Should Indecent Art Be Censored?
Some art is obscene and should not be seen.
This may be a Q1 violation if you are against censorship or for artistic freedom.
This may be a Q2 violation if you would not agree to be held to someone else’s standard of what is or is not obscene.
Sometimes, artists create things that some people consider obscene, don’t want to see, or don’t even want to think about. Should artists be allowed to create and display such things? Before deciding to censor indecent art, you must answer several questions:
- What does "indecent" mean?
- Who decides what is indecent?
- Does it matter who the intended audience for the piece is?
- Regardless of the intended audience, does it matter who will actually end up seeing it?
- Does the context in which the art was made matter?
- Do different rules apply to old or "classic" works (e.g., traditional nudes or images we would now consider racist)?
- Do the rules for classic works apply to modern imitations?
- Does the intended impact on the viewer (e.g., appreciation of beauty vs. sexual arousal) matter?
- Does the unintended impact on the viewer (e.g., sexual arousal from art that was supposed to demonstrate beauty) matter?
- Does it matter how the art is produced? That is, can art be obscene because it was created in an obscene manner?
- Does it matter who made the art (e.g., might a female nude be more obscene if the photographer was a man)?
- Does it matter who the art was made for (e.g., private vs. public work)?
- Must a work cause quantifiable harm in order to be considered obscene?
After considering these questions, look at the list below. Which (if any) of these would you consider worthy of censorship?
- A naked woman painted to look as if she is wearing clothes.
- A topless female statue of Justice in a courthouse.
- A book by a man who had himself tortured in various ways so he could describe the experience.
- A man who performs a sensual strip tease on the subway every Sunday (after making sure there are no children present and never removing his underwear).
- A statue of Buddha made from cow excrement.
- A sex toy shaped like a popular movie star.
- A movie about the hard life of a prostitute that contains scenes of pathetic hard-core sex.
- A mason jar filled with one toenail clipping from each homeless person in Los Angeles.
- Mannequins in a store window recreating a famous painting that involves nudity.
- People standing perfectly still in a store window recreating a famous painting that involves nudity.
- A fake blog pretending to document the life of a teenager who is being abused.
- A collection of antique photos of nude children.
- A dance, performed in a gorilla suit, that represents the stages of puberty.
You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.