When it comes to expressing our sexuality, our freedom is very limited. There are many different laws that apply to exposure to sexuality, varying from culture to culture. However, the general approach to expression of sexual thoughts and conduct in public is limiting. Therefore a question arises – where does our fear and intimidation of sex comes from, and why is has gained such an important role in the societal construct of “taboo-ness”.
If we look at sex from the perspective of various human activities, it is just a physical act, performed to gain satisfaction. It could possibly be compared to kissing, or even hugging, as these are also physical acts that can be exchanged in times of affection. However, sex is a physical act that often involves nudity, and nudity as a common model is not accepted in public. Clothes in our society play role because of their functionality, tradition and even a way of expressing our status and authority. Nudity is also not encouraged because of its possibility of sexual arousal. This last perception has been challenged by nudists and naturists, who generally accept nakedness, and has accepted human body and sexual organs as natural and inevitable construct of our biology.
Sexually explicit material is in general really contradictory term, as we live in a world with many different cultures and perceptions of “sexually explicit”. If there are nations that consider a bare ankle sexually explicit, why are they not legally protected from this material? The perceptions of obscenity vary across national borders, while the cultural and commercial products are spreading throughout the world because of globalization. How can we be protected by the same human rights, if our perceptions and social constructs intensely vary across the borders?
The laws concerning obscenity are also ambiguous. According to the Supreme court, material will not be declared obscene unless (1) the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material’s predominant theme appeals to a “prurient” interest; (2) the material depicts or describes sexual activity in a “patently offensive” manner; and (3) the material, when taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. However, the Supreme Court has failed to clearly define words and phrases such as “prurient,” “patently offensive,” and “serious artistic value”.
The reason why free speech is protected is, according to Mill’s argument, because all the opinions are supposed to participate in the public discussion forum to find out the truth. Are we possibly living in a world where limitations of sexual expression are limiting our possibilities to discover our own sexuality? With sex playing such an important role in our reproduction and interaction, doesn’t sexual speech deserve protection in order to avoid sexual confusion and lack of knowledge?
These are just some of the controversies that arise from the topic of freedom of sexpression, but, in my opinion, they are worthy the debate.