I'm pretty sure that there have been many books written on the subject of differing attitudes towards sex in Scandinavia versus the US. The differences are abounding, and striking. Just walk into your local Swedish bathing hall. In the beginning I felt a bit like Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist. 'Here we see the elder Swede preening in the Sauna habitat.'
But one of the things that still manages to strike me are the shocking sexual images they often print in the morning newspapers. I'm not talking about your typical British Page 6 girl, or whatever page they keep the boobies on these days. Whenever a shocking art exhibit comes to town, several of the pictures are published in the paper.
I don't consider myself a prude person. I often go and visit these art exhibits, and even if I don't always enjoy them (I'm not a big fan of art for shock value) I do like to see an exhibit that seems so powerful it pushes people to violence or vengence.
Sometimes, however, I am a bit put off by seeing these images while I am eating my bowl of cornflakes in the morning. Not to mention, I mean, yes I am actually going to say it 'Think of the children.' Should these shocking images be considered so 'normal' that they are placed where children are bound to see them?
I couldn't find the article of a more recent example that triggered these thoughts, but the exhibit of Andres Serrano and his infamous Piss Christ made the rounds of Sweden a few years back. And not only did Piss Christ land on my breakfast table, but a picture of a 70 year old woman kissing a young man's penis did as well. I am not putting this photo up here, but you can follow the link to a similar Swedish morning newspaper, with the NSFW photo, here.
I also spend a lot of time wondering what happens when art considered 'shock art' becomes so innocous that it can end up as a part of the daily newspaper. What does this mean for artists like Serrano?
And just for the record I do have a similar 'sick to my stomach' response to really gory war photos, and dead animal photos as well. But I do think there is a social value to showing true images of war – when you are engaged in war- in the media. The shock art, I'm not so sure of.