sex than being murdered.
The reason why I call that remark flippant is that it seems to hint at Americans being their typical Puritanical selves again, as in, “Well, you know how silly they are with their hang ups about sex and stuff, poor dears. They’ll put up with anything, but sex is their Achilles heel.”
Now granted, it’s very true that there’s some kind of weird selectivity Americans have in terms of graphic content, in that they’ll on one hand blow a gasket over a bare boob but have no issues with excessive violence and gore. For example, I’ll never forget that time years ago when a local NYC station aired Basic Instinct. All the nudity and sex was either blurred out or removed altogether, but the horrific scenes of men being stabbed in the neck with an ice pick were shown in all their sadistic glory. Ridiculous, right? Why in the hell would the most offensive thing about a scene be Sharon Stone riding some guy bare-assed, but not the in-your-face close up shot of her plunging an ice pick into his neck? It doesn’t make sense.
So I know that there’s something odd about what offends Americans and what doesn’t. However, this oddness has nothing to do with “okay-with-everything-except-sex-Puritanism”. It has to do with something far more complex.
You see, Americans normally would be as upset about the kid murders of It as they are about the kid sex. The dark ugly truth is that they’re not, because for the past forty some odd years, American media in the form of video games, slasher films, gore porn sites and news media’s “if it bleeds, it leads” style of coverage has normalized, glamorized and desensitized violence to such an extent that Americans think it’s normal, exciting, cool and in some cases, even fun to watch.
On the flip side, the sexualization of children hasn’t been normalized, so anything involving children and sex in media still causes shock and outrage. In fact, Americans are so skittish over the sexualization of children that even innocent pictures of nude babies and toddlers will draw accusations of child molestation and abuse. The reason why is that America has been through the wringer with a number of large high profile sexual abuse cases, and because of that will not tolerate any imagery that even remotely could contribute to the abuse of children.
This normalization of violence versus child sexualization is the real reason why Americans will lose their minds over scenes of kid orgies and not of kids being killed. American movies, TV shows and video games have inured Americans to violence, but hasn’t inured them to the sexualization of children.
Another reason why people are less upset with the child murders than the kid orgy in It is that the murders aren’t gratuitous. They exist to underscore just how evil and terrifying Pennywise is and gives the goal of defeating him a greater sense of urgency and purpose. The kid orgy was gratuitous and served no real purpose at all. Plus, it was bizarre and creepy, with graphic details about the state of the little boys’ sexual arousal and what Beverly, the one who allows herself to be screwed, is feeling as she’s getting penetrated one by one.
So is there anything really “fascinating” about Americans getting more upset over kids getting killed than having sex? Nope. Not for me in the least.