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September 23, 2010
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Porn in My deviantART?

Journal Entry: Thu Sep 23, 2010, 10:19 AM


Obscenity and Art

deviantART does not allow the submission of pornographic content, however portions of the community have traditionally had a tendency to be confused on the exact definition and what is or is not allowed and why, leading many to continue to report things which fit their own personal viewpoints; today I will again attempt to clarify things.


It’s All in the Details

It was about a year ago that I posted a news article which attempted to clarify why and how official policy and community viewpoint can differ so greatly in regards to what can be considered to be obscene or pornographic and I even spoke about it a bit in my journal.

Much of what was written in that previous article holds true today so I will only briefly outline the basics of what was written there in this article and I would urge any who haven’t yet read it to do so.

Recently there has been a lot of dissatisfaction being voiced concerning types of content which is allowed in the deviantART galleries and almost an equal amount of misinformation and other incorrect assumptions about what is allowed and what gets removed.

Much of the discontent in this area stems from the differences between official definitions and policy and the individual viewpoints held by members of the community.

In the past we, the staff, have tried to address these differences by amending the FAQ with clearer language, posting journals and news articles trying to explain this nuance or that definition but regardless of those efforts there continue to be misinterpretations and misunderstandings so in this particular news article instead of trying to explain the various policies and procedures I’ll attempt to explain the reasoning and viewpoint which exists behind those policies and procedures.


Provoking a Response

In the 1971 case of Cohen v. California, United states Supreme Court Justice Marshall Harlan II summarized exactly how subjective “artistic merit” can be when he stated, “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric” and that statement remains true to this day.

Art is intended to be evocative, and given that works of art so often succeed in evoking such diverse and passionate responses it is not surprising at all that artistic expression is often the target of so many censorship efforts. Post-modern art, for example, derives its value from defying past standards and expanding the traditional boundaries of art, often by deliberately attempting to shock and offend the audience.

Even here at deviantART, a community founded on the concept of being a gathering place for all sorts of creative persons and artistic visions, there is a certain level of censorship. deviantART does restrict the submission of certain types of content – some for critical legal reasons and some for what could be called completely arbitrary reasons which we have made because of our concerns about the health and direction of the community.

Because the concept of being a community which is intended to welcome all sorts of creative endeavors while at the same time denying access to certain content and themes are so at odds with each other we make every attempt to keep our restrictions to the barest minimum. If it appears at times that we appear to make exceptions for certain types of works it is because we are trying to find more reasons to keep a work than to remove a work; a fact which results in probably too many of you in the community assuming in error that our staff is poorly trained, biased, or lazy.

We make every attempt to allow works which are evocative and this sometimes means that a work will be erotic and sexual enough, or political enough, or religious enough, to offend someone with more delicate sensibilities. This is the main reason our mature content tagging system exists and why we’ve made improvements to it over the years to help artists warn their audience that a certain work might be offensive to them.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The type of content which generates the most concern and the most complaints tends to be photographic nude works which are considered inartistic by the people doing the complaining, some even going as far as to quote the three standards for determining obscenity set by the United States Supreme Court in 1973, one of which states that an obscene work “taken as whole, lacks serious literary, political, or scientific value” as justification for asking for the removal of the deviations they find offensive.

Unfortunately the determination of “serious literary, political, or scientific value” is not as clear cut and easy as one could assume. As I’ve stated elsewhere, “artistic value” and “obscenity” varies greatly depending on your cultural and family upbringing as well as your personal viewpoints. The question of whose standards to use is difficult at best which is why official policy on the matter is written to address quantitative facts about a work rather than the qualities of the work.

There was a case which demonstrates exactly how hazy the term “value” can be when applied to art which I’d like to relate to the readers here for greater clarity.

In 1969, United States Customs agents in Baltimore Maryland seized ten paintings and drawings which had been shipped in from Europe for an exhibition in the United States. The works were a portion of a larger collection of erotic artworks which had been previously shown and displayed in museums in Scandinavia. Among the ten works seized were works by Hans Bellmer, George Grosz, Karel Appel, Melle, Cesare Peverelli, and five other works by artists whose identities were unknown.

The Customs agents seized the works under the authority of a federal law which prohibited the importation of obscene materials The ten works seized included themes which were explicit in their showing of male and female sex organs, sometimes in conjunction or approaching conjunction and the agents judged that the various themes were sexual and obscene enough to stop their entry into the United States.

The issue involving these works eventually received a legal ruling, and although the case was decided before Miller v. California (the ruling which determined the obscenity standards still used today) the court applied a similar three-part standard to determine whether or not the works were to be ruled as obscene. Despite the clearly sexual content of the works, both the trial court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the works all had artistic value and therefore did not meet the third legal criterion of obscenity.

Now I mention this particular case not because we use it to justify keeping certain works but because it demonstrates how individual judgments concerning “values” can reach completely different conclusions and it is because of  these differences in personal judgment that deviantART policies rely more upon empirical observations about a work rather than personal opinions concerning artistic value and intent – by relying more upon the former we are able to ensure greater consistency in the actions taken, or not taken, by our staff.

While members of our community are certainly free to call something obscene because, “I know it when I see it” (Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, 1964), our staff tries to avoid involving such personal and ultimately subjective observations in our policy decisions, even though they may completely agree with you on a personal level.

When you think about it in a broader sense when we talk about “artistic value” we must also consider that not all artistic works are intended to be aesthetic or even fully interpretable which in turn can spark an entirely different conversation about exactly what “art” is supposed to be in the first place – who gets to make that decision?


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:iconshanetherarechoa:
shanetherarechoa Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2014  Student General Artist
Reailty, I have a question on this what if someone has literature porn? 

Like made in a journal or something is it able to be posted to inquiry depending on content of it or no? 
Reply
:iconfrodoprime:
FrodoPrime Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
As long as the work is correctly labeled, except for child porn, there should be no restrictions; especially when it is improperly & discriminatingly applied - as there is so much more allowed pornographic female nudity allowed than male. Heaven forbid that an erection or mildly engorged penis is allowed but a spread eagle female shot is sanctioned
Reply
:iconiceofwolf:
iceofwolf Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Great write-up (and I hope it's still accurate). It gave me hope for some of my more... explicit... literary work, which I still think has more artistic merit than pornographic. ;) I'd like to know if there's somewhere I could submit my work for approval prior to posting it so I can avoid being banned or leaving gaps in the narrative; there are about 20 or so chapters I've written and posted to another site I'd like to also share here.

I admit I haven't reviewed all the FAQs this site has to offer since actually becoming active (and not just an account-holder), but could someone point me in the right direction?
Reply
:iconheliotypos:
Heliotypos Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2010
I'm very very glad that DA is so open minded, it's a bright exception on the general trends of conservatism internationally, and mainly in the US. I wish you every success guys, you deserve it. Much more than that, you are HOPE.

The conversation about art is endeless. But, those puritan hypocrits, who are so much "harassed" by nudity, WHY ado they keep looking at nudes, artistic or not? Pathetic guys....
Reply
:icongashu-monsata:
Gashu-Monsata Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
I judge art like this on wheter it was made with a reason. For example, if you ask the artist, "Why did you take this image of boobs and upload it onto deviantART", and they answer something like "It was inspired by events... it is to raise awareness of... it's to appreciate the...", then that is "art". Obviously, the reasoning has to be genuine, haah XD

If they give a response such as "I don't know... I like boobs...they're sexy...", then that, in my eye, is pornographic, whether it be very mild, or very wild (teehee). It's all in the artists' intentions to me, I may be wrong, but that's how I see it :)
Reply
:iconrealitysquared:
realitysquared Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
On a personal level I'd agree with you completely, but on a policy level we do need to cut out those subjective opinions.
Reply
:iconglimpses2020:
glimpses2020 Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2010
Thank you realitysquared for showing violationsreporter the door out. This character had no redeeming value here on dA.

You sounded very sincere in your last two journals regarding Mature Content and from what I am seeing (vs. what I am not seeing...I don't see what gets banned) you and your staff are being considerate of our perceptions.
Reply
:icon32ko:
32ko Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2010
I think the real challenge is for the artist to make Artistic nudes worth their epithet, i.e. poetic (in the sense of creative) and singular (not industrial/commercial, repetitive, or technically sleek and dull).

It is more a matter of attitude, nuance and sensibility than simply one of content. Be it pornographic or artistic nudes as herein defined, there is always a risk of drifting towards sensationalism or emotional/carnal voyeurism, which mere empirical or graphic lines fail to control.
Reply
:iconmister-denial:
Mister-Denial Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2010  Hobbyist Photographer
I wish the dA staff good luck with an impossible task, making the artistic nude section of this website interesting again. I have been on dA for almost 7 years (old account) and have always been opposed to censorship as it has taken down many great artworks and artists. There was some really good work getting banned for being too explicit.

And I don't mind explicit.

When done tastefully.

But these days I hardly browse the artistic nudes anymore, because it has turned into an exhibitionist-o-rama of people who think iPhone shots of their body orifices has any artistic merit. I mean, one visit to the nude section, and I get to see more anuses and vaginas than all gynecologists and proctologists from my city. Probably my entire country. And let's not mention the army of shriveled wieners that make me believe I work in a lousy sausage factory.

It's out of control.

I am not upset by amateurs who might not deliver great images but try to, and eventually will improve with the help of the community. I am upset by those who abuse this platform in an effort to harvest comments "great ass / tits / cock I want to fuck / screw / ram unitl it bleeds / squirts cums" or whatever else these brilliant minds come up with.

There is so much free porn on the web. Why can't the exhibitionists go to one of the amateur galleries and show their hairy or razor-bumped genitalias there? And take the wankers with them to get their kicks.

Then the rest of us could actually return to enjoying art.
Reply
:iconpxx---4:
pxx---4 Featured By Owner May 16, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
exactly! unfortunately DA doesn't seem to be able to address this problem.
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