Throughout history, nudity in art has been depicted from the time of Ancient Egypt to the Renessaisce. As the human race moves forward and leaves the past in the past, art keeps evolving. In today’s time, humans enjoy more freedoms than ever before, which brings us to the question, when does nudity in art violate the obscenity laws, and therefore, become unprotected under the First Amendment? Obscenity laws had already been established by the court, yet the obscenity test was about to change after the Miller vs California Supreme court case in 1973. This case came about when Marvin Miller went around distributing large quantities of advertisement sale flyers about “adult” content material. The residents who received the advertisement did not take it lightly and they ended up reporting it to the state which convicted Miller of mailing unsolicited sexually explicit material in violation of a California statute that involved the obscenity test established in the case of Memoirs vs Massachusetts. At the end of the trial, the Supreme court ruled in favor of the state of California, and Miller was found guilty because the material wasn’t suitable for the general population.
I’m in favor of the obscenity laws because it protects the general public from sexual content that might end up at the disposal of our children. I believe that there is a time and place for everything, but I also admire the lengths that artist go to create magnificent paintings and sculptures. In the Supreme court case of The United States of America vs Ten Erotic Paintings, in 1969, ten paintings and drawings were confiscated by U.S. agents in Baltimore. The artworks that were been sent to the U.S. from Europe to be presented in a museum were part of a much larger collection of erotic art. Federal law prohibits the importation of obscene materials which was the authorities justification for seizing them. Even though Miller vs California still had 4 years to go, the court placed the same three-part standard as to what constituted obscenity. Despite that, the artwork contained man and woman genitals and sexual content, the trial court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appels agreed that all the erotic artworks have artistic value and therefore not meeting with the third legal criterion of obscenity. This only shows how nudity in art should be protected because, at the end of the day, all art has artistic values and shouldn’t be considered obscene from the public, well at least for those 18 and above.
“Miller v. California.” Oyez, 28 Feb. 2019, www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-73.
Esmaili, Tala. “Obscenity.” LII / Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, 8 June 2017, www.law.cornell.edu/wex/obscenity.
“Untitled (Pencil Drawing) by Hans Bellmer.” Art on Trial: Art in Publicly Owned Spaces, www.tjcenter.org/ArtOnTrial/obscenity.html.