Sexual images are often considered obscene, causing regulations on their publishing and distributing. However, there are critics to these regulations, who argue for the right to publish sexual content the same way other content have the right to be outspoken. In the case of this discussion, the main contributors are the classic conservatives, liberals and feminists that all have varying opinions upon this topic. In this post, I briefly summarize their opinions to see the main arguments for and against limitations of obscene (sexually explicit, in this case) speech.
According to moral and religious conservatives attribute sexually explicit material as morally corrupting, and argue that it has the potential to affront classic family and religious values. They argue that sexual images should be restricted, as they can potentially diminish morality and decency standards for the society as a whole. These reasons don’t however introduce any arguments that are suggesting any clear and present danger to individuals. Instead, they are concentrated on the decline of the morality of the society.
This is where the liberals oppose these ideas, saying that moral majorities shouldn’t have the power to exclude minority’s expression and ideas from the public forum. They say, that even if there is sometimes small value in sexually explicit images, they should still have the opportunity to be introduced to public. Liberals also protect their arguments with human right to privacy – everyone should have an opportunity to explore their sexuality by being exposed to different texts and images of the field. Expression of sexual thoughts and conduct is relatively harmless – and, if there are noticed negative effects, they can be declined by appropriate education and information on the topic.
Or – are we just too intimidated to approach these issues through education that we have to limit one’s speech on the topic?
Feminist view on the topic are split. Some argue that sexpression, as it exists today is objectifying and oppressing women. There is generally more nude and sexual images of women than men in arts and entertainment today, and these images contribute to the discrimination that women are put under in our society. However, some feminists argue that the sexual speech is freeing women from the traditional sexual conservatism, and allowing them to explore minority forms of sexuality.
The question if eliminating these images from circulation by restricting freedom of speech is the most effective way to deal with the consequences that they produce upon our society is still a debate. In my opinion, after looking at different view on the topic is that maybe increasing the debate by removal of restrictions would result on a finer way to deal with the negative consequences of the display of sexual images. Maybe there is a truth in the old Mill’s argument, that the open marketplace can generate the truth. Or it can definitely generate new and innovative ways to deal with the truth. Any censorship is dangerous, as it can lead to a slippery slope, where more and more restrictions are introduced, if the line between the allowed and forbidden is ambiguous. Or it can result in a chilling effect, where society is anxious of expressing their views. And history has proven that silencing the masses is not the greatest way of dealing with their expression.