Ohio college removes sculpture showing sex act

Ok, this will be tought provoking.

Is it art or is it offensive?

If it’s art, and offensive, should it be censored?

The piece by artist James Parlin, called “The Middle School Science Teacher Makes a Decision He’ll Live to Regret,” had been part of an exhibit at Bowling Green State University’s Firelands campus. The campus’ interim dean removed the sculpture last week. The sculpture depicts a girl and a teacher engaging in a sex act.

The National Coalition Against Censorship, based in New York City, condemned the university’s actions, saying it raised serious free-speech concerns. On its blog, the coalition said removing the sculpture was “an unacceptable violation of the academic freedom to openly discuss ideas and social problems in a public university.”

According to the AP story,

The university issued a statement saying it “strongly supports the right of free speech and artistic expression. However, we also have a responsibility to not expose the children and families we invite to our campus to inappropriate material.”

The coalition said the university could have taken steps short of removing the sculpture, such as posting signs for parents or closing the gallery during children’s productions at the theater next door.



3 responses to “Ohio college removes sculpture showing sex act

  • june sitter

    I have an issue regarding the “save the children” attitude in our nation. I have studied other cultures in regards to their sexual attitudes and they are not as uptight as we are with certain things. Many nude statues adorn well known museums across the world and there have been extensive sexuallly graphic depictions in art found the world over. In Russia and some other countries, people give the weather report in their birthday suits. When I look at other countries who have a more open view on sex and the naked body I have found that these countries have a lower birth rate, a lower teenage pregnancy rate (i.e. Amsterdam’s stats)and in Japan where the female form is most explicitly depicted in manga (comic books) and billboards, as well as stories of young girls having intimate relations (i.e. “Absolute Boyfriend”)the Japanese have the lowest promiscuity rates in the world.
    In Japan, men and women often bath together with their children until the kids are almost 10 years old. Kids get used to seeing the naked body, they have their curiosities answered early and when the naked body is treated as no big deal and is not protrayed as sexual, these children are then not sexualized like they are in our society.
    We should be mature about this situation. We cannot stop our children from growing up and having sex. To see a depiction of sex in an art form would raise certain questions to be sure but if the parents are wise and treat the situation with grace and maturity, they can answer the questions raised without sexualizing their kids. Art is an expression of mind, sometimes body and definately soul. That work was intended to provoke thought. I highly doubt the creator of the piece wanted to sexualize children when he/she made the piece. I believe the creator wanted to provoke thought and encourage those who saw it to form an opinion based upon their own personal ethics. The question posed was: Is it right for teachers and students to be intimately involved? Many people don’t think about such things unless directly confronted with the idea or situation.
    I agree with the coalition that signs could have been posted and the gallery closed when children were going to be there. However, I also believe a change in certain attitudes needs to happen. Sex and its depiction is not an abominible act. It’s natural and can be very beautiful especially when it’s depicted with grace and style.
    By trying to protect the “innocence” of our children like getting rid of a depiction of a sex act on a college campus due to the moral outrage of a few immature people, we are actually encouraging our kids to go out and find out what’s the big deal much sooner and earlier than they should.
    Art may depict real life and reflect the times but it is in itself still just art. It’s not real. It’s not happening in real time. It is just a reflexion of a moment and a thought. It can’t hurt anyone unless they let it. I don’t believe re-thinking certain ideas and being made to think and challenge your point of view is bad. If people don’t face challenges to who they are and what they think, they never evolve or grow. In this case, it appears someone chose to take away something that challenged people to grow up.
    We should look at the history of other nations who have smothered free thinking, freedom of expression and see how that affected the people. In Soviet Russia, the government banned all free speech, freedom of expression, and religious belief. It became illegal to own a bible. People cannot live like that. Another example is ancient Sparta. When Sparta became solely a militarized culture, all the art stopped. They became culturally stagnant and eventually died out.
    When freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom to act, portray or say something that provokes evolution and growth is banned, cultures die.

  • Melissa Collins

    Art is a very subjective matter. History is generally the best judge of art. Time allows people the opportunity to embrace new ideas and artistic endeavors. When Pompeii and Herculaneum were unearthed, the pornographic aspect shocked the archeologists. Today, these carvings are heralded as classic art and held in high esteem. Art is a perfect medium for representing society, whether considered offensive or aesthetically pleasing.
    The statue at the Ohio college is symbolic of current problems plaguing society. The artist made his intent clear with the title. The statue serves to address issues prevalent in modern day America. The image encourages discussion and thought which serves a valuable function.
    Art deserves a forum even if some view it as offensive or obscene. The Supreme Court has grappled with this issue for many years and has had difficulty defining what constitutes offensive. Even their attempts in Miller v. California left many issues unresolved. Justice Potter Stewart said “I shall not today attempt further to define(obscenity)and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so, but I know it when I see it….” Perhaps art should not be defined. I personally do not want another to be my moral compass.
    I understand the desire to shelter the kids from the statue, but a simple covering could have easily served the purpose. This being a public university setting, the removal of this piece smacks of censorship, which is a detriment to our first amendment rights of expression. Benjamin Franklin said it best:”Those who give up essential liberties for some temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This statement is applicable to all aspects of our lives. It is important to constantly push to preserve our liberties and art is one of many forms of expression that must be protected.

  • Beth Itchkawich

    It seems to me that, at some point, good old American common sense should take over. A teacher engaged in a sex act with a child….really? That’s art that needs to be displayed publically? A statue of a naked body is one thing. A statue of an adult molesting a child is another. Nobody wants to trample anyone’s rights; however, better judgment should have been used in this circumstance.

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