Nudity is not Porn

We live in a so-called liberal, western society, but in some ways tolerance has been on the decline for the past decade or so. One thing is religion and freedom of speech, especially when it comes to criticising Islam. But in the quest for protecting values that we’re not even sure we share any longer, sometimes people trip over themselves in ridiculous attempts to preserve long-lost sanctities.

Even in multi-cultural, laid-back, easy-going Australia, where ‘wowsers’ were supposed to have disappeared years ago.

Case in point: the recent furore here in Sydney, which started with an art exhibition featuring images of nude women (gasp), some of which were children. The exhibition was closed down, and to highlight the issue of free speech, the magazine Art Monthly Australia featured a front cover depicting a naked girl on a painted backdrop (inset). And highlight it they have indeed – who said Jyllands-Posten? As if they had nothing else to do this has put politicians on edge, with even the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd criticising the picture.

Now whatever your opinion on it may be, the picture is clearly art, and clearly non-sexual. I am not a naturist myself, but I will agree with my friends who are on at least one thing: nudity in itself is not particularly sexual and usually not especially arousing. Denmark is one of the countries where the distinction has been made without too much fuss. Australia, apparently, has either not, or has retreated in recent years.

Freedom of speech includes art. Underage pornography should, of course, be banned. But this is not it. Get a grip.

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12 responses to “Nudity is not Porn

  1. I’m certain you agree that this world is corrupted by obscured views on nudity and sexuality. To a sexually disturbed person, any nonsexual thing may occur sexual. While there seems to be nothing wrong with publishing a photo of a cute and innocent girl without clothes for artistic purposes, there is no doubt that certain disturbed individuals will look for these pictures and are sexually stimulated by these. In particular I remember an episode of Dr. Phil on Child Beauty Contests. The ones who support these events more enthuasiastically – besides the parents, of course – are pedophiles. I consider this food for thought. We need to be careful, even in displaying what appears to be completely innocent.

  2. I agree with Lars and don’t think I would have choosen this (kind of) case to make a point about the freedom of speech. I hear your point though.

  3. (But for the past few years my mind has also been messed up about the (from my point of view lacking) value of art anyway… Maybe that’s really the true reason, why I wouldn’t have choosen this example).

  4. @Lars: I do agree that there are many distorted views on sexuality, as there are on other issues. But I am not certain that “being careful” should be the primary guiding concern. If we put all our effort into taking care not to offend people (or support perverts) they will have effectively won in setting the agenda. Thus was also the point of the JP cartoons: if we give in to fundamentalists’ demands in fear of offending them, they will have won. The moderate majority should be setting the agenda, not the freaks.

    @Niels: The value of art is definitely an interesting topic, which I have also given some thought. I am guessing we don’t agree 🙂 Perhaps this is a theme for a future blog post.

  5. @Kennethbirch: Part of me just wants to let it go, but another part of me rather enjoys discussions like these (with clever people, that is – consider that a compliment).

    Every Dane can probably accept your argument having struggled with footage of fundamentalists putting Danish flags on fire while yelling death sentences over our government due to some drawings in a newspaper. I, too, value freedom of speech. But when it comes to publishing art, “setting the agenda” and “defending freedom of speech” are most definitely not my main concerns. Not really arguing yet, just pointing out our different concerns.

    Now, “If we put all our effort into taking care not to offend people (or support perverts) they will have effectively won in setting the agenda.” Thinking in terms of winning and losing, pedophiles would not have won if we ban pictures of nude children. They may win on some objective level to the extent that their presence had an effect on public behaviour. In that sense, burglars have won in making us lock our doors, and crazy hit-and-run drivers have won in making us be more careful when crossing the streets. But the pedophiles certainly did not win on a subjective level seeing that “nude children” is really all they want. So their “victory” very much differs from the Muslims in case we banned all criticism against Islam. My point being that the parallel is flawed. Perverts would probably stand by your side defending freedom of speech if it meant more nudity in public.

    By the way, I would find a blog post on the topic “the importance of art” very interesting. 🙂

  6. Kenneth har ret.

    Der ligger også en fare i lige netop at gøre børnekroppen til noget seksuelt. Jeg tror lige så meget at mystikken over den hemmelige nøgne børnekrop skaber pædofile tanker, end at det der kunstbillede gør – både blandt børn og blandt voksne.
    Hvis de pædofile vil se billeder af børn, skal de nok skaffe noget rigtigt porno – et billede af et afklædt barn gør ikke så meget fra eller til.

  7. @Andreas Müller:

    What? I didn’t understand a word you just said 😉

    On a more serious account. Fortunately, neither of us know how pedophiles think, so your guess is just as valid as mine. I’m appealing to the benefit of the doubt. If perverts are turned on by fully dressed children, we can’t really help it. If they’re turned on by naked children, however, we can at least stop distributing nude pictures regardless our original intentions.

    ( For resten længe siden jeg har set dig, Müller, håber du har det godt 🙂 )

  8. I will concede there is a difference between pedophiles and fundamentalists in their motives. When I say they will have “won” it is not by gaining what they want, but by succeeding in deciding what we can and cannot do. I would love to live in a place where locking your door is not necessary – sadly, there are very few of those. I would also like to live in a place where you can take pictures of children without beeing deemed a pervert – I am hoping that there will be some of those left for when I have kids myself.

    Andreas is correct in pointing out the dangers of turning the child body into something sexual by making it mystical and forbidden. If it was a natural thing we’d all be better off. And as you say, Lars, if perverts are turned on by fully dressed children, we can’t really help it. Well in that case, naked children aren’t really going to make a difference, are they? Except in our own heads, if we let them.

  9. “I would also like to live in a place where you can take pictures of children without beeing deemed a pervert – I am hoping that there will be some of those left for when I have kids myself.”

    To me, that’s not the issue. I already knew you were a pervert (no no, only kidding) – but if people react like that, yes, they should indeed “get a grip” and focus on the realities. Agreed.

  10. Update: The Classifcation Board has now ruled that the image is suited for publication, although discretion is advised for people under the age of 15. It seems some element of common sense has returned.

  11. “discretion is advised for people under the age of 15” – where is the common sense in that detail?

  12. A good observation, Lasse. On the other hand, the label of parental discretion (e.g., “PG” in the States) has been applied so liberally that it’s probably lost most of its meaning, anyway.

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