Pornography's Legal Definition

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Damn. So a judge has to be sexually aroused before material is considered pornographic? That might be difficult - I’ve seen some pretty old judges… Or maybe they mean anything that sexually arouses anyone is pornography. In which case pretty much everything that I looked at from the 7th grade to graduation would be considered pornographic: my French teacher (Mademoiselle Plaisir, I kid you not), a warm breeze, algebra, sleep… The list goes on… :laughing:

Hmm. Maybe that’s what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart meant when he ruled “I know it when I see it.” :shock:

I had lots of fun defending at a few obscenity trials in the Crown Courts in my old barristering days. Part of the fun was that we and the jury had to view all the evidence, which could mean sitting for days on end watching pornographic films (boring enough after a while, but better than working). Then when it came to the submissions, we could trot out a standard argument along the lines that the offending material couldn’t possibly be proven to have the effect of “tending to deprave and corrupt” those likely to be exposed to it (the test applied then under English law), because surely it was only dirty little old men in raincoats who patronized the defendant’s establishments and they were already too far gone to get any worse, and anyway it was all too much of a joke to be taken seriously, wasn’t it. In 99% of cases the jury would agree and return a not guilty verdict. The prosecution service knew this would happen, but still brought the cases to trial to harass the porn merchants, who would generally be ordered by the judge to foot ther own bill for defence costs and thus receive at least some small rap on the knuckles.

In the United States, the term of legal significance is “obscenity”, rather than “pornography”. After trying many cases, the U.S. Supreme Court finally defined “obscenity” in 1973, with the following three-part test:

[b]The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be:

(a) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and

© whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.[/b]

Part (a) above considers community standards. Nonetheless, all three parts must be met for a work to be deemed “obscene”, and part © above, has been subsequently held by the Court, to be a national standard rather than a community test.

That’s a crap definition ! That’s no better than the “tends to deprave or corrupt” gibberish in the UK Obscene Publications Act. Clearly (a) and © will always be true, so it turns on the meaning of “offensive” in (b), is that a fair analysis ? So now we have to define the word “offensive”, do we ?

I think the entire definition is filled with ambiguity, designed to protect the freedom of expression, and the freedom to view such expression.

I mean, really, what is “serious” literary or artistic value? If you follow stories about federally funded art exhibits in the US, it is clear that a work must be extremely “offensive” before federal funds are withheld.

Thus, if the definition is crappy, perhaps that is the intent of the definer?

You are sexually aroused by algebra???

When I was at boading school, I had to take showers first thing in the morning in full view of a teacher and a whole lot of other boys. Waking up “proud” and desperate to find a way to go limp before stripping off, I hit on the infallible method of thinking very hard about simultaneous equations. Never thought anyone could get horny thinking about the same thing!