Art does this. And when it does it well it makes us stop, take inventory, and think. Whether it's Thicke's sexually charged lyrics with accompany video, Mapplethorpe's nudes or Marina Abromovic's performance pieces we are provided with a starting point for discussion. Controversial art is not a contemporary theme. Manet nudes were considered "vulgar and immoral" in the 1800's, followed by Picasso depicting prostitutes in a "disconcerting manner" and today we have artists such as Andres Serrano and Ai Weiwei. Each generation, each century, pushes the lines to societal standards, or lack thereof, and hopefully, if anything is to come of it, the theoretical pot is stirred.
According to the National Art Education Association "The freedom to create and to experience works of art is essential to our democracy. At present this freedom is under attack." I think that it's only under attack if we allow it to be. As an artist I believe it to imperative that we continue to push the limits, blur the lines, question authority and societal standards. And yet we must also be thoughtful and responsible which Thicke failed to do with his statement "[w]hat a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I've never gotten to do that before."
We clearly have a long way to go, but the dialogue continues and it is that discourse that makes life such an interesting journey to experience.