Defending Obscenity in the Age of Google

The idea that obscenity can be defined by contemporary community standards has always been controversial. Why should First Amendment protections differ depending upon the majority viewpoint in one's community of residence?

The idea is even sillier in the age of the internet and satellite broadcasting. What does "community" mean? The internet community spreads across all boundaries. If two people in two different communities are watching the same movie or viewing the same website in the privacy of their own homes, why should one be less entitled to First Amendment protection than the other? Why should your neighbor's opinion make your private activity a crime? How is a person to know if obscenity is accepted in a particular community? Do you need to take a survey of community standards before you crack open Tropic of Cancer?

A creative defense to an obscenity trial in Florida is making use of Google data to show that Pensecola computer users have very low standards indeed (or, at least, that they share the typically raunchy interests of many members of every community). [more ...]

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm....

“Time and time again you’ll have jurors sitting on a jury panel who will condemn material that they routinely consume in private,” said Mr. Walters, the defense lawyer. Using the Internet data, “we can show how people really think and feel and act in their own homes, which, parenthetically, is where this material was intended to be viewed,” he added.

Just as technology makes the concept of contemporary community standards meaningless, it opens up new avenues to expose the community's hidden standards.

Lawyers in obscenity cases have tried to demonstrate community standards by, for example, showing the range of sexually explicit magazines and movies available locally. A better barometer, [Jeffrey] Douglas said, would be mail-order statistics, because they show what people consume in private. But that information is hard to obtain.

“All you had to go on is what was available for public consumption, and that was a very crude tool,” Mr. Douglas said. “The prospect of having measurement of Internet traffic brings a more objective component than we’ve ever seen before.”

On the other hand, NASCAR won out over orgy in Pensacola, so the data cuts both ways.

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    Obscenity, consumption, and exploitation (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by VicfromOregon on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 04:01:04 AM EST
    While I concur two things in mind. Or, so I believe.  

    The first, and easiest - everyone has something they consider obscene.  There is a line for everyone to draw, over which they will not cross without severe pressure or profound and repeated desensitization (the rounding up and gassing of Jews and other "undesirables" in Nazi Germany for example. While many could eventually come to this with great detachment through the normalization of horror, still others could not).  We can all agree that we can all find "something" we could call obscene. But, when we apply the concept of what makes something obscene to sex or art, then, of course, these stemming from much more subjective experiences, become hard to define as our personal and community attitudes shift, internet revolution or no internet revolution alledgedly making things obsolete because it implies a level of privacy.

    But, the making of, or producing of pornographic materials is not, itself, pornography, though we often erroneously apply the term (perhaps for the very reason of obscuring and blurring the distinction between the active act of creating it and the more passive act of consuming it).  By lumping it all together, we can quickly and erroneously apply "obscenity" measures and standards to all the various aspects of this type of sexual objectification. Pornography, by definition, is a dissociative product allowing individuals to become aroused or repulsed, as the case may be, by images, that while stimulating a socially learned and conditioned subjective response in the viewee, affords a safe distance and emotional detachment from what is being viewed - thus one of the more obvious elements of the act of objectifying.  And, it can be argued, the primary basis for its popularity in western societies.

    All this, of course, makes it infinitely easier to fail to see, recognize, or regard the "models" as "persons", which, in turn, makes it possible to exploit these non-persons under the guises of "sex work", pornographic industry, porn star, and other already socially acceptable transactional models, i.e., if you pay someone, and you can extract their agreement, and they are an adult, then it's okay. There are too many ways to refute this.  The lack of willingness to even try is the greater issue, not a scarcity of well reasoned arguments why the exploitation of persons is neither desireable nor good, no matter how much they agree to it.  The simplest being -that we agree to many things we really don't wish. The more severe the effects of overriding our deeper core needs to be integrated individuals with a reactive and conditioned desire to be dissociated,the deeper the harm to ourselves and others.

    But, all this aside, obscenity laws were created before the existance of photography.  Meaning, anything lewd and lasivious was rendered by an artist's imagination and hand.  By pen and paper, so to speak.  It was thought that the harm of the obscenity was to society, not to the consumer nor the artist.  But, now we have introduced an entire class of "non-persons" into an equation where one can photograph and record an act that, oddly, while inviting us into the pornographer's sexual fantasy, asks us to remain unseeing of the very physical real activity unlying the creation of the glamour.  This is, of course, nothing to do with obscenity, in todays common usuage of the term, unless we still apply its most basic of meanings - something which, if seen, would disturb our sensibilites.  

    The issue, then, would be, not whether we all see differently, but whether we can see at all.

    The liberal Lefts unwavering failure to see the distinction between the making of pornopgraphy with its subsequent need to objectify and exploit a class of persons (there are any number of social mechanisms to inculcate a sense of willing collusion to go against one's own best interests), and with the final published product is, in my experience, one of the Left's most shameful legacies.  (A legacy which was my door out and away from the liberal movement and into compassionate and radicalized self-empowerment and social change). While it has shown a capacity to apply compassionate insightful intervention into the exploitation of others by race or class or religion, as such, there is an utter breakdown in reasoning when applying these same basic tenets of human rights and liberties in the sexual sphere.

    By insisting that pornography and obscenity are purely subjective matters to which people are entitled to engage in within the privacy of their own homes, the Left can appear to champion human rights and liberties while ensuring their very erosion. This is surely having their cake and eating it, too.

    You make some good points (none / 0) (#12)
    by Montague on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 07:44:26 AM EST
    My key reasons for disliking pornography are that (a) it exploits the people involved in the creation of it and (b) it causes sexual objectification of whole classes of people, e.g., women, who are not  involved in the creation.  Yet I do not want to impose my own morality on others lest they impose theirs on me.  

    We can all agree on certain parameters, such as making it illegal to use anyone who cannot give meaningful consent in making the pornography.  A child, an animal, a mentally challenged person - these cannot give meaningful consent.  And personally I am extremely happy NOT to see porn billboards as I drive down the street.  

    Beyond that, however, I hold the idea of individual freedom as being more valuable than whatever value comes from community standards.  Otherwise we wind up giving too much power to a standard that may one day label homosexuality as "obscene," just as one example.


    There are women (none / 0) (#13)
    by MissBrainerd on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 09:10:02 AM EST
    who produce what some call pornography. And while it can be argued that some people are exploited, not all feel that way and who are WE to judge that another (mentally sound adult) is being exploited?

    I would argue that ALL young women in ALL movies are exploited for their young flesh, even if covered in a bikini.

    The only distinction to make is what is appropriate for a public billboard and what is for private consumption. I would also argue that anything I pay for, cable or internet viewing, is my right.


    We are not in disagreement (none / 0) (#15)
    by Montague on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 09:18:39 AM EST
    There are women who produce and make money from porn, and there are women sex workers who feel it liberates them.  I think most people don't know the extent to which they are exploited (not just sexually but in myriad ways).  

    Yet that's my own belief and I don't impose it on anyone.  Who am I to say?  What I do not like is that women who purposefully turn themselves into sex objects for money are making it harder for all women to be seen as something other than sex objects.  But again, that's my take on it.

    I agree 100% with you that women in regular movies are being exploited all the time.  

    My one disagreement is that anything you pay for is your right.  I don't think anyone has a right to watch, e.g., child porn, because that means some non-consenting child was used to make the porn.  


    Thanks for the last line (none / 0) (#16)
    by MissBrainerd on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 09:48:58 AM EST
    Of course I only mean adult entertainment where all are consenting adults without mental defects!

    But trying to ban a show like Entourage on HBO, which I pay for, is wrong.

    The internet creates a whole new community that poses new questions for everyone. The good news is that states like Alabama that crimalize the selling of vibrators, can be thwarted by buying online. Same thing if a state tries to ban any form of contraception, you can order it online.


    Sorry! (none / 0) (#21)
    by Montague on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 12:14:18 PM EST
    I meant to add that you probably didn't mean child porn!  I was pretty sure you meant adult stuff.  I dont' even know what Entourage is, but if it's for and made by adults, then I'm against banning it.

    You are absolutely right that it is good that people can get contraception and sex aids over the web, if not in their communities.  It is no one's business who wants to use a vibrator.  I didn't realize that Alabama criminalizes the selling of vibrators - that's insane.


    Not for nothing.... (none / 0) (#17)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 09:52:44 AM EST
    are the fellas in adult films any less objectified?

    As far as I can tell, from the adult entertainment I've seen in my day, the men are objectified into walking c*cks just as the woman are objectified into walking t&a.  

    Besides...is the laborer any less objectified into a walking shovel, or a waitress objectified into a walking food tray?

    Any wage-earner objectifies themselves...I'm an object from 8-5 M-F.  I do it buy choice so I don't have to struggle living off the land. Is that wrong?


    This is way too long a subject (none / 0) (#22)
    by Montague on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 12:17:58 PM EST
    to engage here.  Workers are indeed exploited, but they need not be. There are interesting parallels between sex workers and "ordinary" workers, but also differences.  I believe in legalizing prostitution, incidentally.

    Men in actual pornography are objectified, true, but in routine Hollywood movies, they are categorically NOT as objectified as women.  And even in straight porn, the bulk of the audience is male and it is aimed at the male audience.  This is why I find gay porn less objectionable - it takes the gender imbalance out of the equation.


    gender imbalance (none / 0) (#26)
    by VicfromOregon on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 01:41:32 AM EST
    Yes. The gender imbalance is central, and many would argue today that the appearance of hypersexually freed females somehow equalizes the sexual realms.  Not.

    When the answer to the following question is nearly of equal import, then, and only then, will there no longer be a dominant sexual gender.  The question was first explored in a study conducted in the 1980's, I believe at Stanford, but maybe Berkeley.  I'd have to look it up.  Anyway, it was a sociology research project on gender differences.  The respondents, an equal number of men and women students at the college campus, were asked a set of questions wherein they gave a written responses.  One question stayed with me when I read the results of the study -

    Asked what they feared most from the opposite sex, men nearly unanimously responded that they feared that women would ridicule them.  The overwhelming response from women was that men would kill them.

    This, perhaps more than anything I know of, distinquishes the way in which men and women not only perceive their world, each other, and their places in society, but their power, their choices, and the potential dangers they believe their immediate world holds for them.

    Pornography does nothing, if not generate fantasies around this power inequity and deepen the very breach that divides females and males from each other.  Where this disparity is not graphically portrayed, one may, perhaps then, be entering the realm of sexual expression. Does gay porn achieve this?  I don't know.  But, Montague, you have perceived that there is a difference, and I would argue that the fact that you are able to detect a difference speaks to a part of you that is more aware and more awake.  Are most males pornography models  sex abuse survivors as their female counterparts are? (The significance is that the erosion of personal boundaries and the ability of adults to sexualize their dominance of the child, where, then, the child grows up with parts of their pysche essentially missing, which, in turns makes it easy to further exploit them because sexual access on demand had already been normalized for many of these people.  Of all the individuals I worked with leaving the socalled sex industry, nearly all recalled familia sex abuse, and no single person had ever had someone intervene on their behalf as children and stop the adults.  Most had not understood that the sexual access of the adult was a form of abuse, and had never, if rarely divulged these events to anyone.  Denial and heavy drug and alcohol use are self medicating ways to try and cope).  But, I would argue, that if the male models in gay porn are also childhood victims of sexual exploitation, whether commercial or incestual, or just one on the page, but which one (?), this then taints the entire process. For, such abused people are so very emotionally challenged and broken, and in need of the sexual access to them to stop though they are so conditioned to expect and invite it.

    When people argue that the sexually abused have the right to be abused by even larger numbers of people, I realize they are lacking very essential information about the real people and their lives and the events and roads that brought them to "choose" further exploitation.  I realize they are arguing as though there is something in the porn model that is "sexually liberated" rather than grasping that they are sexually dead, cut off, so profoundly objectified and sexualized that they are beyond sexual response.  So good is the glamour, the aura, the photography, the stories, coupled with the deep urgings of our own sexual needs, and thus, the  willingness to believe in the images before us.  So good is the illusion of sexual expression and liberation that nearly all of us, including those on the pages, fail to see what it took to make a person willing to be subjugated for our pleasures.

    I realize people don't know that the woman on the hood of the car had to suck Daddy off as a three year old and doesn't ever want to have to remember.  Knowing this would shatter the illusion just as the recognition of blacks as human beings made slavery grotesque rather than natural.

    I also know that there isn't a single obstacle preventing anyone on this website to go and get this information ahould they really want to learn it, but that doing so may make them uncomfortable. It is easier and less frightening to believe there is a type of person who will gladly be sexually exploited than to believe we, as a society, select and create those individuals from very early on that will be sacrificed to uphold our right to engage in what pleasures us in the privacy of our own homes once we've paid for it.

    We ought not to be arguing for our rights to exploit others, but rather committing ourselves to righting these wrongs, protecting the rights of these children and insuring that they are not harmed, and helping them if they have been abused, all the while ending the institution and practice of sexual exploitation in all its forms.  That, for me, it true liberation.  To do any less, I see, is the real obscenity.


    I give you full credit for (none / 0) (#28)
    by Montague on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 02:47:03 PM EST
    taking the time and effort to address the subject!  I didn't do so because it is extremely involved and I'm lazier than you are.  But I have spent many years arguing that pornography is degrading to people and that it does NOT "liberate" a woman to show off her breasts just because she "chooses" to do so.  People fool themselves all the time into thinking they made choices.  Indeed, people in ordinary jobs think they are free, but how free are they if they are afraid to lose their jobs?  On the whole, we are slaves to the system, and a handful of people at the very top reap nearly all the benefits.  Whether ordinary work or sex work, it's not that far different from the feudal system.

    On the other hand, I believe firmly in the right of people to make choices.  It's not up to me to determine whether or not an individual has made a wise choice.  If a woman wants to get paid for being a prostitute, then I would want that to be legal so that she has better access to healthcare and even protection from the police if there is violence.

    What I also believe in, very firmly, is that we must work together to educate and to show people that porn is degrading and may lead to abuse; to show a better way of dealing with sexuality that celebrates it as a part of the human condition.  I do separate the concept of porn from erotica, but that's another topic on which there are many different opinions.  We are sexual beings and our overly prurient society has trouble accepting that, so what we wind up with instead is sexual exploitation, including abuse of children.  

    The system definitely needs changing, but I don't want to change it through imposition of community standards, because that can lead to abuse.  Rather than legislate, I would educate.  


    educate not legislate (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by VicfromOregon on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 10:37:27 PM EST
    Very well said on all points!  I would love to see school curriculums that include critical thinking, as well as practice being "choicemakers".  There are the occassional special offerings of these depending on funding availability.  Sad, really, that so little time in school is about thinking and developing thinking skills, or developing empathy or compassion, or community and group problemsolving.

    Legislation exists, in part, because there is a lack of skill building in a society to self-govern.

    Yes.  We are constantly being told that we are making choices, while, really, we are mostly just selecting from meaningless options, few which touch, awaken, and strenghten our personal power.

    In my youth, i would try my hand at rock climbing from time to time.  Standing, your entire weight, and possibly your entire life, on a 1/4 inch nubbin of outcropping rock, your body balanced, muscles tired and needing to find the next foot or hand hold to keep going, you have to hone your senses, calm and focus your mind, breathe, commune with the rock.  Those were moments I was most aware I was alive and able and dependent on me, a rope, and an ally on belay who would hopefully cross the ropes in time to break my descent should I start to fall.  It was exhilerating to feel so powerful and awake.
    But few societies teach empowerment, perhaps for the reasons you mentioned.

    Thanks for having written so insightfully and challengingly on a subject that is still very near to my heart.  Thanks for championing those in our society that too often go unheard.


    money + privilege (none / 0) (#25)
    by VicfromOregon on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 12:29:42 AM EST
    I agree there is a continuum of sexual exploitation.  Dominance and exploitation are rarely limited to isolated arenas of society.  Your insight begins to chip away at the facade that these things occur in isolation, when, in fact, they rest securely, and necessarily on our deepest, unquestioned, ingrained attitudes about gender and sexuality - specifically the illusion of sexual polarized duality that thrives in all patriarchically organized societies - a polarized duality where one half is dominant over the other.  It is this culturally created polarized duality and dominance that is necessary for any sexual objectification to occur.  You can apply the same basic characteristics of a polarized duality and dominance model to any number of skewed and exploitive phenonmenon to see the similarities as well as the inherent differences in each form.

    Debra Boyer, an anthroplogist in Seattle has done brilliant work on this subject during her studies of street youth. I credit her with having enlightened me to the metalevels - the micro and macro of sexual exploitation in Western societies.

    But, your last claim, that if you pay for it, it makes everything alright, indeed, is your right if you pay for it seems to stand alone.  So, while on the one hand clearly you recognize the exploitive nature of pornography, and to some degree, all use of sexual images for commericialization, if you "pay for it", the implied harm created from such exploitation, 1), no longers matters, or 2) is subservient to your right to purchase it?  What happens to the "exploitation part?  It doesn't disappear.  But, somehow, it is diluted in importance suddenly.  

    My questions are these, then - how does my use of money alter the original harm?  How does my right to get what I want erase any harm created in bringing my desire to me?  If my right to have what I want, i.e., a society with exploitation, competes with another's right to have what they want, i.e., a society without exploitation, is the solution simply resolved through cash purchasing power and the right to privacy?  What if my choices themselves, such as consuming pornography, are not really true choices, but rather conditioned responses that were bred from exploitation and that reinfuse it through unquestioned participation?  And, further, that this participation in fact limits my ability to see my true choices in life. Wouldn't the banning of pornography and the underlying social foundations that create this cognitive dysfunction be the true expression of human liberty and individual freedom - freedom from the cultural prisons we all trap ourselves within?  Or, do you argue for the right to remain imprisoned?  Is it no longer imprisonment if you pay for it or do it privately?


    There's a community? (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by DanAllNews on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 05:56:41 AM EST
    Elaine: I'll be ostracized from the community.
    Jerry: What community? There's a community?
    Elaine: Of course there's a community.
    Jerry: All these years I'm living in a community, I had no idea.

    Why, oh why? (none / 0) (#1)
    by QuakerInABasement on Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 11:58:01 PM EST
    That's PensAcola, TChris. Why, oh why is it always so embarrassing when my old homies make the news?

    Good One! (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 12:18:39 AM EST
    I always think of Ed Meese getting off while making judgement on p%rn.

    "He Leadeth Us from Porn: God Bless You, Edwin Meese."

    Nation 242.3: 65. 1986.

    Is it silly? Local speed limits are determined ... (none / 0) (#3)
    by cymro on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 12:30:14 AM EST
    ... by surveying local drivers:

    Generally, traffic laws that reflect the behavior of the majority of motorists are found to be successful, while laws that arbitrarily restrict the majority of motorists encourage violations, lack public support and usually fail to bring about desirable changes in driving behavior. This is especially true of speed zoning.

    Speed zoning is based on several fundamental concepts deeply rooted within the American system of government and law:

    • Driving behavior is an extension of social attitude and the majority of drivers respond in a safe and reasonable manner as demonstrated by consistently favorable driving records;

    • The normally careful and competent actions of a reasonable person should be considered appropriate;

    • Laws are established for the protection of the public and the regulation of unreasonable behavior on the part of individuals; and

    • Laws cannot be effectively enforced without the consent and voluntary compliance of the public majority.


    According to a Federal Highway Administration study, all states and most local agencies use the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic as the basic factor in establishing speed limits.

    So, since the ideas behind speed zoning are so familiar -- and widely accepted -- maybe an argument by analogy would resonate with a judge (and/or jury?) in this case?

    I don't accept this analogy (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Montague on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 03:42:29 AM EST
    Driving laws and speed limits are about safety, about my ability to drive down a road and expect not to be killed by another driver.

    This doesn't relate to pornography except in the case of porn that involves those who cannot provide informed consent, such as children, animals, and mentally challenged people.  

    If I'm googling around the internet for an article on how to trim my peonies, and someone in the next house over is googling orgies, that doesn't harm me or put me in danger.  I dislike porn; I find it degrading to the individuals involved.  But I'm not going to tell others what to do in the privacy of their homes.


    Except that the 85% percentile of porn ... (none / 0) (#30)
    by cymro on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 11:13:08 PM EST
    ... viewing would actually INCLUDE all of what you have imagined and find degrading, and (perhaps, since I don't know you) even a lot more stuff that you never even thought about.

    But that last 15% would be the material that most people would want to see banned -- like child pornography, because of the fact that its creation requires exploitation of minors.


    Not sure what you mean (none / 0) (#31)
    by Montague on Thu Jun 26, 2008 at 11:35:16 AM EST
    I find porn degrading (erotica is another topic entirely, IMO), but have I not already stated that I categorically do not believe in imposing my morals on other people?  Just because I believe it is degrading does not mean I get to make that choice for someone else.

    "Obscenity" laws should be repealed. (none / 0) (#9)
    by myiq2xu on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 07:06:22 AM EST
    Child porn, public indecency and similar laws are one thing, but the idea we should regulate private tastes in sexual expression between consenting adults is silly, especially with the internet.

    Brilliant (none / 0) (#10)
    by mwb on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 07:11:54 AM EST
    I especially like the angle about juries.

    Of course, if we went by the "without sin..cast stone" concept for assembling juries, I think the Justice system would collapse for lack of jurors.

    Where's George?..... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 09:15:37 AM EST
    He'd have a field day railing on the enemies of expression and liberty who are popping up out of the woodwork again lately.

    missing the problem (none / 0) (#18)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 10:27:25 AM EST
    To me, the major problem with obscenity prosecutions is that people have no real way of knowing whether their conduct violates the law.  Someone can be convicted of a criminal offense, branded a convicted felon, and incarcerated, based on a jury later determining that something was obscene.  How can someone possibly conform their conduct to the law if the standard for what is obscene is so vague?  That is why obscenity prosecutions all violate the 1st Amendment, in my opnion.  If someone wants to be sure that they are not subjected to criminal prosecution, they will inevitably be restrained from engaging in expression that is not obscene.  I've never seen a judicial ruling sufficiently answer this question in the challenges to obscenity prosecutions.

    Community Standards (none / 0) (#19)
    by Dlanor on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 10:30:26 AM EST
    Re:  "The idea that obscenity can be defined by contemporary community standards has always been controversial."

    Well, to begin with, if you believe in any moral basis whatsoever, you do not seek to justify what we ought to do based only on what we are doing.  Such a standard, based mainly on what is, is no standard at all.  It is just blowing in the wind.  Rather, by definition, to aspire beyond ourselves, to what we should do, we measure also against ideals, rather than only against facts.

    A better test for proper standards pertains not to how we presently meet our existential challenges, but to how we should seek to improve and surpass ourselves in how we evolve and morph in meeting our existential challenges.

    In this day and age, we cannot enforce obscenity standards by prosecuting consenting adults regarding their bedroom behaviors.  Yet, for promoting moral exemplars, especially when it comes to child abuse, shame retains an important function.

    Respecting and enforcing community sensibilities regarding ideals, rather than community behaviors, is a more important standard.  For a civilized community to accept behaviors that debase it is for a civilization to devolve towards ever deeper debasement.  We become what we aspire to be -- or what we fail to aspire not to be.

    focus on developing desired behaviors (none / 0) (#23)
    by VicfromOregon on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 06:10:56 PM EST
    Yes. Ultimately, all laws are reactive and proscriptive, and that is the bottomline argument I'm seeing from folks here - especially when laws interfere with the fulfillment of our sexual gratification - morality is relative.  All choicemaking is equally experienced the same by all people.  Age and an inability to reason should be the only limits.  If its done in private, there is no harm.

    The problem with all these good arguments is that we don't remain in our homes. We leave them and interact with others, and what we have done in our homes effects how we think about others, and this, in turn, effects how we treat each others or let other treat us - how able are we to recognize others as deserving of our compassion or that we are deserving of such?

    The other problem with the arguments is that there is a great deal of missing information - what constitutes meaningful choice and the ability to engage in it?  If a person is inculcated to sexually objectify themselves, and does this, are they truly a free agent?  Why does the consumption of pornography continue to be the focus?  Why are we unable or unwilling to stay and explore the issues of the creation of the pornography?  Why is sexual slavery, a phenomenon where large quantities of pornography are generated for mass consumption, not being discussed?  Is the retaining of a right to privacy(argued on this blog from moral grounds that it applies to everyone equally, while also wanting to argue there is no moral anything than can be applied to everyone equally - so that's a problem, too) more important than a right to safety, or a right to have no social or institutional mechanisms that produce people who choose to be exploited or to exploit others, or can one be exploited if one can't recognize or feel the exploitation because they haven't anything to compare it with?

    These issues cannot be argued from the merits of obscenity.  I agree that ALL obscenity laws should be thrown out.  I would replace them, however, with informed laws regarding the treatment of others.  That is what is missing. The teaching of compassion, the recognition of the many forms harm takes, what constitutes oppression and repression and suppression.

    If we explore and discover what it is to truly value ourselves and others, we would neither be exploiting others nor being exploited - not for fun, not for money, not for food, nor shelter, nor attention.  The porn industry puts a great deal of money into keeping obscentity law debates the focus, trotting out happy hookers (female and male), and otherwise setting the agenda and the focus of how their product will be viewed in our society and in our courts.  Every effort is made to keep the attention off the making of pornography and back onto the consumption of it.  For, it is there that we get mired back down into these old unending arguments of "personal preference", "privacy", and "consumer rights".  But, that is precisely not the issue at all.


    interesting. (none / 0) (#20)
    by cpinva on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 11:34:31 AM EST
    defining obscenity escaped the intellectual prowess of the supreme court, so they punted. it isn't the state's job to establish or enforce morals, hence the historical failure of every law intended to do so.

    nowhere in the free speech clause does an exemption for "community standards" exist, regardless of how tortured your reading of it may be, it's solely an artifice of a court unable or unwilling to admit it was none of the "community's" business what you or i watch, read, see or hear.

    it does, however, provide a convenient platform for ambitious prosecutors, seeking higher office.

    the whole "exploitation" argument is fraudulent on its face: by that standard, nearly everyone, willingly performing any job they don't really like, just to make a living, is being exploited. why is being exploited by mcdonald's morally superior to being exploited by a porn producer?

    if anyone's exploiting people in the porn business, it's those who use that argument against it; they reduce the performers to mindless drones or simpletons, incapabable of thinking for themselves. pretty damn arrogant really.

    most speed limits are determined by civil engineers, based on terrain and projected traffic flow, not on the local inhabitant's preferred driving speeds. whoever told you otherwise doesn't know what they're talking about.

    exploitation an illusion? (none / 0) (#24)
    by VicfromOregon on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 08:11:20 PM EST
    Nice try.  But you won't win the argument by pretending the issue doesn't exist.  But, first, if I may:  while engineers do set a recommended speed limit, these are changed depending on any number of factors - gas conservation efforts, traffic flows, and, yes, driver usage.  Were you to want to have a speed limit reset, for instance, from 45 mph to 35 mph, and let's imagine for argument sake that the local government program overseeing such changes was even willing to consider your request in your case, then either an officer or a computer/laser speed tracker device, or some such thing, would record the speeds of the drivers over a given period of time.  Those road engineers and the office of transportation would then get out their calculators, find the average speed, and set that as the new posted speed limit.  Of course, having done this, it's possible the speed limit could be increased rather than lowered.  That's always a risk and some neighborhoods have been fuming ever since.

    I'd like to answer the second issue - the non-existance of exploitation (a clue - think in degrees)but gotta go for now.


    hogwash. (none / 0) (#27)
    by cpinva on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 02:57:05 AM EST
    the speed limits are calculated to account for the terrain and traffic flow, primarily for safety purposes. there are instances where speed limits may be increased, because it's determined that to do so would actually provide a safer flow, but the average speed of drivers using the road has nothing to do with it.

    yes, in the instance you're referring to.

    exploitation an illusion?

    where willing, of-age, mentally competent parties, act in sexually explicit entertainment is not, by definition, any more exploitative than a law firm associate willingly putting in 4,000 billable hour years, in the hopes of making partner.

    please, do tell, what makes the former more negatively exploitative than the latter?