Religious Reaction to Film is Revealing

The religious outcry about the screening of the film Hounddog at Sundance is only the latest wrinkle in religious hypocrisy. It reveals some severely misplaced priorities. In Hounddog, child actor Dakota Fanning plays a 12-year-old who is raped.

Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission and
publisher of the Web site, claims "Hounddog" breaks
federal child-pornography laws….Roman Catholic activist Bill Donohue called for a federal investigation…..Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil
Rights, said he has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate
whether anti-pornography laws have been broken.

What they should be more concerned about is the centuries-long silence, and in many cases complicity of the church (I speak here generically of all religious institutions–if the shoe fits) in child sexual abuse.

[UPDATE: I will also point out here that by invoking child-pornography statutes, these religious spokesmen admit they believe rape is about sex, instead of realizing it is mostly about violence, power, and control.]

It seems they do protest too much. Why the outcry over a scene portraying something that happens with regularity in real life? Why aren’t these religious spokesmen more concerned about rooting out the ACTUAL problem. ACTUAL 12-year-olds are RAPED, not a simulated scene with no nudity, but ACTUALLY RAPED by their trusted family members and sometimes the clergy. This is what the subject of the outcry should be.

Fortunately director Deborah Kampmeier is a woman, and an uncompromising one. (So they can’t scream "male exploitation"). She waited 10 years to get this film made, and would not agree to have the scene cut. Clearly, it’s because this issue hovers like a dark demon in many women’s pasts. Getting it out in the open can expose both the perpetrators of such sickness, and the twisted culture of patriarchy which supports it.

We can trace this misguided culture to the one-way religious teaching allowing the victimization of children. On the one hand, we have the Ten Commandments, which say "honor thy father and thy mother." (Exodus 20:12) So under religion, kids are forced to give unquestioned loyalty to their parents, even if the parents are abusive louts undeserving of respect. Then we have Jesus who said "Thine enemies shall be they of thine own household," (Matt 10:34), allowing for selective disowning of family when it suits someone’s (usually a ‘righteous’ parent’s) ‘divine’ purpose.

I’m sick and tired of all the religious bitching and whining whenever an artist brings up something uncomfortable to religion. If you are offended by a 12-year-old being portrayed in a simulated rape scene, don’t go to the movie–it’s not like this is prime-time TV, folks.

But don’t pretend our society is so advanced that these real-life bogeymen don’t exist in real-life closets–especially in the most religious places like the American South.

[UPDATE: Fox News and Drudge are now crowing about the fact that the film sucks and distributors don’t want any part of it. Roger Friedman claims the rape scene has no point, and raised ethical concerns about Dakota Fanning’s mother. Personally, I’d like to make those evaluations myself. What’s the big rush to quash something that people really need to make up their own minds about? Censorship and prior-restraint always backfire. If Hounddog is a bad film, these commentators have just made sure a lot more people will go out of their way to see it. (Like the awful In the Cut with Meg Ryan, which received similar bad press about sexual content.) Without their righteous bellowing, Hounddog might have gone nowhere.]

[UPDATE2: The Smoking Gun has now posted the script pages for the rape scene, complete with requisite ridicule, calling the scene ‘creepy.’

Then, after Buddy tells her to remove her clothes, the script notes
that, "We see Lewellen’s clothes hit the floor. Lewellen’s underwear
hits the floor hard, with defiance." [No, we’re not sure how a little
girl’s undies can hit the floor with defiance. But we’re not auteurs.]

You see, you morons, it’s like this: They boys asked her to take her clothes off. She didn’t want to, so her underwear hit the floor with defiance. Get it?? It’s also clear the director used a crucifixion metaphor–as the girl is raped, she presses her hand down on a nail to distract her from the emotional and physical pain of the rape. Blood streams down her hand. I find this totally understandable and powerful. Many adult women who have had such childhood experiences may be able to experience a catharsis through the scene. Again, I’m sick of the moralistic know-nothings who think they can tell us what art is, and how we should appreciate it. Just shut the hell up and let the artists work!]

Comments (12 comments)

doris tracey / January 25th, 2007, 9:48 am / #1

Hi Sean,

I came home from work at 6:00 P.M. and I turned on the television and I heard another disturbing news report about the largest exposure of child pornography in my local area. There were 12 children involved and this man and maybe a few of his relatives took over a million pictures of these little children and the youngest was three months old. I didn't here the full storey, but I heard enough to know that these sexually evil sick people should be destroyed immediately without a trial and let justice be their only mercy.

BlackSun / January 25th, 2007, 5:02 pm / #2

Doris, I don’t think anyone should be convicted without trial. Innocent until proven guilty, right? Or we’re back to the medieval lynch mob, pre-Magna-Carta.

Many pedophiles fall into the category of situational offenders. (As opposed to more clinical pedophiles whose brains are really miswired to be attracted to children. Or child-pornographers, where the interest is pre-meditated and often financial).

Situational pedophilia is directly related to sexual repression and the unavailability of suitable adult partners to the offender in a socially acceptable context. Much incest falls into this category.

It is this situational pedophilia which can be partially laid at the feet of religion (or any memetic system which represses healthy sexual expression). Its first victims were those abused by the clergy directly. Also, many cultures allowed parents to basically ‘own’ their children, so fathers could do with their daughters whatever they chose, since they were property. But even in modern times, adults in pious cultures may turn to children because they are able to easily dominate, control and intimidate them into keeping the abuse secret.

If guilty, the offenders should be severely punished, for sure. But the culture which fosters the repression should not escape our scrutiny.

doris tracey / January 25th, 2007, 5:31 pm / #3


I think this repressive behavior comes from a lack of self control, not human control. The mind of these individials is not chaste and so their expression and vision is extremely distorted.

BlackSun / January 25th, 2007, 5:44 pm / #4

OK Doris, I really hope you get this, or you’ve really been wasting your time reading this journal:

Repression pushes the things we are trying to get away from into the shadow, where they are hidden, and cannot be seen for what they are.

It is like sweeping dirt under a rug. The dirt is still there and must be dealt with.

Of course people should have self-control. But REAL self-control, not the fake kind where we say one thing on Sunday morning and do something else on Saturday night. That’s what repression breeds!

doris tracey / January 25th, 2007, 6:23 pm / #5


I believe the clergy who commited crimes of pedophilia against children were most likely victims themselves. Emotionally they are the same age as the children. Some men may have thought that by becoming a priest they might be cured of their problem and discovered the problem became worse.

I got suppression and repression mixed up. Repression is the act of controlling somone, as in a dictator.

I know people are innocent until proven guilty, but these people were proven guilty; one million pictures worth. Do people really love watching these movies over and over again! Is there hope for humanity?

BlackSun / January 25th, 2007, 8:06 pm / #6

I was using repression in the sense of Psychoanalysis: The unconscious exclusion of painful impulses, desires, or fears from the conscious mind. (Presumably in response to cultural or social cues.)

Suppression has similar connotations: Conscious exclusion of unacceptable desires, thoughts, or memories from the mind.

aidan / January 26th, 2007, 9:54 pm / #7

The psychologist J.M. Prescott made a strong connection between sexual repression and behavioral dysfunction. Societies for example that ban pre-marital sex have high incidences of rage and according to Prescott, and are much more likely to kill and torture their enemies. Islamic societies in the Middle East certainly lend credence to this theory.

The lead post on this thread correctly points out the the hypocrisy of critics representing a religious right that incubates all types of sexual dysfunction. Maybe the reason they are so upset, isn’t because of the age of the victim, but because the film graphically reveals a truth about a domestic reality in many “Christian” N. American homes. Too close for comfort.

morgaine / January 27th, 2007, 1:16 pm / #8

Thanks for the post Sean. I totally agree with what you are saying about the film. However, I’d like to clarify some terminology.

You used the expression “situational pedophiles”. That confuses two, (for the most part) very distinct populations: pedophiles, and situational molesters.

While its true that probably most,(some say up to 90%) of child molesters are situational offenders,( which you spoke to)technically they are not pedophiles at all, as they have had few, if any, sexual fantasies about children. They do not have a true sexual preference for children. For them instead of attraction and the desire for a loving emotional bond (which many pedophiles have) its more about taking advantage of an opportunity that presents itself. Although situational molesters predate on children on occasions, they still ultimately prefer to be with an adult and often do have relationships with adults. But at other times.. high stress, a relationship with an adult ends, etc..the child is seen as a substitute for an adult rather than a preferred sexual partner.

The need to have power over another…and the myriad genetic and environmental factors that combine to make a person seek this outlet, vs a person with a true attraction to children, vs other’s with more socially acceptable sexual prefences, needs to be examined in great detail. As much as people find the whole subject distateful, we must as a society face this issue, and all its nuances need to be studied so solutions can be found that protect our children and help rehabilitate those who can be. (and yes, many do feel remorse… and yes, I’ve worked in this field.)

Research so far has shown that motivations for situational molesters can range from low self esteem, poor social skills, insecurity (all of which can be influenced by sexual repression, as well as other factors) to curiosity.. and sometimes just the thrill of knowing they can get away with it. There’s the reality already spken to, that perpetrators often were victimized themselves either sexually, or physically, or both..and having had no outlet to deal with the powerlessness and fury they’ve felt, repeat the process by taking power over a vulnerable weaker being.

So…for situational molesters, children are substitute victims, which for the most part is a very different phenomenon from pedophilia. ( Yes, there are cross overs between the two at time..but the distinctions are more the rule).

Lastly, I thoroughly agree with you that this society is all screwed up when it comes to sex, and is often very repressive. And, although I also agree that the problem can be in large part be attributed to religion, I don’t think your statement that-

” situational pedophilia is directly related to sexual repression and the unavailability of suitable adult partners to the offender in a socially acceptable context,”…. is sufficient to explain the phenomenon.

BTW: The statistics show that a large number of pedophiles never act on their impulses.

Christopher / January 28th, 2007, 3:46 pm / #9


Even when people are convicted does not give the right to society to destroy that person. The death penalty does not help stop crime, nor will killing or torturing these sick people help the victims.

What does help is therapy, behind prison bars, but therapy to try and figure out how humanity has arrived at this point. I think you need to think rationally for it appears to me that you are impulsive and acting on emotions only.

doris tracey / January 29th, 2007, 5:21 pm / #10

Hi Christopher,

I’ve never been known to be an impulsive person and I do believe that society has got to change the way we morally behave. If therapy really helped, people would come out of prison completely cured,almost all do not and many would do the same crime over again.I do believe in the death penalty and to lock them up does not do them justice. We have the same crimes over and over again, with different faces. Will we ever get to the root of the problem and the cause behind the effect? I believe if people are not executed,we should not torture them and treat them well. I have a very close friend of mine who has been in prison for murder for 21 years. I and every-one who knows him believes he is innocent, but if he were truly guilty, I told him he should be executed.

John / February 1st, 2007, 6:55 am / #11

I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t comment on how strong the imagery is. If it went too far (define “too far”?) I might have an opinion on that. But that’s another subject.

It’s the hypocrisy that I feel compelled to comment on. How DARE the Catholic-aligned organization say anything whatsoever about this. In the history of the world, has there ever been an organization so engaged in sexual molestation, and so callously unconcerned about their own countless victims?

Even when confronted by thousands of victims, the Catholic Church turned a deaf ear. When some of the victims threatened to expose the crimes, the Church:

1. Paid off whomever they could, to keep the issue silent.
2. Did nothing effective to stop the continued molestations.
3. When forced further, would move these predators to other non-suspecting communities, where they had access to “fresh meat”.

They have chosen to speak out about this single film, with this single act of rape, with more concern than the thousands of their own victims, with whom they treat with silence, callousness, and repeat offences.

What hypocrisy.

(I am not a victim of this myself. But I feel deeply for the mass of past, present and future victims of this awful organization.)

BlackSun / February 1st, 2007, 9:35 am / #12

“When forced further, would move these predators to other non-suspecting communities, where they had access to “fresh meat”.”

John, this is the most damning of all, how an organization closed ranks to protect itself regardless of the severity of the crime.

In his book “Breaking the Spell,” Daniel Dennett talks about the main characteristics of religions being self-replication and self-protection. As memes, these belief systems almost act like organisms, hijacking the minds and lives of their hosts to simply propagate. So we see the two major historical activities of religions: the copying and memorization of scripture, and the proselytizing (expansion) and protection of the ranks.

Hypocrisy, then, is endemic to the phenomenon. Because the program is to simply maintain the code at all costs. Part of the code is to assert that religions are the arbiters of morality. But in a brutal twist of irony, their morality places the transmission of the meme above human concerns. Of course it’s all-important that they deny this.

But it becomes unavoidably clear when we see religions for the parasitic memes that they are, whose design (by evolution) is to simply protect themselves and to propagate in the host population.

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