David Hamilton’s sexual abuse has taught us a lesson we should already have learned

La Consolation Flavie Flament

David Hamilton was known for his pedophilic photography that some called “art,” but was little more than sexualized imagery of teenage girls. What he produced and encouraged should never have been celebrated, as it enabled Hamilton (and likely many more men) to abuse who knows how many girls, normalizing pedophila and exploitation in the process. Yet he enjoyed fame and success for decades — from the 70s right up until the aughts, releasing two new books in 2006. Due to recent allegations of rape, we may pretend to have learned our lesson, but considering the ever-present popularity of men like Terry Richardson and the ongoing sexualization of young women and girls in the media, it’s clear we are still, as a society, unwilling to make the connections necessary to protect girls and women.

The British photographer was found dead at 83, apparently of suicide, in his home on Friday night. Earlier that week Hamilton threatened to sue for defamation after four women came forward with rape allegations against him.

In a book published last month, La Consolation, Flavie Flament did not name Hamilton, but later confirmed he was the man she wrote about, who raped her during a photo shoot in 1987, while on holiday with her parents in Cap d’Agde in southwest France. The cover of her book featured a picture of her as a young girl taken by him.

After the book was published, Flament said she began to hear from other women, who contacted her, claiming Hamilton raped them as well. Three alleged victims gave almost identical accounts to French media. Flament, a radio presenter, told the media that indeed Hamilton was, “the man who raped me when I was 13, the man who raped many young girls.”

Hamilton publicly accused her of instigating a “media lynching” and of “looking for her 15 minutes of fame by defaming me in her novel.”

Flament stated that she was afraid to speak out earlier, “because the law as it stands doubly condemns rape victims.” She told L’Obs weekly:

“You go from victim to being guilty of defamation… You don’t sleep but your rapist can sleep soundly.”

Indeed, speaking out against abusive men always puts us at risk, as women. It’s so difficult to “prove” allegations in a system wherein women’s words are not trusted and where it is all too easy for men with money and power to silence women with threats of lawsuits.

One of Hamilton’s victims filed a legal complaint against him back in 1997, but after he denied any wrongdoing, the inquiry was dropped. She told Nouvel Observateur that she considered civil proceedings but was told she would have to pay 30,000 francs as a deposit. “I thought he was too protected that the fight was lost in advance, that it would ruin my life,” she said.

Beyond that, in France, a woman cannot file charges if more than 20 years have passed after the rape. These laws, of course, fail to take into account the realities of trauma and abuse — Flament said the memories of the rape came back to her when she was in her late 30s, and by then it was too late to file charges.

It is no surprise at all that Hamilton has been accused of raping girls, considering his work. He was known for trolling the beach in Cap d’Agde, where Hamilton owned an apartment, for young teen girls. Two of the women who say he raped them as teenagers while on holiday there say they would see him every day “walking up and down the beach in search of models.” He would always be accompanied “by a very young slim blonde girl.”

One of the girls who came forward told Nouvel Observateur that he would send his girls off to find a new “mouse” on the beach. “Mouse”, she explained, was the word Hamilton used to describe girls’ genitals.

He would approach the girls’ parents first, to ask permission to photograph their children. Hamilton was so famous and so widely respected that the parents felt honoured when he chose their children, rather than skeptical.

While today we know more than we did in the past about predators, it’s sad to know how brazenly this man promoted his exploitative behaviour and intentions, only for it to be read as “art” — as “erotic-romantic” images. Hamilton even said he was inspired by Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

Perhaps all this would raise eyebrows today, but we nonetheless continue to have similar debates about what is “art” and what is pornography, and continue to stubbornly separate men’s “fantasies” from reality.

Hamilton’s behaviour throws yet another wrench into liberals’ empty claims that pornography is just “fantasy,” and in no way has any bearing on reality. When will we tire of these wrenches, though? How many more rapes, assaults, and abuse will women and girls have to endure before we, as a society, acknowledge that the things men fantasize about are real — that imagery sexualizing and objectifying women and girls is also real, and have real impacts.

For Hamilton’s victims, his photographs have long served as a means to retraumatize them over and over again. Yet another woman who says Hamilton raped her at 14 years old said she was reminded of what happened every time she saw the photographs of nude, underage girls in books and magazines, which sometimes included her own photographs.

“It’s unbearable to see that he is still using us,” she told Nouvel Observateur. “Ah those famous Hamiltonian looks of melancholy. Now you know why they were melancholy,” she says.

Flament rightly called Hamilton a coward after he killed himself:

“By his cowardice, he condemns us again to silence and the inability to see him convicted. The horror of this news will never be able to wipe out the horror of our sleepless nights.”

Suicide allowed this man to escape accountability. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s victims must live with his abuse forever, not only in their minds, but as his “art” continues to exist in the public sphere.

One thing we must learn from this case is that men’s behaviour should be taken seriously. It is not acceptable for men to watch “barely legal” or “teen” porn in the privacy of their homes but claim it has no bearing on them, as individuals. It is not acceptable to brush off men’s sexualization of teenage girls as “natural” or harmless. But even beyond that — it’s time we stopped pretending as though misogynist imagery, words, or behaviour can be compartmentalized. Masturbating to to imagery that sexualizes rape, misogyny, violence, and degradation is harmful. Imagery that turns women and girls into male fantasies is harmful. Indeed, these fantasies, it’s clear, are all too real.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Picko

    unfortunately it’s unfashionable to believe women. The first reactions of so many is to immediately cast doubt and illegitimacy on those who come out with this sort of thing. I have an angered knee jerk reaction against it when people do that, but it’s hard to articulate to them and explain my anger and how, in this uneven playing field of gender, it’s radical to believe women.

    Anyway, spot on article as always Meghan, especially that last paragraph, NO ONE questions that disgusting bullshit!!!!! your site is like an oasis of no-bullshit in a sea of the stuff! I find it so impressive feminist current hasn’t been shut down yet by the ~progressive~ queer thought police. It really brings me hope, keep on keeping on.

    best wishes, a quietly radical young woman xx xx

    • Meghan Murphy

      Right on, sister.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Yes! “Teen” is one of the most-searched for categories of porn. I am totally appalled that we, as a society, can pretend that away as somehow “just fantasy.”

    • Cassandra

      I think it’s the number one searched-for category. 🙁

  • Meghan Murphy

    Do you have an argument to make or no?

  • Just Me

    “Earlier that week Hamilton threatened to sue for defamation after four women came forward with rape allegations against him.”

    Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Namely, Donald Trump who also threatened to take legal action against women who came forward.

    I know a lot of different polarizing factors contributed to the election of Trump, but I also know that a lot of the abuse Trump has heaped on women and girls (and other groups of people too) was ultimately gamely ignored. Which you can’t help but see that at a reflection of a culture that is okay with women and girls being marginilized and abused.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Ew. Yeah I cannot see how that kind of thing would not be viewed as contributing to a toxic work culture. Restaurants like Hooters essentially encourage sexual harassment — the women serving the men are meant to stroke men’s egos and to be objectified. I don’t think there is *any* appropriate time for a man to go to Hooters, but going there for a professional lunch just contributes to/encourages/accepts a male-centered, sexist culture at the work place.

  • melissa

    *No one would justify a Neo-Nazi fantasizing about abusing Jewish people because it was ‘just fantasy’ to them. Yet we justify men abusing women and girls because of the ‘fantasy’ of it.*

    Oh there’s no limit to this shit…

    “There’s a huge difference between fantasy and reality. There is also an enormous change that happens with consent. You are not a German officer.She is not a prisoner in a concentration camp. The shower is not a gas hamber, and the water is not Zyklon B. It isn’t real. And that makes a world of difference.

    The holocaust is an enormously emotionally charged event. That is why it’s so hot.I don’t think you would be making light of the holocaust in any way. If you didn’t view the holocaust seriously, you wouldn’t get as turned on as you do. Paradoxical, but we are paradoxical creatures.

    Lastly, remember, this is sex not afternoon tea. No matter what you two do, it ain’t for grandma.” (https://www.reddit.com/r/sex/comments/18zwnl/my_gf_likes_to_pretend_she_is_a_concentration/)

    “I want him to tie me up and “rape” me. I have these elaborate scenarios in my head of being dragged by my hair and forcibly stripped, of a serial number being slapped on my forearm, being hosed down in the shower and tied to the bed and fucked hard, all while being told how worthless I am and how I exist only to please him. It’s the same every time.”

    “How do I tell him? I can barely believe it myself how much these thoughts turn me on. He’s very open but with the stigma attached to anything nazi-related, how can I be sure he won’t freak out? He’s dominant, but not brutal and I want a little bit of animalistic roughness.

    And then shame rears it’s head. Fantasy is well and good, but what will I feel about myself after it’s done? Will I have crossed a line? How could I look myself in the mirror knowing what my grandparents went through” (https://www.reddit.com/r/sex/comments/2915aq/jewish_girl_having_holocaust_fantasies_how_do_i/)

    Don’t kinks shame!! /s

    *Thirdly, yeah, it’s fantasy to the person watching who didn’t engage in the sexual act but it’s not fantasy to the people who made the movie. It’s not fantasy to the girl that was taking the abuse and who was being infantalized so other men all over could jerk off to it. That crap is happening to real people, real women.*

    Yea, exactly. They know this. They’re not stupid. The just do not care. If anything, from some of the comments it seems like the more real the abuse the better. There was a discussion on another reddit thread where dudes were complaining about how having a short video of the women talking about consent at the beginning of the “kink” scene kills the “realism” for them.Really brutalizing women are not good enough apparently, they need to think the abuse was even more “real”, and that there was no consent.These people are straight up sadistic misogynists that dont give shit. All this obfuscating language and excuse thrown at the public don’t mean shit.Thanks to 50 shades and the whole liberal/feminist/progressive jumping on the kink bandwagon, there’s no chance for challenging this stuff anymore.

    Also, as another gross example there’s a reddit sub called “breakfeminists” where men fantasize about violently torturing and humiliating specifically feminist women. Apparently they don’t really hate feminists, its a “kink”. I wonder how libfems would feel about that? If even holocaust goes, can they criticize men wanting to dehumanize them i wonder?

    • lk

      The whole I’m “just exploring my fantasies” makes about as much sense as “it’s just nature/biology.”

      What’s wrong with fostering and exploring healthy fantasies? Fantasies that don’t fill us with guilt or shame? Like, what is the purpose of acting out and romanticizing racism (which is what you are doing when you involve the KKK, Nazi’s and etc into your sex life)?

      Why does exciting sex= violent, degrading, humiliating etc?

      Why are we not allowed to question the nature of our sexual fantasies and realities? I feel like when it comes to anything sexual..questions or conversations beyond “It turns me on” are just not allowed.

      As Meghan says, even though people insist that they can compartmentalize, I’m not sure I really buy it…I think on some level if you are acting out in violence, humiliation, racism and so on towards your partner/that’s how you get sexual pleasure…isn’t it likely that behavior is going to bleed over into how you interact with/ see other people and how you see yourself?

      If we lived in a world where rape was rare, where men did not buy children for sex, where men do not pursue young girls as wives/girlfriends..then maybe I could buy that all this stuff was harmless fantasy, but if we really look at the world too many of these harmless fantasies are painful realities for women.

      • melissa

        “isn’t it likely that behavior is going to bleed over into how you interact with/ see other people and how you see yourself?…If we lived in a world where rape was rare, where men did not buy
        children for sex, where men do not pursue young girls as
        wives/girlfriends..then maybe I could buy that all this stuff was
        harmless fantasy, but if we really look at the world too many of these
        harmless fantasies are painful realities for women.”

        The fact that they often claim their sexualities as their “identities” and some live out this kind of sub/dom dynamic 24/7 throughout their entire relationship, should be enough to confirm what you’re saying.It conveniently becomes “fantasy” when needed and then suddenly changes to “identity” when it suits their argument.I’ve noticed even the ‘School of Life’ people have a strong tendency of portraying “fantasies” as “who you are…” , “the real you…” etc.But no, just “fantasy” it is.

        And with the frequency with which men watch porn, the assertion that consuming and being immersed in misogynistic content and fantasies constantly, day in and day out, means nothing or has no impact on ones perception of oneself or the people they’re dehumanizing on film, is denial and willful ignorance at best.Talking about these things is one thing, but why must everything,every “fantasy” regardless how reprehensible the content of those fantasies , be unthinkingly embraced, accepted and gloried, in a culture where- as you said- these fantasies are norms and realities for women and girls?Can they not imagine at all living without eroticizng hate and treating each other as equals with dignity and respect instead?Do they ever think that maybe they still feel some guilt and shame because that’s what having a conscience entails, and not some puritanical “repression” that taught them that sexualizing the holocaust is maybe not great?

        • Tired feminist

          Oh, this School of Life is just awful. I bought into their philosophy for a while before I discovered how much of a prick Alain de Botton is. Not long ago he published a video in “defense” of dick pics, about how dick pics “help men to connect with loved ones” or some such bullshit, and saying we “should give them a go”. Not to mention his defense of pornography as “therapy”. Nah. I’ve had enough of pseudo intellectual men too lazy to challenge their own misogyny and blaming society’s prudishness for shaming their super enlightened perversions. Scratch the philosophical varnish and he’s just your regular liberal dudebro.

          • melissa

            “Not long ago he published a video in “defense” of dick pics,”

            Haha. Oh god i remember that.Interestingly they’ve removed it since.That dude seems to be obsessed with bdsm stuff for some reason. There’s gotta be atleast 6-12 videos that peddle this stuff, either making it the main focus or some side point. And every decent person is somehow claimed to have a “dark side” , that supposedly wears a mask in polite society,and we all just need to embrace and accept that.There’s just no end to this guys projection

            “Scratch the philosophical varnish and he’s just your regular liberal dudebro.”

            Yup.

          • Just Me

            Tired feminist, I thought I was the only one that didn’t like School of Life. It’s a relief to hear someone else isn’t a fan. The first time I watched their videos on YouTube, I was intrigued and like “Oh, interesting”….And them I watched some more and I slowly became baffled that they legitimately thought they were giving a good message in some of their videos. Plus, the whole thing seems kind of cult-ish.

          • Tired feminist

            Yep. And I’ll be zero surprised if, some day in the future, some of their female staff accuses Botton of sexual assault. ZERO.

          • melissa
    • Just Me

      I had no idea that people actually had those kind of fantasies. I need to go watch some puppies frolicking around in a field of wild flowers while eating ice cream cones and Hall and Oats’ “Summer Breeze” plays in the backround after reading that reddit.

      I suspect however if they made actual porn of such things, I would hope there would be too much collective outrage for it to gain any traction. There is no such collective outrage in general toward abusing women. You see the kind of stuff that is popular today and there is simply no where left for it to go. And if it is, it’s unimaginable how far they could push it.

      • melissa

        “I need to go watch some puppies frolicking around in a field of wild
        flowers while eating ice cream cones and Hall and Oats’ “Summer Breeze”
        plays in the backround after reading that reddit.”

        Lmao. Same. I needed to throw up first.

        ” I would hope there would be too much collective outrage for it to gain any traction. ”

        Yea, possibly.Maybe outrage but i really don’t think anything would be done. Porn is untouchable. But like you pointed out women and misogyny typically don’t get seen as on the same par as racism or any other form of oppression. You specially wouldn’t get BLM or NCAAP people claiming that making, say, “n*gger abuse* porn is all about “empowerment” and “choice” for black people.I bet the overwhelming majority of black people would still consider something like “race play” in bdsm (basically reenacting and sexualizing the slave trade and the dehumanization and suffering of black people) just straight of racism. You won’t get women the same way calling a spade a spade when it comes to eroticizing sadistic misogyny. I read an article on ‘Alternet’ a while back that was talking about how dominatrix are seen as sexy but female subs apparently still make some people uncomfortable. And it got we wondering how many people would be taking this the same way if instead this article was about race and complain about the unfairness of someone being uncomfortable with the portrayal of black people being subservient to,chain up and beaten by white people? Would they act similarly colorblind the same way they act gender blind when it comes to sexualized male violence against women? What a joke these people are.

        • Just Me

          Yes, these are the same things I’ve often thought about and the same arguments I’ve made to others. Which largely have gone ignored. People don’t like to be challenged with such ideas. People should be less comfortable accepting the status-quo. However, complacency seems to be how people cope. Which I think is getting worse as people use technology to numb out their feelings. I think all that hardcore porn is a way to numb out feelings which results in a lowered barrier or ethics if you repeatedly consume the stuff. We are what we consume.

          I remember the first time I heard about women choking on a man’s penis for ‘fun’. I learned about via conversations online where men and women were talking about sex. I was horrified. And now, it’s like it’s accepted as a normal sexual act. LIke it’s no big deal. And that’s the sad part because women buy into their own abuse and that’s how the system controls us. Just with the entire Trump thing alone too, I’ve seen a lot of women honesty defend him and while I understand how internalized misogyny plays out in culture, it still never fails to leave me baffled.

    • Just Me

      Melissa – going back to that reddit you shared, one person made this comment:

      “I think people who have those fantasies do find the holocaust and racism and whatever else very serious and grave and traumatic: making it sexual is just one way to subvert it and overpower it.”

      Do you think there is any merit to this? It’s not that I think playing out such things is healthy or okay. There ARE better ways to deal with trauma. Therapy being one of them. But I know that victims of rape or sexual violence do deal with their trauma through fantasies of rape. I just wanted to know what you thought about this. Because I am both horrified by the reddit you shared but I also can understand how people have certain fantasies to deal with trauma.

      • melissa

        “Do you think there is any merit to this?”

        No, not really.That makes little sense to me. How does sexuaulizing and wanking to the holocaust “subvert” anything? How does sexualizing the slave trade(“race play”) do the same? Or reenacting pedophilia “subvert” anything? And these are not even isolated things we’re talking about.Many constantly live in this 24/7 slave/master or daddy/little girl(try googling that at a porn site and not vomiting) dynamics, as i mentioned in my initial post.One minute its “subversion”, the next its an “identity” that an entire lifestyle and subculture has to be based on. There’s no end to the kind of excuse people come up with to justify this hogwash.I doubt many black people would find eroticism of racialized violence “subversive” for their trauma.Sexifying these things don’t subvert it, it trivializes if not normalizes it(not necessarily the holocaust, but certainly the sadism, cruelty,hate and inequality,specially when it comes to gender I’d say). Also, about rape fantasies, is there any correlation between rape and rape fantasies? Were they fantasizing because of the trauma or despite of it?Either way like you said, much better,healthier ways to deal with trauma, than titillating and building entire life styles around inequality and sexualized violence against women(typically women lets face it) etc

        Btw i member this FC article that did addresses the whole subversion argument a bit…

        *The sex-positivist idea is that in doing something (seemingly) taboo,one “subverts” patriarchy by challenging our social norms. However, the effectiveness of subversion depends on what norm one subverts. What “norm” is really being challenged by BDSM?

        By definition, BDSM eroticizes inequality, domination, pain, and abuse; thus it doesn’t challenge any patriarchal norms. Patriarchy exists because men enjoy hurting and dominating women. Men have carefully constructed our social and legal institutions in order to promote and ensure men’s ability to violate, abuse, and subjugate women.
        The norm is men hurting women during sex, coercing women into sex, dominating women during sex, and having non-mutual sex. BDSM says the same thing about sexuality as patriarchy: hurting women is sexy. It merely dresses it up in fancy leather outfits and increases the level of acceptable sexualized violence from the “norm” (e.g., painful or
        unwanted intercourse, compulsory intercourse) to more extreme (sexualized torture, mutilation).

        The only norm that is being “subverted” by BDSM is the “norm” against abuse and torture — but that should be a “norm” feminists want to promote. *

  • Hierophant2

    It’s not fantasy. The girls were real.

  • Meghan Murphy

    ew

  • helen1

    Oh it’s an MRA. Ignore it.

    • Kendall Turtle

      Yeah this guy also says that men rape women because they are circumcised so they have an unconscious need for revenge against women because of it. He also blames circumcision for pretty much ALL male violence.

      • Zuzanna Smith

        Funny that, because I’m pretty sure a male doctor did the circumcision.

        • Kendall Turtle

          He says that the male babies expect to be cared for by their mothers not taken by doctors and circumcised… not sure how he explains that women who suffer FGM don’t go raping women or murdering people even though their genitals were mutilated too.

          • Zuzanna Smith

            Women are to blame for everything of course, even his loss of foreskin, what a dick.

  • Reffael Fishzon

    Read my mind.

    • radwonka

      Dont troll.

      • Reffael Fishzon

        I wasn’t, seriously.

  • I will never bow to the religion that all fantasies are OK when the object of affection is 18+. Anybody old enough to have a sexuality is old enough to be sexy and old enough to pose for erotic art.

    • Tired feminist

      Go away. No one is saying all fantasies become ok after 18. You don’t just sound like a pedophile, you sound like a pretty stupid one.

      • Just Passing Through

        World must revolve around needs of dick at all times always and forever!

        • Tired feminist

          I mean, he has a Fetlife profile. That alone should be a red flag.

    • Wren

      Said like a true pornographer.

    • Kendall Turtle

      Lol gotta love how you literally call females objects in your comment 😉

    • Cassandra

      There aren’t enough FUCK YOUs for you. The number fuck yous I have for you are beyond the far reaches of our galaxy. FUCK YOU

    • Makemyburdenlight

      Does this mean that I was old enough at age 5? Simply because I was “sexual” and masturbated to fantasies caused by sexual abuse?

  • Kendall Turtle

    I am against circumcision myself but I don’t believe that it causes men to want to rape and assault women…. like I said FGM doesn’t result in women who go and attack women sexually and physically.

  • melissa

    Haha wtf? “Niceism”? Just be nice and everything will sort itself out, eh? You know, their videos all makes sense now. And by “ideals of normality are extremely broad and inclusive in all directions and where the commitment to be in every way tolerant” they’re basically proving to mean unthinking acceptance of various misogynistic practices and ideas under the guise of “tolerance” ,”nice” and “inclusion”. *Sigh* you’re right, this is just like your average liberal dude bro, that prefer women simply stayed nice, compliant, pleasers and questioned nothing , demanded no change.

    • Tired feminist

      I’m wondering now if he didn’t create this organization with the specific intent of grooming women. All this investment in normalizing and “accepting” sexual violence is just too obvious and too persistent…

  • Zuzanna Smith

    Yes, Brooke Shields comes to mind as a young model. She was a beautiful child but that wasn’t enough, they had to sexualize her to sell jeans. Who were these ads for? Not girls who were supposed to buy the jeans but for pedophiles who need a child objectified and sexualized for their pleasure, fucking hell.

  • Cassandra

    #NOTALLMENJACKOFFTOPRETEENPORNINTHEBATHROOMIFGIVENTHEOPPORTUNITY!!

  • Cassandra

    “Agreed. I’ve long felt the pervasive pornography, overly sexualized culture etc is less to do with pleasurable visuals & everything to do with power.”

    Yup. That’s how they oppress us in a nutshell.

  • Makemyburdenlight

    Great article! I’m curious, people always say “Europe is less sexualized” and they have a more healthy view of sex than the US. But i find research actually shows differently. What do you think?

  • Makemyburdenlight

    I just threw up