Monday, February 22, 2010

James Ramsey's U of L refuses to budge on explicit photos of young girls

University of Louisville president James Ramsey's chief lieutenant, Provost Shirley Willinganz, tells the Chronicle of Higher Education that U of L refuses to take down an exhibit that includes explicit photographs of young girls because the First Amendment protects their right, you know, to exploit children and all:

Today at the University of Louisville, an unusual art exhibit called The Century Project will open as part of a week of activities designed to promote healthy body image.

Because the project features photographs of nude women and girls, the university is facing pressure to call off or adjust the exhibit, as the University of North Carolina at Wilmington did last year, when it removed the images of girls as a condition of allowing the program to proceed. But Louisville has declined to demand changes and is standing behind the exhibit, saying that its message has been distorted by critics and that principles of free speech and academic freedom are at stake.

Shirley Willihnganz, provost at Louisville, said in an interview that she has been approached by people in the local community and by state legislators angry about the exhibit. And she said that while she is happy to explain the context of the exhibit, she is not willing to cancel it or to order its modification ...

Read the rest of the sorry saga here.


Thomas M. Cothran said...

While I don't think this exhibit is a good idea, according to the news reports there's nothing pornographic or sexually explicit about the photographs. It's precisely the sexualization of the body that the exhibit is supposed to combat. The implication that because nudity is involved it's somehow sexual ignores the most of the history of Western art. There's no evidence that the exhibit aims at prurient interests, and the news reports point in quite the opposite direction.

I'd agree with the practical argument that this isn't a good idea because there are creeps out there, but I would be very careful to go much further -- the claim that the University of Louisville is displaying child pornography borders on slander.

Martin Cothran said...

If it's slander, they can sue me.

You seem to think that laws regarding what kinds of photographs of children can be shown have only to do with their effects on the people who view them.

The laws are there primarily to protect the children in the photographs who are legally incapable of consenting to them, and who stand a good chance of realizing later on that they have been exploited for the benefit of the adults who used them for their own purposes, be they pornographic or political.

You really ought to think about them.

Thomas M. Cothran said...

Child pornography requires sexually explicit conduct (18 USC 2256), or as it is phrased in Kentucky law, a sexual performance. None of the news articles you linked to suggested anything like that. Do you have some reason for alleging that the photographs portray sexually explicit conduct? Because if not, you are saying that U of L is showing minors performing sexual acts when they are in fact not. If that is not slander, I don't know what is -- that's an extraordinary claim. The defense to slander is proving you were telling the truth. If there was some news report that supports your claim, let's have it.

I don't approve of the exhibit (mostly for the issues of consent), but saying that it's child pornography without some proof is a lot like confusing excessive police force with mass genocide.