Art vs. Obscenity? The Miller Test says your Community Decides

Saturday December 8, 2012- A provocative fashion magazine cover is found on the newsstand at a Leesburg, Florida Wal-Mart (Photo: Michelle Turner).


Art and fashion are known for consistently pushing the boundaries of obscenity but are these boundaries drawn by an individual’s moral standards, such as those of former model Lydia Diaz, or by legal guidelines? Whether it’s provocative magazine or album covers, naked models walking the runway during London Fashion week wearing nothing but designer hats, the infamous wardrobe malfunction involving Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake at the 2004 Super Bowl, or the constant weight debate with models in the fashion industry, the question of artistic versus provocative is multi-faceted.

 One Model’s Story

Tiffany “Lydia” Diaz is a former New York model turned Children’s Writer and Christian blogger who struggled with many things in the fashion industry that she deemed objective. Diaz explains, “Fashion will always push the boundaries, it always has. So it’s up to us as consumers to guide the course, the more we pay for obscenity the more we’re going to get it!”

The “It” Girl

Saturday, December 8, 2012: A 50-Cent c.d. at the Leesburg, Florida FYE Record Store (Photo: Michelle Turner).

Diaz shared the moment when she reached her own boundary in the industry: “The final straw for my career was one day in NYC, things were slow and my agent called me [with a job offer]. She told me that rapper 50 Cent wanted me to be the ‘it girl’ in his upcoming rap video. I told her no. She responded, ‘What? Don’t you like making money?’ To which I replied, ‘I guess not!’ Two days later I gave the agency my resignation. I didn’t see the point of trading my self-worth for just a few dollars.”

However, Diaz did comment, “Art versus obscenity is in the eye of the beholder. Truly, a conservative viewer could look at a bare shoulder as risqué, while a more worldly eye would view soft-core porn as tame.”

The Miller Test: The Legality of Obscenity

Diaz’s comments echo the content of the Miller Three Prong Obscenity Test, which was an element of the Supreme Court decision regarding the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

The 3-Prong Miller Test includes the following considerations:

Sunday December 9, 2012- An unknown model poses in lingerie for a billboard at the Leesburg, Florida Target Store (Photo: Michelle Turner).

(a) Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,

(b) Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and

(c) Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. If a state obscenity law is thus limited, First Amendment values are adequately protected by ultimate independent appellate review of constitutional claims when necessary.

 Your Community Decides

As outlined by both the Miller Test and Diaz, the community standards around you are at the center of what is deemed obscene or artistic. Additionally, as outlined in the Miller Law, state laws can define what is obscene or artistic.

For Florida State Statutes on Obscenity, visit Onecle.



Tiffany “Lydia” Diaz can be reached via email at








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