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Censorship is always a bad thing when it is left up to Governments, Corporations and Religions. It is not their place to set the "moral" boundaries of individuals. Simply put every adult has the ability to follow, view, hear, think or read and make their own decisions about morality and decency. And in turn these very adults should monitor and set appropriate boundaries on their own kids.

Censoring Art is just not acceptable.
Mike Searle originally shared:
Is Nudity Bad?

+Guy Gonzalez asked me if I was aware that Google has a policy not to allow nudity and sexually explicit material on Google Plus. I was not, but I'm not the least bit surprised. As far as my response, here's the TL;DR version:

I don't feel that I should need to limit my own creativity or my exposure for the sake of "common decency" (whatever that means). I think it is the duty of responsible adults to choose what they and those in their care are allowed to view. (I'd love to hear what my fellow artists thoughts are on this as well. Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments of this post.)

Guy's question was in a comment thread on a post by +Baldur Bjarnason. Baldur pointed out the following portion of Google's User Content and Conduct Policy:

Do not distribute content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts or sexually explicit material. Do not drive traffic to commercial pornography sites.
You can find the original thread here:

Baldur's concern is whether it was worth risking having your access revoked for the the sake of posting content which is culturally acceptable to you. This is an interesting dilemma which Baldur has. It's one that really touches on the cultural differences that are sometimes clashing here on G+.

Since I have some more extended thoughts on the issue, rather than just respond to the question by Guy, I thought I would reshare the post publicly with my thoughts, and see what my fellow artists opinions are.

In response to Guy's question, while I'm not surprised to see the referenced statement as part of the rules, I wasn't personally aware of that clause specifically. However, my (or other artists) awareness isn't the issue so much as our compliance is the issue (i.e. Google doesn't care whether I'm aware or not. They put the rules out there, and the onus is on me to ensure that I follow them.)

But that's where we get to the sticky part of it. The real underlying issue isn't whether or not something contains content which is in violation. The issue is who decides what content is in violation? Who decides whether something contains nudity, or sexually explicit material?

On the surface, it seems easy to say whether content contains nudity. In the culture we have in the west (which is the culture on which Google is basing most of its rules) nudity is generally considered to be any image that reveals buttocks, nipples (on a woman), or genitalia. But it's not actually so cut and dry. It might be obvious to say that a photograph that reveals a woman's nipples contains nudity, but what if the medium is something entirely different? What if it is a drawing (as is the case with the majority of my work)? What if it is a photograph of a sculpture, or a woodcutting (such as the works of +James Day)? If the artwork is an abstract paper collage that could be interpreted to contain a nipple, is it breaking the rules?

Taking it further, who decides whether something is a graphic sex act? What constitutes something graphic in the first place? If I draw a picture of a couple in what could be perceived as a post coital embrace, is it graphic? Artist +Reuben Negron creates pieces of beautiful art, some of which depict a man and woman in what might be the act of lovemaking. Is it a graphic sexual act? Is it even a sex act at all?

Then of course, you also have the cultural differences that Baldur brought up. While in the west a poster of a painting of a nude man on the wall of your cubicle would be considered NSFW, in Iceland that might not be unseemly in the least. While in other parts of the world such as certain areas of the middle east, it is cultural taboo for a woman to be seen without a hijab. Is it then nudity if a photograph depicts a woman without a khimār?

Additionally, there is the issue of who is most accountable for the piece. Is it solely the responsibility of the artist, or can a model be reprimanded for posting an image by an artist for which they modeled? Author and model +Luky Sherman has posted images in which she could be considered to be "nude", but she is not the artist. Should she be considered to be "breaking the rules"? My fellow artist +Samantha Villenave does many renderings for which she hires professional models to sit. Are those models at all accountable if Samantha posts her work on Google Plus?
This is all a difficult quandary to address, and frankly, one that society as a whole has been at issue with since the first man or woman dipped a reed in colored pigment and scrawled a crude painting on the wall of their cave.

My stance as an artist is that I will choose what pieces to post on a case by case basis, and may not post a given image if I think that the imagery contained therein is "explicit" (which is infrequent given my usual work). Whatever content I post that I think might be considered NSFW by the standards of my own culture I will label as such. At that point I feel that the accountability then passes from myself as the artist to the viewer, who will have to make their own choice of whether to view my work or not.

In closing, let me state that I believe that we each came into this world as a perfect creation, with the eyes of our maker our only judge. We were naked and unashamed. If you want to view this from the standpoint of religion, just after the story of creation in the bible, Genesis 2:25 states "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (King James Version)

Before you make your decision, keep in mind that if artists were to limit themselves to only creating art which did not contain nudity or anything sexually explicit we would never have had The Birth of Venus (Sandro Botticelli). We would never have gazed in wonder at the beauty of The Statue of Venus de Milo (Alexandros of Antioch), or the wall paintings of Pompeii.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Michelangelo) would have looked much different if Adam had been limited to a suit and tie.

So I ask you, friends and followers, how much sexuality is too much?

Fellow artists, do you feel the need to censure your work?
Kelli Halliburton's profile photoBryn Mosher's profile photoNikki Shannon's profile photoMike Searle's profile photo
The problem, of course, is in determining "what is art" and in determining who gets to make that determination.
I agree that there are limits and a lot of gray area here. I remember the heated discussions we had about this very topic in Art School. It got ugly sometimes. One person's idea of art is not the same as another persons. Art like life itself is relative to the individual though groups may share similar views. Everyone perceives the world around them in a slightly different way. So my collage of the Mona Lisa made from condom wrappers will be seen as art to me and others. But to many it will simply be trash. And we all know one man's trash is another man's treasure.
(opinionated artist talking): Fear of nudity is fear of the reality of the self.
Didn't realize I hadn't (new social networking paradigms still taking hold). Posted to original. :)