One of the major flaws I find with the obscenity doctrine is its “serious” value requirement, or requirement of a lack thereof. Serious scientific and political value are fairly objective standards, but “serious artistic” or “serious literary” value seem to be problematic, to the point where the term becomes conflicting and oxymoronic.
Artistic value, as we’ve come to define the phrase, in addition to the word “art” have become so vague and subjective that it’s almost completely arbitrary, and that’s a good thing. Whether or not it has that appeal is completely up to the person viewing or making the material. Art is expressive, art is both material and immaterial. To attempt to define it objectively is an exercise in futility.
That being said, there is no rule which states pornography, for its own sake, isn’t or cannot be a form of art. There are plenty of biased, prudish arguments which claim that it isn’t or can’t be, but these arguments all make the mistake of attempting to objectively quantify or define “art” with the deliberate goal of carving out an arbitrary exception to the rule, for the sake of satisfying an arbitrary distaste for the subject matter.
Pornography, by its very definition, IS a form of art. It may be raunchy and crude, it may even be crass, low-effort low-grade gutter trash or something horrid and decrepit. But the mere fact that it’s an audiovisual or text-based work designed to communicate, excite, human sexual desire precludes it from being discounted as a form of art.
“Serious” artistic value is a vague and problematic invention, but one we have to tackle for the sake of argument. Am I to assume that the visual aesthetic of an Andy Warhol painting constitutes “serious” value, as opposed to an erotic Japanese comic book or cartoon simply because somebody else said so? Such a heavy-handed application of a one-sided concept only demeans and undermines the very concept of art and artistic value.
In any case, pornography on its own does meet the requirements for “serious” value on the fact that it is a deliberate and eloquent form of expression. Whether it appeals to a restricted, narrow interest in sex or sexual activity for the sake of gratification or excitement does not preclude it from having that serious value, rather, it is because of that it acquires it.
As far as paraphrasing goes, I think it’s safe to say that nothing good has come from the obscenity doctrine. The way it tries to supplant facts and truths with mere opinions and conjecture, turning our First Amendment into a game of semantics, only further necessitates the need for more dialogs on the issue. What’s already been said can just as easily be said again or expanded upon, and the fallacious idea that pornography lacks artistic value is a fine example.