The Thinly Veiled Pedophilia of Balenciaga

Stacey Kaliabakos ’23

Chief Opinions Editor

*Trigger Warning: Pedophilia*

In the past, I have written articles that have touched on the hyper-sexualization of our society. Based on recent events unfolding in our world, it is evident that this sexualization is reaching children. It is becoming so mainstream, in fact, that luxury brands like Balenciaga are taking artistic liberties with things like child pornography and BDSM around children. For context, Balenciaga recently revealed their fashion collection for the spring of 2023 and, in doing, so they have premiered their designs in a very concerning lookbook of sorts. The collection featured children holding teddy bears dressed in BDSM and sexual fetish gear. One of the children was also holding a bear with a lock on it– a lock that creepily enough corresponds to the key that a grown man is holding in another photo in the ad campaign.  The photo shoot also included two Supreme Court decisions surrounding the topic of “virtual child porn.” The first case is known as Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, which was where the Suprme Court struck down two parts of the Anti Child Pornography Act. The Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition states that virtual child porn is not really child porn. Placing this case seems strangely intentional. Additionally, an excerpt of the Supreme Court Opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law, can be seen in a completely different photo from the one with the excerpt from the Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition case. These extremely poor and creepy choices beg the question of who okayed the photos in the campaign. Did nobody at Balenciaga think that perpetuating child porn was not a good idea? Or did some artist involved in the process want to include their subtle messaging? No matter the case, these pictures should have never made it past the editing state, much less to a global social media platform like Instagram.  

Thinking about this issue a little more broadly, it is creepily coincidental that this is all happening right now. In taking over Twitter just a few weeks ago, Elon Musk said that one of his primary goals would be to get rid of child pornography on the social media site, thereby eradicating the “minor attracted people” from the app in the process. Eliza Bleu, an advocate for those effected by human trafficking and a survivor of human trafficking, commended Musk for his action against the child porn and child abuse hashtags on Twitter that have been cleared out since he took over Twitter. It is also an interesting coincidence that Balenciaga briefly left Twitter for a “values misalignment” when he took over. Publicizing their new campaign with the Supreme Court documents and BDSM bears right after that is the worst PR move in history. 

This is not the first time where Balenciaga has made strange choices in terms of artistic liberties. During a recent fashion show in Paris, Balenciaga models were videotaped walking through mud in the dark instead of on a regular runway, all for the sake of “art.” Looking at videos of the show, it does not really come off as artistic at all– just weird and very strange. Evidently, there is a history with poor marketing at Balenciaga, but the child pornography embedded in the recent campaign obviously is much worse.

As the story progressed, Balenciaga wiped their entire Instagram, but then, just 12 hours later, they reposted all of their photos except the ones with the children posing with the BDSM bears. The ensuing comments sections were initially flooded with people angry about the exploitation of children, which prompted Balenciaga to delete and limit comments on all of their posts. Additionally, they took an extremely long time to make a statement about the situation, and when they did, it did not seem to be a very genuine one. Now, Balenciaga is launching a lawsuit against the production company behind their ad campaign. The whole ordeal still remains very fishy, as it is inconceivable that such a huge mistake could have just been completely overlooked. 

Ultimately, what Balenciaga released into the world was disgusting and disturbing content that reflects the state of the society we live in. Now, this is what people will think about when they think of children.

Photo courtesy of WWD

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