Can a Florida sheriff police obscenity on the Internet?

It wasn’t so long ago that the state of Florida was involved in a high-profile obscenity case when a county sheriff arrested members of the rap group 2 Live Crew for performing obscene material and a music retailer was arrested for selling the group’s album to an undercover police officer. The rappers and the retailer were eventually acquitted, and 2 Live Crew used the infamy to sell more albums.

Now history could well be repeating itself. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd arrested porn site owner Chris Wilson, of Lakeland, Fla., on 300 obscenity-related charges on Oct. 7. Wilson’s site, also has offered soldiers free access to pornography in exchange for gory images of dead Iraqis, a practice first reported on blogs, in the Italian media and on OJR. The obscenity charges do not relate to the gory images, and the U.S. military has said that it hasn’t been able to determine if soldiers actually sent in the photos since the images were posted anonymously on the site.

When I first interviewed Wilson for the Sept. 20 OJR article, he was reluctant to tell me what he did for work outside of running the site. “Everyone asks me that, and they always wonder why I don’t want to answer that,” Wilson said. “I live in a very religious community, unfortunately.”

I asked Wilson why the site was hosted in the Netherlands. “Amsterdam is a little more laid back than the U.S. is with sexual content,” he said. “Being based out of Amsterdam … it’s more or less a business move more than anything else. I don’t get harassed as much because of it. I get a little bit of harassment here in the States. It’s to cut down on my nasty e-mails, pretty much.”

The Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger reported that Wilson was a former police officer and had been investigated since March 2003 for operating porn sites in Polk County. At one point, The Ledger found, Wilson was contacted by a police detective and warned about running pornography sites out of Florida.

Wilson did not return my calls and e-mails for this follow-up story, but his attorney, Larry Walters, told The Ledger that the high number of counts against Wilson was inappropriate and was “an additional, pre-conviction punishment.” Wilson’s family struggled for five days to pay $30,100 bail, before he was released from jail on Oct. 12.

But how can one county in Florida prosecute obscenity cases on the Internet, where obscenity might as well have its own domain suffix? Sheriff Judd told me that his jurisdiction applies to any material that begins and/or ends in his county, regardless if the server or site owner is based in another state or country.

“This might be the first [case we’ve dealt with] where the alleged server is out of the country,” Judd said. “But it makes no difference, because if you fed that server or you could receive information off that server in this county, then it gives us jurisdiction. … Technically I could charge someone in Kansas, if I received child pornography here, obtained a warrant and had him extradited from Kansas and tried here.”

Judd told me Wilson previously ran a porn site called, named after his police academy class number, and at one point had applied for a job as deputy sheriff in Polk County — but he wasn’t hired. Judd said the county has prosecuted cases related to Internet obscenity and hasn’t lost any cases in court, though some defendants have made plea bargains.

The anonymous Cyber Crime Law blogger writes that obscenity cases on the Net are rare due to the proliferation of material online — leading to a select few “special” cases such as this one.

According to the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Miller v. California, for content to be ruled obscene, it must meet the following tests: 1) an average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; 2) the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and 3) the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

While it’s difficult to judge the merits of the case without seeing the material that was seized, the Cyber Crime Law blogger argues the case could well have been pursued because of the notoriety of the gory war photos on the site. The blogger also says the site might have enough serious political value not to be legally considered obscene.

Kurt Opsahl, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said his group hasn’t been contacted by Wilson, but would assist him if he asked for help. The EFF has posted a FAQ on its website to educate bloggers on the law concerning adult material online. Opsahl told me the EFF was worried that obscenity cases were being decided by community standards of the least tolerant places in the country.

“Under current law, the legal question of whether speech is obscene is determined partly by reference to local community standards,” Opsahl wrote me via e-mail. “EFF is concerned that these venue rules permits censorship of speech on the Internet under the standards of the least tolerant community, negating the values that the community standards doctrine was intended to protect — diversity and localism in the marketplace of ideas.”

Judd acknowledged that different communities have different standards. “I have heard descriptions vary from area to area in the country but obscene [in] our community standards goes beyond nude men and women …, ” Judd said. “When we’ve made cases, we have gone much further than what one judge refers to as ‘normal, good old-fashioned sex.’ … We look for outrageous conduct that shocks the conscience of the community. That’s all we bring before the court.”

Wilson’s site is still in operation with pornographic images, videos and the gory war photos. However, after the media attention NTFU received, there has been an uptick in discussions on the site related to the gory images and whether they are indeed helping to show an unedited version of war — or giving U.S. soldiers a bad image abroad. The site’s moderators and Wilson himself have pointed to a special blog on the obscenity charges,, and Wilson has asked supporters to donate money to his legal defense fund.

Investigation stalls in military, media

As for the gory photos on NTFU and other websites, the military said it could not confirm the authenticity of the photos — or that U.S. soldiers had posted them. Army spokesman Paul Boyce told me there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue felony charges.

“If we get specific information, we will certainly look into that as well,” said Boyce. “But at this point, we are pursuing it instead from a more prudent standpoint by reminding soldiers of our policies dealing with the use of the Internet, weblogs, digital photos, personal e-mail, etc.”

I asked Boyce whether he had followed up on my previous report for OJR, which included an e-mail from someone named David Burke, who said he was a soldier in Iraq and has posted on NTFU under the screen name “diescreaming.” Boyce took note of the information and told me the Army would check into it.

But critics of NTFU’s gory photos and the possible involvement of soldiers were doubtful that the Pentagon was putting much effort into the internal investigation. Ibrahim Hooper is the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which helped bring the gore-for-porn story to wider attention by sending an open letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Hooper told me he was disappointed with the Army’s investigation.

“[The Pentagon] decided to end whatever efforts they had because they said they hadn’t found any evidence that military personnel were involved — even though if you went to the site, somebody sent me one of the images where the person’s name and unit were clearly indicated in the photograph,” Hooper said. “All we can do is bring these things to the attention of the Pentagon; we can’t force them to do it. If they want to drop it at that point without having really gone into it, then that’s their choice. We stated at the time that we thought it was premature. There couldn’t possibly have been a full investigation in the time that was allotted and it was sending a negative message.”

Meanwhile, rank-and-file soldiers, Bush administration supporters and military bloggers have been largely silent on the issue, perhaps preferring not to fuel any possible scandal. Liberal blogger John Aravosis, conversely, has been stoking the flames by running photos taken from NTFU, with soldiers visible and gory parts censored. When the military said it couldn’t make felony convictions, Aravosis was livid.

“What exactly HAS the military done to get to the bottom of this?” Aravosis wrote. “They launched an investigation that lasted, apparently, a matter of hours. And now they tell us there’s nothing they can do, and nothing they’re going to do, about the outright racist abuse of Muslims by U.S. troops.”

While the military has been pretty silent on details of its investigations, the mainstream media, too, has tailed off quickly in covering the site and the gory photos. When they finally started paying attention to the story, the media just quickly repeated the basic details, noted the closing of the military investigation and barely any did investigative work of their own.

Bryan Bender, national security and foreign affairs reporter for The Boston Globe, wrote one of the more detailed reports on NTFU, and found that the military was indeed tightening guidelines of electronic media use by soldiers. But Bender hasn’t returned to the subject in The Globe yet because he’s had trouble verifying that the gory photos online came from U.S. soldiers in Iraq, he said.

“I am pursuing the story to determine if soldiers were involved in taking the photos and to figure out if similar photos floating around out there are also the work of U.S. servicemen and women,” Bender told me via e-mail. “I have come across quite a few on the Internet purported to be of dead Iraqis — and of U.S. troops as well. I haven’t made much headway yet, but I agree it warrants continuing attention by the media. The main hurdles are 1) figuring out if the photos are legit and 2) who took them. Some of them, quite frankly, look like they could be staged. Others appear real, but as you well know, anyone can post things on the Internet. Tracking where they originated from is not easy.”

How do soldiers feel?

Due to the sensitive nature of the website and subject matter, U.S. soldiers I contacted would not go on record for this story, even to denounce the site’s practice of posting gory photos.

One popular military blogger, who only goes by the pseudonym American Soldier, said he doesn’t believe the Army can stop soldiers from sending in these types of kill shots. “They can put out blanket warnings of UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] violations and then leave it at that,” he told me via e-mail. “The Army is all about complying but moves on and expects the rules to just be followed.”

I asked American Soldier if he thought it was a double standard when U.S. officials criticize Al Jazeera for running video of captured or dead American GIs while U.S. soldiers are possibly posting photos of dead Iraqis and celebrating the kills.

“I don’t give a fuck about dead terrorists,” he said. “They are fanatics fighting for a crazy cause. The more dead, the merrier. That’s what they want to be anyway. They are martyrs and they don’t care who they kill. Women, children, old people. There are a million differences between displaying American heroes who have fallen and these pieces of shit terrorists. So no, I don’t think anything is wrong with Americans posting pictures. Al Jazeera is nothing but a terrorist news MSM. … The Army really wants to control soldiers in general. They HATE the milblog sensation. They want to silence us.”

Another soldier who served in Iraq recently would only talk to me on condition of anonymity. This soldier thought the current generation of servicemen and women was much more numb to violence and had less qualms about exposing the world to what was happening at war.

“I think we’re desensitized now,” the soldier said in a telephone interview. “There were plenty of guys in Vietnam who took gory photos like that — and a lot of them have them now — but I don’t think a lot of them would expose them. At the time, when I was in Iraq, I had plenty of photos like that. You don’t know why. In Iraq, everyone’s pulling out digital cameras; it’s like a Kodak moment. Over there, you’re taking pictures of it and not really thinking that much of it. Then you come back and it sinks in. When you come back to normal life, you think, ‘Whoa, I can’t believe I did that.’ ”

This soldier thinks NTFU has been a PR nightmare for the Army, and thinks the military could easily figure out who shot the pictures and posted them online. But the soldier has little sympathy for Chris Wilson.

“This guy is waving the flag and the First Amendment, and how he’s supporting the troops,” the soldier said. “Bull-fucking-shit, dude. You’re cashing in on this. This is the best publicity stunt for his site ever. He’s probably dragged so much traffic to his site. He’s using these soldiers for his own good, for his own site. These soldiers are such fucking idiots, being used by this guy.”

While Wilson wouldn’t comment on his site’s aims, he has posted a quote on every page of the site, taken from the 1995 movie “The American President”:

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

* * *

Media Reaction to NTFU

“Horrifying? Oh, yeah. Horrifying but invaluable, because these pictures show a side of the Iraq war the American public doesn’t care to see and from which it’s been meticulously shielded. We’re spared the sight of flag-draped coffins arriving weekly to hometowns across the country even though we’re deluged with newscasts painting a shiny picture of soldiers fraternizing with Iraqi children. Death has effectively been eliminated from our media’s war coverage, as if protracted combat doesn’t involve killing, and killing isn’t gory, and the personalities of people who have to do the killing don’t eventually start warping in the most unpleasant ways.

“The photos posted on NowThatsF — strip off the blinders. Those brains splattered across a car’s dashboard? Not your usual human-interest story. The mocking commentary by the enlisted guys supplying the photos? Not so heroic. Together, they paint a picture of war as a dehumanizing hell, sans political commentary or analysis. Welcome to Operation Iraqi Freedom.” — Neva Chonin, San Francisco Chronicle, in Porn Wars, Part II

“The dissemination of imagistic truth from America’s involvement in the Middle East has been a long time coming, and, while the government might use the pornographic content of NTFU as a distraction, one must be cognizant of perhaps a more realistic motive: corralling American soldiers and closing the eyes of the American public. … The grotesque becomes something like pathos, intriguing our sympathies and altering our perceptions — the images of this war, previously censored but now presented on sites like NTFU, will most certainly redefine our gaze. With or without pants, the truth is making its way around the world fringed with photography, pornography, or, in the age of digital communication, warnography.” — Casey N. Cep, Harvard Crimson, in Warnography’s Visceral Allure

“These images produce immediate, visceral responses. That’s why they are so threatening to the authorities. They destroy the moment of rational detachment that arises when we ask, ‘Is this war (and implicitly, war in general) justified?’ … Show someone a high resolution, close-up picture of a broken corpse, where no limb is where you expect it to be. Does it matter if there are two bodies or one? If they are insurgents or soldiers? If it is war or murder? We feel an identical response no matter what the context. …

“What Wilson is doing is both excessive and necessary. As our society grows more desensitized to violence, the images that can jolt us out of our complacent and superficial posturing must become correspondingly more severe. Don’t support our troops; support our pornographers instead.” — Ken Tran, Daily Texan, in Graphic Photos Have a Purpose

“If there’s any merit to this cause [the FBI’s war on porn], then the obscenity contained on Wilson’s website should undoubtedly be one of the foremost targets. After all, photographs of naked adults engaging in sexual activity are one thing; images of bodies missing heads or organs splayed in the street are quite another. While The Chronicle defended the rights granted by the First Amendment just last week, those freedoms reach their limits in this case, being at odds with the international law established in the Geneva Conventions.

“If the federal government deems the standard version of pornography to be criminal activity, then there is no justifiable reason that the content on Chris Wilson’s website wouldn’t be considered equally offensive — if not a more dangerous form of public corruption. The more time that soldiers are allowed to continue submitting these images and their comments on a site accessible by the global community, the more we have to wonder just how out of order our priorities really are.” — editorial in Columbia College Chronicle, titled The new pornography

Porn site offers soldiers free access in exchange for photos of dead Iraqis

Warning: This story contains links to unsettling images and sites where people glorify violence and pornography — and document the hell of war. If only life came with such warnings.

The Internet has proven to be a vast resource of information and knowledge, but it only takes one hyperlink to get from the profound to the profane. When reading an Egyptian blog a few weeks ago, I stumbled onto a bulletin board site called (NTFU), which started out as a place for people to trade amateur pornography of wives and girlfriends.

According to the site’s owner, Chris Wilson, who lives in Lakeland, Fla., but hosts the site out of Amsterdam, the site was launched in August 2004 and soon became popular with soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. When female soldiers started to appear in the nude on the site, the Pentagon blocked access to the site from military computers in the field, according to the New York Post.

But the story gets more twisted. Wilson said that soldiers were having trouble using their credit cards in Iraq to access the paid pornographic content on the site, so he offered them free access if they could show that they were actually soldiers. As proof, some sent in G-rated photos of traffic signs in Baghdad or of a day in the life of a soldier abroad. Others sent in what appear to be Iraqi civilians and insurgents who were killed by suicide bombs or soldiers’ fire.

Now there’s an entire forum on the site titled “Pictures from Iraq and Afghanistan – Gory,” where these bloody photos show body parts, exploded heads and guts falling out of people. Along with the photos is a running commentary of people celebrating the kills, cracking jokes and arguing over what kind of weaponry was used to kill them. But the moderators will also step in when the talk gets too heated, and sometimes a more serious discussion about the Iraq war and its aims will break out.

Wilson told me in a phone interview that he is “not very” political and considers NTFU as a community site.

“People say, ‘This is a porn site so why are you talking politics?’ ” Wilson said. “But it’s actually a porn community, and any time you have a community with shared interests there’s going to be other interests. Just because somebody looks at porn doesn’t mean that they have a below-60 IQ and don’t know anything. I have doctors and lawyers and police officers and teachers, and it doesn’t surprise me that there are educated people who want to discuss things. It’s interesting, and I love reading it.”

Wilson has no qualms about running the gory photos of war in open forums that don’t require registration or payment.

“I enjoy seeing the photos from the soldiers themselves,” Wilson said. “I see pictures taken by CNN and the mainstream media, and they all put their own slant on what they report and what they show. To me, this is from the soldier’s slant. This is directly from them. They can take the digital cameras and take a picture and send it to me, and that’s the most raw you can get it. I like to see it from their point of view, and I think it’s newsworthy.”

Wilson says it’s a judgment call on whether the photos he gets are really from soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan. After months of sifting through photos, Wilson has an idea of the quality of the digital cameras soldiers use and what the terrain is like in those areas of the world.

I couldn’t verify whether these gory photos were taken recently in Iraq by soldiers. But the U.S. military is currently looking into the site and trying to authenticate the photos — and take appropriate action if soldiers are involved. “We do have people who are specifically looking at that website, and I will talk to my colleagues and my bosses here and get back to you,” said Staff Sgt. Don Dees, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command (Centcom) in Baghdad.

Two people posting gory photos to the site responded to my e-mail query into their motivations for doing it.

“I access [NTFU] from my personal computer, the government computers are strictly monitored,” one person wrote to me. “I would never try to use this site or anything like it on a government computer. To answer your question about posting the gory pictures on this site: What about the beheadings filmed and then put on world wide news? I have seen video of insurgents shooting American soldiers in plain day and thanking God for what they have done. I wouldn’t be too concerned what I am doing on a private Web site. I’m more concerned of what my fellow soldiers and I are experiencing in combat.”

Another person whose e-mail identified him as David Burke was defiant about posting gory photos and said it was a tradition of all wars.

“Yes I have posted kill photos on other forum sites,” Burke wrote me in his e-mail. “The computers are military financed if not owned by the military. I think that with all the service members who are over here it was obvious that photos of dead insurgents would surface as time went on and it is not a new occurrence. There have been pics from all wars of the fighters standing over the bodies of the enemy. The insurgents are more than willing to showcase our dead and wounded so if people have issues with what’s shown on this site then they need to stay away and quit bitching about things they know nothing about.

“I made it real clear in most if not all of my posts how I feel about the Iraqi people in general and that feeling has not changed a bit in my time here. I [put] a good friend of mine [in a body bag] just a week ago and that really clinched it for me and my teammates. We will always shoot first and ask no questions, period. The military brass will always try to sanitize the effects of war, no matter when or where, and yes if it was possible they would censor all media coming out of this country, pics and stories.”

Condemnation for site swift

The story of NTFU and its unusual exchange of free porn for gory war photos was first picked up by an Italian blogger named Staib, and then the Italian news agency ANSA. Blogger/journalist Helena Cobban, who pens a column for the Christian Science Monitor, asked her blog readers for an English translation of the ANSA article and quickly received many versions that clarified what the site was about.

Cobban was horrified by the gory photos, but tried to make sense of the motivation of people who posted them — and tried hard to grasp the idea of a serious discussion of war on a porn site. She told me that taking and posting “trophy” photos of dead Iraqis was a gross show of disrespect and a violation of the Geneva Conventions. But she put the blame on the direction of military leadership.

“The important thing is for the U.S. military and political leadership at the highest levels to recommit the nation to the norms of war including the Geneva Conventions, and to be held accountable for the many violations that have taken place so far,” Cobban said via e-mail. “What I don’t think would be helpful would be further punitive actions that are still limited to the grunts and the foot soldiers, who already have the worst of it.”

The Geneva Conventions include Protocol 1, added in 1977 but not ratified by the U.S., Iraq or Afghanistan. It mentions that all parties in a conflict must respect victims’ remains, though doesn’t mention the photographing of dead bodies. This could well be a judgment call, and the celebratory and derogatory comments added on NTFU make the case more clear.

When I contacted military public affairs people in the U.S. and Iraq, they didn’t seem aware of the site and initially couldn’t access the site from their own government computers. Eventually, they told me that if soldiers were indeed posting photos of dead Iraqis on the site, then it’s not an action that’s condoned in any way by the military.

“The glorification of casualties goes against our training and is strongly discouraged,” said Todd Vician, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman. “It is our policy that images taken with government equipment or due to access because of a military position must be cleared before released. While I haven’t seen these images, I doubt they would be cleared for release. Improper treatment of captured and those killed does not help our mission, is discouraged, investigated when known, and punished appropriately.”

Capt. Chris Karns, a Centcom spokesman, told me that there are Department of Defense regulations and Geneva Conventions against mutilating and degrading dead bodies, but that he wasn’t sure about regulations concerning photos of dead bodies. He noted that the Bush administration did release graphic photos of the dead bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein to the media.

Karns said that commanders in the field do have latitude to make their rules more stringent than overarching military regulations, but he didn’t expect that cameras would be banned in the field.

“I don’t think it will get to that point [where cameras would be banned],” Karns said. “All it takes is one or two individuals to do things like this that cast everyone in a negative light. The vast majority of soldiers are acting responsibly with cameras in the field. But on the Internet there aren’t a whole lot of safeguards and the average citizen can create their own site.”

Karns did say that if soldiers were posting these photos online, that it would have a negative strategic impact, especially when the enemy relies so heavily on the media to win the battle of perception.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, saw the gory photos as another black eye for the U.S. military after the Abu Ghraib prison torture photos.

“This is just another form of pornography,” Hooper told me. “I think this is something that should be strongly discouraged by military authorities. It’s going to give military personnel a bad name, it’s going to harm America’s image in the Muslim world and it’s just plain wrong. You have to wonder what this says about our military personnel, if first of all they’re dealing with pornography and why they would be reveling in the deaths of individuals in Iraq.”

Respected media outlets?

NTFU site proprietor Wilson says that the military blocking of his site upset him, but that traffic actually went up after it was blocked. He told me that if the military brass did get in touch with him, and had a good reason for him to remove the gory photos, he would.

“I get many requests for removal,” Wilson said. “I get 30 to 40 requests per day for removal for everything across the board on the site. I take each on a case-by-case basis. If [the military] wants something deleted because they think it’s a threat to national security or it’s showing too much, then obviously, yes, I’m going to get that out of there. But if they’re asking me to remove it because they just don’t like it, then no.”

Wilson says he supported Bush in sending troops to Iraq, but thinks it’s long past time that they need to be brought back home. He says he supports the soldiers, and thinks they are pretty split on whether they should be brought home or kept on the job in Iraq. Wilson has tried to obtain a less profane domain name for the site,, but that the domain’s owner was asking for way more money than it was worth.

Of course, the NTFU community is not alone in its fascination with the darker, more grotesque side of life. The site has been around for six years, and includes photos and video of murders, cannibalism, and war kills. The owners of the site explain in the FAQ that they do not enjoy seeing this violent material, but that they are trying to provide an uncensored view of reality.

“Ogrish does not provide a sugar-coated version of the world,” the FAQ says. “We feel that people are often unaware of what really goes on around us. Everything you see on is reality, it’s part of our life, whether we like it or not. We are publishing this material to give everyone the opportunity to see things as they are so they can come to their own conclusions rather than settling for biased versions of world events as handed out by the mainstream media.”

The site’s goal is pretty ambitious: “to become a respected media outlet for uncensored, unbiased news… [with] much more background and educational value to our content.” The site uses citizen correspondents in law enforcement and in medicine, much the way that NTFU depends on soldiers in the field who are armed with digital cameras.

Dan Klinker, who formerly was a co-owner of and now handles PR, told me via e-mail that the site is not about glorifying violence, unlike NTFU.

“As far as I know Ogrish is one of the only sites in this niche that have been focusing on the facts rather than presenting things in a glorifying way like a lot of other sites do (including NowThatsFuckedUp),” Klinker said. “Just the name of that site makes it clear that there’s only one goal, which is to shock, glorify and entertain. The combination with bloody pictures in return for naked girls makes them lose all credibility.”

While it was difficult for me to ascertain the motivation for people who were posting gory photos to NTFU, I did talk to Steven Most, a psychology postdoctoral fellow at Yale University who has studied the effects of violent and sexual images. He helped explain what these horribly violent images had in common with the nude photographs of women.

“They both seem to be particularly arousing in an emotional way,” Most said. “Emotional stimuli can be rated in different ways. You could see something and rate how positive or negative it is. But separate from that is how arousing the image is. A positive picture of a cute puppy dog could be positive but not that arousing, whereas a picture of an opposite sex nude could be just as positive but be rated as extremely arousing. And a picture of a mutilation could be rated as extremely negative but highly arousing. Lately there’s been a lot of theories saying that what we’re drawn to is the arousing nature of an image regardless of whether we see it as negative or positive.”