I’ve been ruminating on some things I read in Neil Gaiman’s blog yesterday, about the CBLDF and freedom of speech. It started with his mention, previously, of a fellow who is up on child pornography charges because of a few questionable manga (a small segment of his large and diverse collection) and the CBLDF’s involvement in his defense. A reader wrote to him, somewhat on the fence because of the nature of some of the pictures. I’m not sure whether they are considered child pornography because of the Japanese taboo against depicting body hair, the general manga style being more effeminate (and so making the males look younger) or whether the images in question are definitely what they call “shota” or “lolicon” which is actually intended to be depictions of children in sexual acts. (I have no real issues with sexually explicit manga in general, but the fact that latter EXIST makes me feel queasy and angry — generally gooses the Mother Bear inside and makes me want to smash things — so I have a certain amount of sympathy for the reader who asked “Why should we defend this?”)

 

Gaiman’s take on it was quite illuminating, in part because of his perspective as a resident alien. Take a look:

 

http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/12/why-defend-freedom-of-icky-speech.html

 

Here are some of my favorite bits:

 

If you accept — and I do — that freedom of speech is important, then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don’t say or like or want said…

~

I loved coming to the US in 1992, mostly because I loved the idea that freedom of speech was paramount. I still do… You can’t be arrested for saying things the government doesn’t like. You can say what you like, write what you like, and know that the remedy to someone saying or writing or showing something that offends you is not to read it, or to speak out against it.

 

He makes lots of great points, with supporting information — you should read it all — but I think this part is key, for me (the bolding is mine):

 

So when Mike Diana was prosecuted — and found guilty — of obscenity for the comics in his Zine “Boiled Angel”, and sentenced to a host of things, including (if memory serves) a three year suspended prison sentence, a three thousand dollar fine, not being allowed to be in the same room as anyone under eighteen, over a thousand hours of community service, and was forbidden to draw anything else obscene, with the local police ordered to make 24 hour unannounced spot checks to make sure Mike wasn’t secretly committing Art in the small hours of the morning… that was the point I decided that I knew what was obscene, and it was prosecuting artists for having ideas and making lines on paper, and that I was going to do everything I could to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Whether I liked or approved of what Mike Diana did was utterly irrelevant.

 

That pretty much did it for me. While the idea that people are drawing pictures of children having sex or women being attacked and demeaned – or woodchucks nostril-raping bald eagles – may offend and disturb me, there certainly is a difference between drawing those things or viewing those drawings and doing the things they depict. Honestly, the world might be a better place if MORE people expressed their socially unacceptable urges on paper instead of on unwilling and/or underage people.

 

He also talks a little bit about the idea that such depictions incite violence. He leaves it “for other people to argue about” but only after linking to this article which points out the correlation between drastic drops in US rape rates and wider access to pornography via the Internet, a bit of information of which I had not previously been aware. (To be perfectly clear – even though I know you are aware of the difference between a correlation and a causal link – just because these things happened at about the same time doesn’t prove that they are linked in any way. That said, it is interesting.)

 

Gaiman gave me something chew on, especially since the anthology to which I contributed an “erotic story of abduction and captivity” goes on sale at the end of this month. *g* While most folks might see a vast ocean of difference between written erotic fantasy involving adults and line drawings of naked children, bear in mind that I live in Georgia. Our neighbors don’t let their kids come over and play anymore, because years ago we let them watch a rented episode of PeeWee’s Playhouse.

 

The conclusion I have arrived at (a personal one only, as I can only assume responsibility for myself) is that we all have the right to unlimited perversions inside the confines of our minds. I believe we have the right to create art to express those thoughts, ideas and urges. I do NOT believe we have the right to force that art upon those who do not wish to see it, by means of, say, gluing racy Mapplethorpe prints to the outside of your car doors.

 

And, naturally, our right to be perverted stops where other people’s bodies begin. Period.

 

As an artist, I’ve done nudes. I’ve posted some of them elsewhere, with warnings and all, because I don’t want to push something on someone who either doesn’t want to see it or might not be legally allowed to see it. Nudes I’ve done range from your basic art school anatomical studies to the somewhat infamous “With Their Boots On” challenge entry. I don’t think even that one could possibly get me arrested  — as long as it’s not on my car door.

 

Still, I think I have to come down on the side of personal freedom and hope for the best, rather than trust the government to decide for me what is obscene.