Study: Politics8Art

Brief Description: Robert Mapplethorpe is at once revered and hated for his art, lifestyle, and as a unique example of the culture wars and the subsequent transition in American culture, commerce, and the politics of Art.


Study: At the basic level, Robert Mapplethorpe’s public exhibition “The Perfect Moment” was greeted with harsh criticism and widespread condemnation among conservatives culminating in obscenity lawsuits.  As you view the following pictures please note the legal definition of ‘obscenity’ below:


1. Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards”, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,

2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,

3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

(Miller v. California Test, 1973)


— please view 14 images and decide whether you think they are obscene.  Each image will be ranked on a 5 point scale: 1 means the image is not obscene at all and a 5 means it is absolutely obscene.  Your responses are anonymous and will be used to rank the images on an obscenity scale and inform how we might consider what courts should censor and prohibit in American culture.

Click here to view and rank possibly obscene images



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