“Sex, a great and mysterious motive force in human life, has indisputably been a subject of absorbing interest to mankind through the ages.” Supreme Court Justice William Brennan
NCAC was launched in the wake of a 1973 landmark obscenity case, Miller v. California, and to this day censorship of legal sexual content remains a major issue.
Sexual content is challenged in literature like Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Even non-revealing images of a cowboy taking his yearly bath was enough to provoke removal of Amy Timberlake’s whimsical children’s book, The Dirty Cowboy. One parent said that, reading the book, children might think that if nudity is OK, “pornography is OK.”
Abstinence-only Sex Education
These publicly-funded programs restrict students’ access to information about contraception, sexually-transmitted infections, abortion, and other issues that are deemed to conflict with the message that sex outside of marriage is wrong and dangerous. More than 45 organizations have joined NCAC to send the message that government may not control what individuals read, see, hear, think, and say – about sex or anything else.
Whether it’s a book about 2 male penguins raising a penguin chick, or a page in an illustrated book saying simply “some families have two moms or two dads,” almost any content even remotely raising questions about sexual orientation is vulnerable to attack.
Nudes on display
Sexually suggestive, sexually harassing, or none of the above? Nudity in art is a constant target of attack. Sometimes the concern is that a nude is sexually suggestive, that children might see it, or that it constitutes sexual harassment. NCAC is frequently called on to explain to local officials that the display of a nude, in itself, does not constitute sexual harassment, obscenity, or harm to minors.
Internet filters. Internet filters in schools and libraries often screen out sexual content as a matter of course. Some schools and libraries go further, and selectively block websites that discuss LGBT issues.
Facebook notoriously censors all photographic representations of nudity, and other Internet platforms censor it selectively. NCAC encourages policies that at least to exempt artistic content from any ban on nudity.
New technology brings new challenges, and opportunities for bad law and policy. Some young people have even been threatened with prosecution under child pornography laws for sending or receiving nude or semi-nude pictures.