Short of a PG13
notice at the start of a film, anything is fair game in the US, as was learned last week when the Supreme Court overturned
a California law attempting to ban the sale of violent video games such as Mortal Kombat 9 to children.
The reasoning is simple. Violent media is still expression, and the freedom of expression rules apply. If children should be protected from such images, then parents need to take an active role in doing so. Yet, somehow, nudity has none of those protections, as the judges made sure to point out. For some reason, nudity is taboo, evil even, depending on your upbringing.
It very much is a social phenomenon, but the worse part is that even though it's an American one, it extends to the Internet. Many sites will allow violent content, but disables any account that tries to upload nudity, whether it's sexual or not. Uploading an image of Duke Nukem on Facebook is no problem, but a single nip can and does
lead to a quick disabling of your account. Google forbids the use of many of its services such as AdSense or Picasa (although to be fair this last one also forbids violent content) for nude imagery.
In Europe, it's a complete reversal. Many countries have tried to ban violent content altogether, such as after the German shootings
in 2009. But meanwhile, nudity is an accepted social behavior
in many places.
The problem all these social norms pose is that the Internet is a global medium. It's supposed to be open to all, and shouldn't be constrained by the taboos of whichever country the service is based at. The excuse that children must be protected has been shown countless times to be false, when they can so easily go around any technological means put in place to censor content. Because in the end, that's what it all boils down to, censorship, something that should be fought against whatever the reason.
In any case, this will likely remain a sticky issue for years to come, but hopefully the world will realize that an exposed body isn't evil, and a beheaded 3D model doesn't make people into murderers.