Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adult Content?

In anticipation of The Friday Evening Nudes, I'd like to ask you a question about what constitutes "adult content". Those of us who live in a world where nudity in life and art are normal and natural, perhaps give very little, if any, thought to whether the picture offends or is "appropriate" for family viewing.

With that said, my question is, essentially: should I flag the blog for adult content in the event that I choose to post photographs that are contemporary, and therefore perhaps more explicit than the innocent nudes of, say, Monet. I try not to post anything that I don't consider artistic; especially when it comes to nudes. Yet, that is a major judgment call. What I deem artistic, may be considered pornographic by someone else. It was with that assumption in mind that I initially decided not to flag the Pagan Sphinx.

Some of my thinking on this stems from the fact that I'm not part of large, artsy circles where these things are taken for granted. I'm a teacher at a tiny rural school where the mind-set is at times very puritanical. It is, after all, New England, where puritan values are still rather alive and well. It is also a community of which some members are offended by nudity and not by the gore and violence of the deer hunt. The latter offends me on many levels.

I will give you a couple of examples to rate.

Peter Hujar
Nude with Pearls

Hujar, I just learned, is a notable American photographer who photographed not only nudes but also animals and nighttime scenes of downtown Manhattan. His work has been exhibited at important museums such as The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

I don't really like this photograph that much, personally. But I want to know your thoughts on how it differs from pornography. Even though I don't care for this particular picture, I do recognize is as artistic and not pornographic. What do you think?


To my eye, this one is a stunner. It doesn't evoke any sexual feelings in me. I love the lines of the body, the shadow of it cast on the wall, how the body is suspended off the floor by the ropes. I think of dancing or gymnastics or aerial ballet.

But then I start wondering: what if a young child sees this painting and asks about it? I know how I would respond and I feel fine about it. But how would a parent who is not comfortable with nudity respond to that child's question?

I guess my main concern is that I'm living in my own bubble of arty images and thoughts. And The Pagan Sphinx is an eclectic blog. I wonder how I'd feel if the mother of a child who visits the blog to look at a sledding scene I took on the playground at school, comes upon a, if not pornographic, at least adult art photo. I'm okay with it, assuming it's handled simply and appropriately. Is that random possibility worth flagging the blog over? Tell me your thoughts.

And then there is this question: are female nudes viewed by any of you as exploitative of women, in general? I tend to evaluate that by my own set of criteria. What I'm thinking when I see the picture. The artist's motives, if any, don't usually play a part in my judgment. And it is a judgment. Perhaps it should. But I try very hard not to second-guess the artist. Again, thoughts.

I'm not personally overwhelmed by these issues. Most people, I'm sure, click on by if they see something or read something they don't like. I know I do. I guess I'm not so much concerned about offending people. My political views on say, Israel and the Palestinians, have the potential to offend many more people than nudes. What I'm wondering is, really - should I warn people that they may be offended by flagging the blog?

I hope this turns out to be an interesting discussion. I want your opinions; no holds barred.

Yours in peace,
Pagan Sphinx


  1. I'm a really bad person to ask since the kinds of things I find offensive are shampoo commercials and political speeches and many religious sermons. I'm not a normal gauge.

    Remember when Ashcroft had scuptures covered because he was apparently overwhelmed by balls - having never seen any on his own person - that offended me.

    I'm also of the opinion that what we hide from children makes those subjects/objects more important than they are and creates darkness. If a child asks a question about something that means they're ready for an answer and must be given one.

    But none of this answers your question. The title of the post is Friday Nudes - wouldn't that be enough for anyone who doesn't want to see nudes. You could include enough text in the opening of the post so that the nudes are immediately visible.

    To me flagging something says there's something wrong - and there is nothing wrong here.

    I think I'm rambling now ... ;)

  2. What a good question…. I first think that the fact that you are concerned speaks volumes for your respect for others.

    It makes me wonder though about where the media draws the line of “adult content.” Not that I always agree with what they designate in this way, but if you are thinking about using the phrase “adult content” then maybe there are specific guidelines for it.

    I think the difference is ifa piece of art is sexual in nature or not… and that seems to be something that is soooo open to interpretation as to be impossible to correctly label.

    I think D is right regarding the title… if it is called “Nudes” then, well duh. Maybe a disclaimer is all that people need… if they continue to look after reading it then it is a bit of their own fault.

    (This won’t stop them from complaining, I posted once about a sexual adventure with a HUGE disclaimer and still managed to get hate mail from my grandmother…. “but why did you read it?” “That isn’t the point!” Ummm I kind of think It is, whatever.

    Agh I am rambling myself now, I think as long as things are labeled as “nude” there is no other need to label them any other way “adult content” has the connotation of “only for dult” and I personally think art shouldn’t be kept away from the young.

    Just my humble opinion.

  3. Hello form PA,
    I agree with Dianne, but then again... I usually do on most subjects!

    I don't think it's necessary for a flag. If someone is offended, they have the opportunity to "move on"!

    Personally, I love your posts. Keep 'em coming, nudes or not!


    ...oh, also... I think you have a very pretty daughter and daughter-in-law. Hope things work out for them.

  4. I like the previous women's opinions and suggestions they make a lot of sense.
    I definitely would not flag your blog.

  5. I like to play it safe and would probably flag. That way no one can really be offended. With everything available on the internet a few fine art photos aren't going to matter.

    Hosting the photos on other site and having people have to click to see the pictures maybe a better way than flagging.

    I loved the photos and only dream of taking a picture that good some day.

  6. I wouldn't flag. As has been mentioned, the title including the name "Nudes" should be enough of a warning if anyone is going to be upset. I do so agree - first with Dianne, that any question asked by a child should be answered honestly at whatever level the child might be, and second - with Kay, that the fact that you have raised the question is evidence of the kind of person you are.
    the human body is a beautiful thing. Those who think it isn't are, in my humble opinion, twisted in their thinking.

  7. I've seen nothing obscene here, and that's where I might draw the line. That photo is not obscene or pornographic to me, but some people think that charcoal drawings of the human figure are nasty - so it is in the eye of the beholder.

  8. I have flagged my novel as containing Adult Content - there are some very explicite scenes and an illustration. The kind of pictures you wish to post are innocuous and natural.
    As far as children are concerned they should be raised with an unremarked familiarity with their parents nudity. Ours were.
    But then I am an old pagan.

  9. In agreement with all who commented before and:
    Personally, I would never flag. In the first place I am a firm believer that it is up to parents to monitor and be aware of what their kids are doing on the interwebz. I once typed into google "dragon tattoo", seeking some ideas for a new piece. I came upon some very detailed and graphic photos of a man whose penis, testicles and surrounds were entirely tatttooed to resemble a dragon.
    Art? TMI?
    Had my daughter at a tender age discovered that, we would have talked about it, probably shivered and yowled and giggled a bit, much as we did when we discussed it when she was grown.
    When there is software available to supposedly protect one's kids from content that blocks "porn", "nudes", "gay", and "wicca" but allows them to get to sites like "god hates fags (dot) org" because it's catchwords are "god" and "christian", or allows kids to get to the pudding site... (can't remember the name; remember? purple capes, tennis shoes and tapioca pudding? Jesus coming on a spaceship in a comet?), since the keywords there are "jesus" and "church" and "ufo" none of which are blocked... Again. It's on the parents.
    Could someone random hit your blog and report it? Sure. Anyone with an axe to grind can and will bitch about anything.
    Are there signs posted outside Le Louvre warning of the "adult content" inside? Or the Vatican Museums? Hehe.
    In closing, the only thing I might be concerned about were I you, is what you mentioned about your job, and the outlook there. I have heard of folks getting "in trouble", censured or even fired for having blogs that weren't in line with the politics/views of their employer. But honestly, I'm not sure that flagging as adult content would save you from that if it is an issue.

  10. Thorne: you've hit on an issue that does concern me, actually: the job. But how can that be?? Don't people have the right to their freedom of speech if it is not connected to their work? I mean, some of the nudes I post here were seen by the entire school when they visited a western mass museum last year. I just can't imagine...I mean I can. I can imagine a parent complaining. But I can't imagine it amounting to anything. Jesus! It couldn't possibly??!! I would fight it. and hard.

  11. Aileni,
    I'm in total agreement. We raised our children largely without hangups about nudity. Whatever modestly they've developed cannot be blamed on me or their father! :-D

    Kenju: and you have to use your own compass when it comes to these things, I think is what it comes down to. I think what the prudes that go out of their way to censor have in common is fear. Fear of a sexual identity, fear of gay marriage. Like if it exists, it will spread to them somehow like a disease.

    Bobbie: I agree and some of that agreement is reflected in the above comment to Aileni.

    Digital Flower: I actually had a blog up for two days or so...I thought I might start to post more controversial art, not all of it nude, by the way. I chucked it, though. Flagging or no flagging, if someone has a beef about it, they'll let me know. Thanks for your perspective on this.

    Lily: I probably won't! :-)

    Barb: thank you! It's very kind of you to say so. I appreciate it. And any friend of Dianne, is a friend of mine! :-)

    Kay: I wonder if there are guidelines. And whose are they? If there is a board like the film rating board, I'll be in big trouble! Have you seen the movie This Movie Is Not Yet Rated? Unreal.

    And there is a sort of disclaimer on the narrative about me and my blog. But it may not be the first thing thing people see.

  12. Dianne: I so agree about talking to children about things honestly and as Bobbie said, at a level they can understand.

    Shampoo commercials??? :-D

  13. I would personally prefer pictures of naked men. ;)

    The whole blog flagging thing seems silly to me in a general sense. By the time kids are 5 or 6, most of them have seen images that are pornographic. This is nothing knew. It was that way when I was a kid, and I'm middle aged.

    Children never have had the pristine lives we pretend they have.

  14. i wouldn't flag. it says nudes. they are nudes. that's all they are. in my poetry workgroup we've had many discussions over the years as to certain topics or words. we came to the conclusion that it should be the other way round. poems and the members blogs that are geared toward younger readers are marked as that. the others just are blogs or websites.
    when you flag, you run the risk of attacting people looking for porn.
    i know the for a fact because i used the word "adult" about me, but people landed on my blog in the begining by looking for that word. boy, did i get some e-mails. ha! ; )

  15. being a survivor of sexual abuse, I am sort of on the fence with this stuff. the pictures you post do not offend me, I may be baffled but I'm not offended. but I am sensitive to how women are portrayed sexually, but that's just me. so I say--post more pictures taken by women of nude men ;)

  16. OK. First, I think flagging "Adult Content" sets you up for all sorts of creepy search hits. At least I'd carefully consider before doing that. Second, I'm with Dianne - things that are hidden are in darkness, and assume an unwarranted emphasis. What could be more natural or beautiful than the human figure? If the piece is about that beauty and natural truth, then it should not offend unless the viewer brings the offense with them to the viewing. On the other hand, if a piece is not about those things, and particularly if it in some way alienates us from one another, seems to portray or glorify violence, or turns people into objects in any way, then it IS offensive. That's the real reason pornography offends, I believe.

    On the two nudes you featured here - the first is borderline for me. I don't see explicit exploitation or focus on the sexual, but I'm not seeing why the photo was taken. It doesn't do a thing for me, and that leaves me feeling a bit odd about it - puzzled. Maybe that's the point. The second photo is beautiful, powerful, and leaves no question in my mind that it's art. It shows the strength and athletic potency that inspires awe in most of us. And those ropes are arranged to maximum benefit to show the contours of the muscles. They're much more than a logistical or sensational device in the photo.

    My two cents (okay, more like ten cents).

  17. Well, I too, agree with Dianne and that too is the usual and Bobbie and I see things pretty much the same, too. I don't think you should flag your blog. If people are upset by the human body, that's their problem and the title alone should tell them what they need to know if they want to avoid it. Which brings me to another point that ticks me off as a former teacher -- if parent are so friggin' concerned about what their children see, then keep the computers out of their rooms and in a part of the house where it can be monitored. Otherwise keep your mouth shut! As you see, I'm not one to keep mine shut, however. Your pictures are beautiful and so is the human body.

  18. Everyone here has already said what I could have imagined saying about this issue. I liked the idea of having 'adult content' signs outside the Louvre and the Vatican. I really don't think you should flag. Steve may very well be right that doing so would draw some weird attention to your site.

    Keep up the good work. You've got some very wonderful stuff going on here.

  19. What a wonderfully broadminded readership you have...

    Celebrate the beauty of the body, of sensuality and sexuality,

    Perhaps i am naive but I have never understood why any of it should need censoring,

    Much love, M

  20. I wanted to add...

    What does the term pornographic mean anyway?

    Im not sure i know...

    For example if you put a picture of sexual activity between consenting adults in a blog post would that be considered
    'pornographic'? And if so why...

    Not sayin i know the answers...just curious...;)

  21. Libhom: Well, you did get one, right? ;-)

    It's interesting that you said that and I suppose it could make sense for some people. But I'm straight and I enjoy many nudes in painting, sculpture and photography, I'm more drawn to the female figure - I think it has to do with the aesthetics of the female body rather than anything sexual.

    And being a teacher of little kids, I agree with you to some extent about kids not being pristine. In communities like the one where I work, I think this is less true. I also believe that young children should not be exposed to porn because they don't understand it. A sixth grader, maybe can handle it. A kindergartener should not have to. But if one chooses to distinguish what I post from pornography, then that's where I get a little stuck. Only an intelligent, progressive, well-educated parent is going to answer a question from a child such as: "Why is naked for the picture" well. Having had many experiences with many parents and teachers over the years, I can assure you that a lot of parents would not know how to respond. What would you say? And even I, as a teacher, would have to think carefully about how to talk to a child who maybe saw a nude in an art book and asked about it. The younger children don't really understand why nudity can be art. And I find myself admitting that when I start thinking along these lines, I then come back to drawing board again.

  22. Sherry: I hear you. I once wrote on an old online profile that one of my favorite poets was e.e. cummings. You can imagine. (rolling eyes skyward)

    Lib: I don't really see a lot of nudes are sexual. Most, to me, are not. Some like those of Beaugereau are so angelic and innocent. But that's just me.

    Sylvia: I completely agree. We had one family computer when the girls were growing up and it was in a corner of the kitchen. And as someone else mentioned there are all sorts of controls that parents can set up so their kids don't find stuff that is not suitable for them. I sure hope it works! :O

    Steve: I agree with you about the first photo being "borderline" and that's exactly why I posted it. I does nothing for me either way. :D

    And while I agree with you and Dianne (and others) about not keeping kids in the dark, as I said in a previous comment, I don't think that very young children are really ready to encounter a photograph like that particular one. Yet, if they do, it's not really the picture itself but how adults react to the questions that may affect them. "Nevermind" certainly keeps them in the dark. But I once heard a cousin of mine tell his daughter that the reason the lady on the beach (this was in Portugal, where toplessness is not against the law) didn't have a bikini top was because she could afford the bottom! :D It was clever and cute but she at age 7, she didn't buy it! Or if an adult gets too much into the aesthetics of nudes, it's lost on the kids.

    I can think of all sorts of things I could say to explain nudes of every variety but I'm comfortable both with nudity and with art. And so are you guys.

    Maithri. yes, it is a celebration. Though there is some art that involves nudes that is very twisted and odd and creepy, even. Maybe that is the type of art that turns Liberality off. I tend to see value in a lot of different types of artistic expression, even if I'm offended by it myself. Sometimes in art being offended is the point. If you're not, then you're not human. Follow me?

    And your question about pornography. I purposely didn't look up the definition. To me, off the top of my head, it is printed material that is meant to appeal to consumers for the sole purpose of sexual arousal.

    I am not personally offended by pornography. I think it serves its purpose in a free society. But in the U.S. it appears to be a much bigger deal than in Europe, for example. This is where we have both a fascination for and an aversion to, porn and prostitution. I believe it is this aversion and sexual repression that makes both porn and prostitution enslaving for women. For example, if prostitution were legal, the women who work at it would get a lot more protection and would be in charge of their work rather than having the work be in charge of them. I'm not sure exactly how this theory may apply to pornography. At least not that I can put into words but I have a gut feeling that if society was freer about sex, we would need it less. I hope I'm making sense.

    Thank you all so much for contributing to this thread. I have decided not to flag this or any other blog I may create in the future. And if someone objects, I'll have to take it from there.

    Be well, love hard and think a lot! :)

  23. Wait. In my definition of pornography I failed to include films and does live stuff count?

  24. art is art- i wouldn't flag. it is up to a parent to explain things and if a kid is surfing the net and finds your blog 1) good for them! and 2) parents should be monitoring internet use. you can't- and shouldn't- try and appeal to everyone. folks either get it or they don't.

    as a lay person, the differences i see in nudes and porn generally tend to be sex. the nudes are naked but it usually has more to do with celebrating the beauty that is the human body- in all shapes and sizes. porn is titillating and sexual.

    if people are offended or whatnot- perhaps they should keep on moving. i understand about sensitivity to folks who may experience flashbacks due to the nudes- but they are always very clearly marked and they generally happen one day a week. life is about taking chances. for heaven's sake don't flag!

  25. Susan: somehow I missed responding to your comment. Thank you for your encouragement. It means so much to me.

  26. Bet: I agree with you on the definition of porn and art. I offered my own definition in one of the above comments.

    As always, thanks for coming by.

  27. Gina, of the two "example" photos you posted, I see the second as being beautifully conceived and executed, and very powerful. This is indeed High Art, in my book.

    The first one, however, seems to lack an idea, a point. It's just a picture of half a naked lady, lacking emotion or context, and to my untrained eye, it looks poorly composed. This puts it in the gray area where some might consider it at best gratuitous, though I see nothing arousing about it and wouldn't call it "pornography."

    As for flagging posts, your clear and straight-forward title says plenty about the content.

    Just MHO.

    Oh, and p.s., what a great group of readers you have! :)

  28. CR: I'm always so glad to get your comments. Yes, I do have a great group of bloggy friends, don't I? I feel very lucky.

  29. For me the litmus test is whether or not it evokes feelings of voyeurism. If I feel uncomfortable because of the nudity or if it depicts eroticism or if I think the figure is attractive then it isn't pornographic. If I feel that I'm looking at something that I shouldn't, then I trust my senses to tell me it's pornography.

    Wikipedia lists this definition of pornography:
    The word derives from the Greek πορνογραφία (pornographia), which derives from the Greek words πόρνη (pornē, "prostitute"), γράφω (graphō, "I write or record"), and the suffix -ία (-ia, meaning "state of," "property of," or "place of"), thus meaning "a written list or description of prostitutes."

  30. I followed a link from another blog and ended up here. I've been sitting here looking at the beautiful artwork you've posted with my 11 yr dd, so obviously I'm not offended by any of it. I have seen pictures that I would term pornographic although I couldn't list the criteria I used to arrive at that judgment. I think it's very subjective, and the best I can come up with is pornography damages or degrades the inner spirit of the person. Not much help. I believe it's the parents' job to moderate what their children. I'm much more apt to turn off the monitor if there's a site spewing hate than if it's a nude. In any even, I will be back to view your love and interesting blog.

  31. i am an aquarian and a free spirit, and i believe that 'whatever floats your boat' is fine and 'different strokes for different folks'. so anything and everything is fine by me, as long as no one knocks on my door and shoves it into my face...i choose what i want to see, do and believe and that is how it should be for us all. i adore the human form in art and none of it appals me, but we do need to be careful with little kids, as we do not know how they have been influenced by their parents.and also i think that 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen' other words, no one should be using the internet if they don't think they may see something offensive. blogging is done for oneself, and so if we look at other people's stuff, we must be prepared to see anything and everything.

  32. Agreed, Soulbrush. Thanks for sharing your opinions so freely here. ((hug))

  33. Well I got to this party a little late I guess, but for what it's worth (because I just can't resist the opportunity) I'll toss my hat in the ring too. Obviously you've decided not to flag, which I think was the correct decision. First of all because there isn't anything on display here that you wouldn't find at MoMA or for that matter just about any other art museum. Second because -- as several have already pointed out -- shrouding something in secrecy makes it out to be something it isn't.

    For a while last summer and fall I played the Half-Nekkid Thursday meme which was most certainly geared toward the erotic shade of nudity (and much more than a "shade" for some participants) but I never flagged then, nor have I since then even though the posts are still in place (and searchable). These were photos that went -- in most cases -- well beyond "half"-nekkid, but in no case was there anything that you couldn't see on network TV (at least after 9 PM).

    On the other hand, during the "flashback" episodes of my 55 Flash Fiction serial I placed a big honkin' warning label across the top of the posts that dealt with abuse, rape and assault because those are things that most certainly are best left to adults to read. But I still didn't flag my entire blog as "adult content". I warned the readers that what was coming was not suitable for all audiences and trusted them to their own discretion. And all of the comments were favorable. some readers said they found the story disturbing, but that was exactly the point. It's supposed to be disturbing. I would be more concerned if you weren't disturbed by it!

    You've done the same thing here after a fashion. You've given the reader enough warning to make an informed decision to proceed or not. Both in the post and in your introduction to the blog. If they elect to continue, they accept an element of assumed risk. It's not as if you lured them in with Dora the Explorer and then as soon as the door was closed turned it into The Pagan Dominatrix.

    And now I'm rambling too. I see you met Kay... I didn't know if you two knew each other or not, but I'm glad you've met. You would have lots to talk about.

    Oh. Did I say, "don't flag"? I mean I know I hit all around it, but did I actually say it? (I'm really tired and should know better than to comment on such a deep issue in this condition but...). Well if I forgot, then I'll say it now.

    Don't flag. There's nothing here to warrant that.


Thank you for taking the time to say you've been here.

I am sorry to say that I don't publish anonymous comments unless I know you through your initials, first name or blog name. I don't publish comments that have ANY kind of commercial or 'for sale' links.

You are Invited to Scroll Down! :-)

Please feel free to scroll down and look at the followers list, badges, photos and tons and tons of great links!

Search This Blog

In Memory of Bobbie

In Memory of Bobbie
Almost There

ARTLEX Art Dictionary

Kick Homophobia in The Butt: Add Your Name to the List of Supporters

Kick Homophobia in The Butt:  Add Your Name to the List of Supporters
click photo

Northampton Prop 8 Protest

Northampton Prop 8 Protest

It's Only Love

It's Only Love
See More Elopment Pictures here

Million Doors for Peace

Lines and Colors

Lines and Colors
A New Art Resource I Just Discovered!

Emily Dickinson - The Belle of Amherst

Emily Dickinson - The Belle of Amherst
"When the Amherst sphinx styled herself a pagan, she meant she didn’t believe in the biblical God. What sort of deity, if any, she did believe in is hard to pinpoint."
-- Gary Sloan, "Emily Dickinson: Pagan Sphinx,"

National Protest Against Prop 8

National Protest Against Prop 8

My Daughters

My Daughters

Code Pink

"The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
~Martin Luther King Jr.
Love and compassion is the Universal religion. That is my religion.
~ The Dalai Lama

Blog Archive

Fair Use

I believe that the images and writing posted here fall under the "fair use" section of the U.S. copyright law, as they are intended for educational purposes and are not in a medium that is of commercial nature.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin