Breaking the Internet: Are Eckhaus Latta’s NSFW Campaign Ads Too Obscene?

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W Magazine

Eckhaus Latta is steaming up your screen this week with a few NSFW “Not Suitable For Work” Spring 2017 ads shot by Heji Shin.

W Magazine

Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta are no strangers to inventive and even controversial casting. This week they took their defiant branding beyond fashion’s imagination by unveiling their Spring 2017 collection on models being extremely intimate with each other. Their 2017 Campaign ads feature pixelated images of diverse couples wearing the label’s designs while having sex. And we’re not talking the “make love to the camera dahling” variety here. This is sex on camera.

W Magazine

The immediate reaction to the racy campaign has been fiery. On Monday, after uploading the campaign on their site, it crashed.

W Magazine

One can sense the designers’ delight:

“The idea that we made people hungry for an image is fascinating to us,” Latta said.

W reports that the response has led to Eckhaus Latta’s premiering their ads in the pages of magazines for the first time.

“I don’t know if sex sells,” Latta said with a laugh. “But it definitely creates some rubbernecking.”

While the images are pixelated, magazines may struggle with whether the images will be offensive to subscribers. Is it pornography? Even if the images do constitute pornography, can the images be published?

W Magazine

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of speech and expression; allowing us to read and publish whatever we chose. This protection includes pornography.  As long as the images are not considered “obscenity” or depict child pornography, the images are covered.

The models depicted in the Eckhaus Latta are a cast of mostly thirty-somethings—not children. Still, there’s no national rule on what constitutes obscene material. It’s doubtful, however, that this open question could leave a publisher of the images subject to legal sanctions.

In an over thirty-year-old ruling, SCOTUS held that “nudity alone is not enough to make material legally obscene.”  The basic test for obscenity asks:

  • Whether the average person, applying today’s community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient or sexual interest
  • Whether the work shows or describes, in a clearly offensive way, sexual conduct, as defined by the laws of the state where the materials are located
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value

This open-ended test leaves the community to identify what is obscene. It seems that this consumer bait is just “art” that encourages its audience to “think of sex as something really natural and not something fabricated, hyper-sexualized, or taboo,” according to Eckhaus.

So relax people.  It’s just art!

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