Erotic Innocence

The Culture of Child Molesting

Erotic Innocence

Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 24 illustrations Published: May 1998

Author: James Kincaid

American Studies, Cultural Studies

In Erotic Innocence James R. Kincaid explores contemporary America’s preoccupation with stories about the sexual abuse of children. Claiming that our culture has yet to come to terms with the bungled legacy of Victorian sexuality, Kincaid examines how children and images of youth are idealized, fetishized, and eroticized in everyday culture. Evoking the cyclic elements of Gothic narrative, he thoughtfully and convincingly concludes that the only way to break this cycle is to acknowledge—and confront—not only the sensuality of children but the eroticism loaded onto them.
Drawing on a number of wide-ranging and well-publicized cases as well as scandals involving such celebrities as Michael Jackson and Woody Allen, Kincaid looks at issues surrounding children’s testimonies, accusations against priests and day-care centers, and the horrifying yet persistently intriguing rumors of satanic cults and “kiddie porn” rings. In analyzing the particular form of popularity shared by such child stars such Shirley Temple and Macaulay Culkin, he exposes the strategies we have devised to deny our own role in the sexualization of children. Finally, Kincaid reminds us how other forms of abuse inflicted on children—neglect, abandonment, inadequate nutrition, poor education—are often overlooked in favor of the sensationalized sexual abuse coverage in the news, on daytime TV talk shows, and in the elevators and cafeterias of America each day.
This bold and critically enlightened book will interest readers across a wide range of disciplines as well as a larger general audience interested in American culture.


“[A book of] centered wisdom and muscular rationality.” — Paula Fass , Washington Times

“[A]n important and brave book. . . . [Kincaid’s] fine-tuned b.s. detector makes this book required reading for journalists, practicing therapists and their clients, and other professionals directly contributing to the discourse of child molesting. Cultural studies scholars in media studies, popular culture, and children’s literature and culture will find themselves both highly entertained and theoretically adrift.” — Elizabeth Freeman , American Literature

“[D]elightfully irreverent . . . . Kincaid’s work is scholarly and daring in its questioning of strategies we use to hide our eroticization, fetishization and ultimately our ‘molestation’ of children. His study will, no doubt, provoke the scandal he hoped for from the outset.” — Barbra Churchill , Canadian Review of Comparative Literature

“[O]ne is presented with intriguing aphorisms, metaphoric argumentation, and challenging assertions that cast doubt on common assumptions. . . . — Donald J. West , Archives of Sexual Behavior

“[W]itty, . . . well-researched and intelligent.” — Judith Grant , Theory & Event

“Fascinating and thoughtful . . . . Kincaid’s ideas deserve a fair hearing and consideration.” — Richard P. Kluft , JAMA

“Kincaid’s most trenchant (and bravely comic) pages take up the dream of child seduction that Victorian writers like Lewis Carroll initiated and follow it into contemporary narratives.” — Marina Warner , Voice Literary Supplement

“There is much in Erotic Innocence that is provoking, annoying, and amusing. . . .” — James Campbell , New York Times Book Review

“A stunning and stinging book—more than entertaining, it is medicinal. This is Kincaid at his powerful, funny, learned, and sinuous best.” — Nina Auerbach, author of Our Vampires, Ourselves

“Brave, wise, original, and exuberantly engaging, Erotic Innocence really does intervene in the contemporary cultural scene, both exposing its hypocritical awfulness and articulating models for a world in which children and adults could live much more happily than we do now. A brilliant and humane piece of cultural criticism.” — Joseph Litvak, author of Strange Gourmets


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access