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Pornography and History

Pornography is very widely controversial no matter were you go. Only in the past couple of years has porn been more accepted. To understand what all the controversy is about you have to recognize the many landmark court cases over the difference between obscenity and pornography. But first I would like to define each. Obscenity, as defined in Webster’s dictionary, means the state or quality of being obscene; impurity; lewdness. Pornography means literature which prostitutes a figure; obscene writing. Just by the closeness of there definitions you can tell why it’s so controversial.

The first federal law against obscenity was passed as a part of the Tariff Act of 1842. This Tariff made it illegal to bring or import “indecent and obscene” material into this country. Another law passed in the nineteenth century was the Comstock Law. It was passed in 1873 and it prohibited the mailing of obscene material. These laws are the first to passed dealing with obscene material. In 1957 the court begins to formulate more concrete standards then those in the past. In Roth v. United States the court sustained a conviction punishing the mailing of  “obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy”  materials.

The Court’s rejection of the claim that obscene materials were protected by the First Amendment was the key of having the decision held. Memoirs v. Massachusetts was the next case dealing with obscenity, nine years later in 1966. The major decision that came out of this case was that the courts definition of obscenity is that the material is “utterly without redeeming social value. ” Miller v. California is a major landmark case dealing with weather certain material is obscene, therefore not protected under the First Amendment.

A test was established that would tell if a work is obscene. It contained three parts, the first being “whether the work appealed to prurient interests. ”  This means it shouldn’t be solely intended to be sexually arousing to an obsessive extent. The second test was whether the content of the material in question was patently offensive. “Whether the work, taken as a whole, lakes serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value ” is the third test in tripartite criteria of finding whether material is obscene.

The decision made clear how the first two tests were to be applied. Using the community standards, juries would decide if a work was appealing to prurient interests and if it was patently offensive. The major problem with this is that if a jury in Los Angeles found it acceptable, it may not be acceptable in many other communities around the county. There was a problem with that too, it was that if a community sold the material that was acceptable in Los Angeles but wasn’t in their community the owner or employee could be arrested instead of the publisher.

The third test requires that the judge determine whether or not the work lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. In the case of Mishkin v. New York, the main concern is that the diversity of the country should not have imposed uniform community standards dealing with obscenity. The concern of this case is requiring the jury to apply the standard of the average person to material that a diverse group of people may look at. This will be judged by its impact on the average person and not the sensitive or insensitive person.

It also suggests that no matter how precisely the definition is made it cannot possibly cover all situations of expression covered under the first Amendment. Breard v. Alexandria states that the first amendment protects works which, taken as a whole, have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value, regardless of whether the government or a majority of the people approve the ideas. In the case of Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, the courts decided that “sensitive tools” be used to carry out the “separation of legitimate from illegitimate speech. ” In 1974, in the case of Jenkins v.

Georgia the Supreme Court unanimously determined that local standards play a limited role in the determination of what is considered obscene. These cases were the deciding factors in the difference in obscenity and pornography through the eyes of the government. They not only expressed how obscenity could be differentiated between pornography, but also how community standards shouldn’t be implemented in how the law sees obscenity. In my view, to divide pornography is, it is possible to break it down into even simpler categories: soft and hard-core pornography.

Hard core pornography is a combination of the sexually explicit and violent and the sexually explicit and nonviolent, but subordinating and dehumanizing categories. Soft-core pornography is thought to be harmless and falls into the category known as ‘erotica’; which is the category based on mutuality. In hard-core pornography, commonly rated XXX, you can see graphic depictions of violent sexual acts usually with a man or group of men, deriving sexual gratification from the degradation of a woman.

You can also see women participating in demoralizing sexual acts among themselves for the gratification of men. In a triple-X movie all physical aspects are shown, such as extreme close-ups of genitalia, oral, vaginal, and anal penetration, and also ejaculation. Much of the emphasis is put on the painful and humiliating experience of the woman, for the sole satisfaction of the male. Soft-core pornography, or X-rated pornography, is less explicit of what is shown.

The sexual act is usually made for mutual enjoyment of both the male and female. Triple-X pornography is manufactured and sold legally in the United States. There are other forms of hard-core pornography that have to be kept under wraps and made and sold illegally in underground ‘black’ markets. These are ultra violent, ‘snuff’, and child pornography films. Ultra violent tapes or videos show the actual torture, rape, and sometime mutilation of a woman. ‘Snuff’ films go even future to depict the actual death of a victim.

Child pornography reveals the use of under-age or pre-pubescent children for sexual purposes. These types of pornography cross over the boundaries of entertainment. Pornography is a multi-million dollar international industry, ultimately run by organized crime all over the world. It is produced by the respectable mainstream publishing business companies. Although the publishing companies are thought to be ‘respectable’, people generally stereotype buyers and users of pornographic material as ‘dirty old men in trench coats’.

But in reality most patrons of adult material are well-educated people with disposable income. Pornographic movies show adults of both genders the activities they normally wouldn’t get in everyday life, such as oral pleasures or different types of fetishes. Ultimately adult entertainment is just a quick fix for grown-ups, as junk food would be for small children. Pornographers and pornography defenders proclaim that the link between pornography and violence is exaggerated and that the research linking pornography to sexual crimes is inconclusive.

They state that the fundamentals of sex crimes are found inherently in the individuals and that the sexual permissiveness of American society cannot be blamed on the increase of pornography’s availability . David Adams, a co-founder and executive director of Emerge, a Boston counseling center for male batterers, states, “that only a minority of his clients (perhaps 10 to 20 percent) use hard-core pornography. He estimates that half may have substance abuse problems, and adds that alcohol seems more directly involved in abuse than pornography”.

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