Pornography Debate

obscenity

obscenity, in law, anything that tends to corrupt public morals by its indecency. The moral concepts that the term connotes vary from time to time and from place to place. In the United States, the word obscenity is a technical legal term. In the 1950s the U.S. Supreme Court began to relax rules prohibiting the possession, sale, and distribution of obscene material, often called pornography, but in 1973 that trend was reversed. The court ruled that material that appealed to prurient interest in sex and that did not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value could be banned as obscene. It ruled that a national definition of obscenity was not necessary and, therefore, that communities could develop local standards within the court's guidelines. The legal determination that material falls within a definition of obscenity is usually made by a jury.

See H. M. Clor, Obscenity and Public Morality (1969, repr. 1985); D. S. Moretti, Obscenity and Pornography (1984).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go from Here
Carmine Sarracino; Kevin M. Scott.
Beacon Press, 2008
Pornography, Community and the Internet - Freedom of Speech and Obscenity on the Internet
Kamiel, Yuval; Wismonsky, Haim.
Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1, Spring 2004
Censorship
Ted Gottfried.
Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2006
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Morality or Prudery?"; Chap. 3 "See-Saw: Smut and the Law"
How (Not) to Censor: Procedural First Amendment Values and Internet Censorship Worldwide
Nunziato, Dawn C.
Georgetown Journal of International Law, Vol. 42, No. 4, Summer 2011
Dealing with Pornography: The Case against Censorship
Paul R. Wilson.
University of New South Wales Press, 1995
Pornography and Censorship
David Copp; Susan Wendell.
Prometheus Books, 1983
Child Pornography, the First Amendment, and Mistakes of Age: An Age-Old Debate*
Ritter, Michael J.
Texas Law Review, Vol. 88, No. 5, April 2010
Critical Readings: Media and Gender
Cynthia Carter; Linda Steiner.
Open University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "Knowing Pornography"
Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography
Rebecca Whisnant; Christine Stark.
Spinifex, 2004
Hate Speech, Pornography, and the Radical Attack on Free Speech Doctrine
James Weinstein.
Westview Press, 1999
Moral Controversies in American Politics: Cases in Social Regulatory Policy
Raymond Tatalovich; Byron W. Daynes.
M. E. Sharpe, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Pornography: Freedom of Expression or Sexual Degradation?"
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