Legal cartoons and humorous comment (c) Paul Brennan. All rights reserved.

I decided on 101 reasons as I didn’t want to depress the entire legal profession by having 1,001.
Paul Brennan, Lawyer, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Friday, July 18, 2008

#12 They have an unhealthy interest in obscenity


There are people in our society who do not have a high appreciation of art, such as the ladies who convinced a US museum to cover up the genitals of an exhibition of Greek statutes. In fact, sticking a clay fig leaf on certain statues has been popular for centuries and probably requires a steady hand.

Therefore, when an art exhibition by an internationally renowned artist is raided by police and photographs of pre-pubescent girls in a “sexual context” have been seized, people are either outraged at the photographs or the raid itself.

Obscenity is difficult to prove. The pictures may need to “deprave and corrupt”, which takes some going, especially nowadays as anybody who has watched shows like “The Simpsons” and “Southpark” will know. The Jury may be told that “depravity and corruption” are given their ordinary dictionary meaning, which is not much help. One judge said of obscenity, “I cannot describe it but I know what it is when I see it”.

In the “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” trial, a judge said it was the sort of book that you would not want your servants to read, which explains why those charged with obscenity can be glad that a jury decides.

The divide for most legislation and many of us is that if it can be called “art”, however weird it seems to us, it is probably alright. In this case, the photographs were on sale for $25,000 each so that must be art or at least he has got me fooled.

In obscenity trials the Prosecution produce po-faced Puritans, who are disgusted and the Defence produce “Oscar Wilde” types who say, in art, anything goes. There can be a party atmosphere. But, if there is a guilty verdict, the defendants will probably be sent to prison as in the Oz trial because they have gone too far in the view of a jury.

So what is normal? Well, I thought I had a handle on this until a few weeks ago, when a primary school teacher was suspended from her job for appearing naked in Cleo magazine and speaking candidly about her sex life with her husband. Asked if she ever brought “toys” into the bedroom The Australian reported her reply as “Yes, the usual stuff - dildos, clitoral stimulators, whips and cuffs”. Understandably, now, I am not so sure.

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