Freedom of sexual expression is a discussion that evolves in the context of art and entertainment. The way people react to these images are influenced by social constructs, political beliefs or religious reasons. But what are the main sources of these discussions, and what are the factors that influence the limitations of sexual expression? In this entry I will look at three areas where sexual speech have caused limitations upon author’s creation – literature, visual arts (and film in particular).
Literature has become a rather small area of discussion, as the popularity of reading books is diminishing in today’s society. However, despite that, sexual content in books and their influences are still restricted by Obscene Publications Acts and the Protection of Children Act 1978. Expression of some sexual speech is regulated in cases if it qualifies as obscene, however books are judged less harshly. This is so possibly because, as literary critic Amanda Craig describes, “There’s a difference to being presented with sexually explicit images and imagining what you’re reading”.
Art, similarly as literature is an old mean of expression, that has been highly valued in society, also playing an important role as a medium of communicating messages. For the Ancient Greeks, sex was a celebration of fertility, where the male genitalia was admired as aesthetic beauty. However, in the 21st century contemporary art sex is often criticized by the conservative audiences, labeling it as vulgar or tacky. There are a number of cases where sex in art has been attributed as offensive and inappropriate, including art pieces that have been around for centuries. If sexual portrays and images are not accepted even in the context of the most expressive, does sex can only exist behind locked doors and between the sheets?
In film, the controversies reach another level. The emerging of internet allows images to be shared more widely, and are more and more problematic for institutions to regulate. This has contributed to the accessibility of sexual material and sexual expression to larger masses, as the Internet doesn’t have a single institution that is in charge of it. Images of sexual expression in television has been either banned or moved to late hours to protect children from the explicit material. However, pornography in general in most of the countries are undergoing large restrictions because of the obscenity laws, not allowing the free expression of these particular sexual images. The case of pornography is discussed in more detail in another post, explaining it role as a commercial expression (rather than implying an artistic meaning), and problems with that existing assumption.
Do we have freedom of sexpression? Yes. Is it limited? Yes.