Obscenity and Indecency

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Obscenity and Indecency

  1. 1. OBSCENITY AND INDECENCY
  2. 3. Pornography <ul><li>broad term used to describe all material that is sexually explicit and intended primarily for the purpose of sexual arousal </li></ul>
  3. 4. Obscenity <ul><li>narrow, legal meaning -- sexual material so offensive that deemed to have no First Amendment protection </li></ul>
  4. 5. Indecency <ul><li>special meaning in electronic media -- speech restricted on airwaves but would be okay otherwise </li></ul>
  5. 6. History of Pornography <ul><li>use of explicit sexual references for entertainment or arousal nothing new </li></ul><ul><li>Greek and Roman drama and poetry frequently highly specific </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Aristophanes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Catullus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Horace </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ovid </li></ul></ul>
  6. 7. <ul><li>Walls of Pompeii have explicit paintings </li></ul><ul><li>social tolerance has been cyclical </li></ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes limited </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes extensive </li></ul></ul><ul><li>17th and 18th centuries -- few actions involving pornography or court reluctant to act </li></ul>
  7. 8. <ul><li>social tolerance has been cyclical </li></ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes limited </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>sometimes extensive </li></ul></ul><ul><li>17th and 18th centuries -- few actions involving pornography or court reluctant to act </li></ul>
  8. 9. <ul><li>The Fifteen Plagues of a Maidenhead </li></ul><ul><ul><li>tends to corruption of good manners </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but not sufficient to punish </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mid-1800s in America </li></ul><ul><ul><li>shift in law to declaring sexually explicit materials illegal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>earlier prosecutions were rare </li></ul></ul>
  9. 10. <ul><li>1821 -- Vermont passed statute prohibiting publication or distribution of obscene materials </li></ul><ul><li>1873 -- Comstock Act, federal postal law against mailing obscenity </li></ul>
  10. 11. Roth v. U.S. , (1957) <ul><li>court created a category of sexual expression, called obscenity, that is without First Amendment protection </li></ul><ul><li>no justification needed to punish this form of speech </li></ul><ul><li>defined obscenity as hard core sexual material that is utterly without redeeming social value </li></ul>
  11. 12. <ul><li>curtailed obscenity prosecutions </li></ul><ul><li>case was an exception to usual balancing approach court takes in deciding First Amendment cases </li></ul>
  12. 13. Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton <ul><li>1973 </li></ul><ul><li>“ Magic Mirror” “It All Comes Out in the End” </li></ul><ul><li>claimed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>shown only to consenting adults </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>no data obscene materials harmful </li></ul></ul><ul><li>but court held state can legislate </li></ul>
  13. 14. <ul><li>even if could otherwise safeguard exposure to juveniles and passersby </li></ul><ul><li>interest of public in quality of life and the total community environment </li></ul><ul><li>tone of commerce in city centers </li></ul><ul><li>public safety </li></ul><ul><li>okay to legislate without empirical data </li></ul>
  14. 15. <ul><li>family life </li></ul><ul><li>community welfare </li></ul><ul><li>development of human personality </li></ul>
  15. 16. <ul><li>Dissenting Opinion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>impossible to define what obscenity is </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>distribution of unprotected material to consenting adults is okay </li></ul></ul>
  16. 17. Miller v. California, (1973) <ul><li>the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest; </li></ul><ul><li>the work depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and </li></ul><ul><li>the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. </li></ul>
  17. 18. Prurient Interest <ul><li>material intended to excite lewd, lascivious, shameful, or morbid thoughts about sex </li></ul><ul><li>material that provokes only normal, healthy sexual desires does not fall into this category </li></ul><ul><li>standard -- average person in the community </li></ul><ul><li>must consider overall tenor and intent of work </li></ul>
  18. 19. Patent Offensiveness <ul><li>limits obscenity to hard core materials </li></ul><ul><li>may prohibit patently offensive representations or depictions of ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated, and </li></ul><ul><li>patently offensive representations or descriptions of masturbation, excretory functions, and lewd exhibition of the genitals </li></ul><ul><li>one year later Supreme Court reversed obscenity conviction for &quot;Carnal Knowledge&quot; </li></ul>
  19. 20. Lack of Serious Value <ul><li>objective is to ensure that obscenity laws do not operate to deprive society of works that may honestly contribute to the marketplace of ideas </li></ul><ul><li>not determined with reference to local community standards but a national, reasonable person standard </li></ul>
  20. 21. Exception to Miller <ul><li>child pornography </li></ul><ul><li>use of juveniles as pornography subjects is intrinsically related to the sexual abuse of children </li></ul><ul><li>government's interest in safeguarding the physical and mental well-being of children is compelling </li></ul><ul><li>prurient interest not issue-- direct harm to children is </li></ul>
  21. 22. Penthouse <ul><li>228 pages: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>65 were full-page ads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>67 -- articles of serious value </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>95 -- material lacking serious value </li></ul></ul><ul><li>&quot;This [justice] regards restriction by government of what type of literature our citizens may or may not read as the most obscene element in the case.” [concurring opinion] </li></ul>
  22. 23. <ul><li>but in second case -- Penthouse was ruled obscene </li></ul><ul><li>Court of Appeals said &quot;taken as a whole&quot; requires, not quantitative measure, but overall judgment about publication's editorial mission </li></ul>
  23. 24. Curbing Obscenity <ul><li>almost all states make it a crime to produce, distribute, sell or exhibit obscene materials </li></ul><ul><li>federal </li></ul><ul><ul><li>use the mail </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>move material between states </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>broadcast or cable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>customs officers may seize </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>can't make obscene communications by means of telephone for commercial purpose </li></ul></ul>
  24. 25. Zoning <ul><li>dispersal zoning (space between adult oriented businesses) </li></ul><ul><li>restricted to one part of town </li></ul><ul><li>away from residential zones, schools, churches, parks </li></ul><ul><li>valid time/place/manner </li></ul><ul><ul><li>govt interest was substantial </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>alternate avenues of communication were open </li></ul></ul>
  25. 26. Janet Jackson
  26. 27. FCC and Indecency <ul><li>material that &quot;describes or depicts, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs, at times of day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.&quot; </li></ul>
  27. 28. FCC v. Pacifica
  28. 29. FCC v. Pacifica <ul><li>seven dirty words </li></ul><ul><li>station warned audience language might offend </li></ul><ul><li>appealed declaratory order could have been subject to sanctions </li></ul><ul><li>FCC order upheld </li></ul>
  29. 30. <ul><li>broadcasting uniquely pervasive </li></ul><ul><li>patently offensive, indecent material presented over airwaves confronts a person in the privacy of the home where individual's right to be let alone outweighs First Amendment rights of the intruder </li></ul><ul><li>turning off radio no solution -- like remedying assault by saying to run away after first blow </li></ul><ul><li>broadcast program uniquely accessible to children </li></ul>
  30. 31. <ul><li>&quot;Pacifica's broadcast could have enlarged a child's vocabulary in an instant.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>broadcasting cannot be easily monitored minute to minute like other media </li></ul><ul><li>scarcity of spectrum requires government to license in the public interest </li></ul>
  31. 32. <ul><li>narrow ruling -- context important </li></ul><ul><li>important factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>time of day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>composition of audience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>content of program in which language appears </li></ul></ul>
  32. 33. <ul><li>shit </li></ul><ul><li>piss </li></ul><ul><li>fuck </li></ul><ul><li>cunt </li></ul><ul><li>cocksucker </li></ul><ul><li>motherfucker </li></ul><ul><li>tits </li></ul>
  33. 34. Action for Children’s Television v. FCC <ul><li>allow parent supervise children </li></ul><ul><li>well being of minors </li></ul><ul><li>right of all be free of indecent material in privacy of home </li></ul><ul><li>ban not well-tailored </li></ul><ul><li>didn't consider interests of older minors and adult viewers </li></ul><ul><li>need more precision when First Amendment rights curtailed </li></ul>
  34. 35. Profane Language <ul><li>language that denotes certain of those personally reviling epithets naturally tending to provoke violent resentment or denoting language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance. </li></ul>
  35. 36. Profane Language <ul><li>Like indecency, banned between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on broadcast </li></ul>
  36. 37. Cable Television <ul><li>cable does not intrude </li></ul><ul><li>subscriber must affirmatively elect to have cable </li></ul><ul><li>must decide whether to get &quot;extra&quot; programming </li></ul><ul><li>noncable subscriber won't be confronted with materials carried only on cable (so no nuisance) </li></ul>
  37. 38. <ul><li>as to shielding children: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>parents must choose cable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>parents must decide on cable channels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>programming guides identify programs with vulgarity, nudity and violence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>lockbox available </li></ul></ul>

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