THE BLURRING LINE BETWEEN THE WORLD OF PORNOGRAPHY AND ‘MAINSTREAM BUSINESSES’
BY ROBERT PETERS
In its 1986 Report, the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography noted that in the 1950’s, “sex related materials” generally depicted scantily-clad women in seductive poses and “were not generally available to the public.” More explicit material existed, but it was only available in “adults only” outlets in major cities or through mail order operations.
The reasons for this were twofold. First, as noted by the Supreme Court in a 1954 obscenity case, there was a “universal judgment that obscenity should be restrained.” Second, obscenity laws prior to the 1960’s encompassed a broader range of sexually oriented materials and were easier to enforce.
During the 1960’s, the content of pornographic materials became more explicit and distribution expanded significantly. Three reasons for this were: first, the publication of Playboy, which set out to make porn acceptable ‘entertainment for men” and which was marketed in “mainstream” businesses; second, the death of the Motion Picture Code, which rejected rather than rated lewd films; and third, the Supreme Court, which made it virtually impossible to prosecute obscenity cases from 1966 to 1973.
Yet, during the 1960’s, it was still “secondary channels” of distribution (i.e.. “adult” bookstores and theatres), not mainstream businesses, that undergirded the “adults only” market.
Since 1970, there has not only been an “explosion” in the amount of hardcore pornography and but also a degeneration in its content–i.e., more explicit, degrading and violent. And, the line between mainstream businesses and the porn industry has blurred to the point where for some “mainstream” businesses. The only line–if any–is the word “adult” or the letters “XXX” found somewhere in the store or on an advertisement.
Today, “mainstream” video stores have an “adults only” section with hardcore pornographic videos or “cable versions” of such videos; and other “mainstream” neighborhood retail outlets offer hardcore porn on their magazine racks.
Today, “mainstream” cable TV companies provide “cable versions” of hardcore pornographic videos on a pay-per-view basis: and “mainstream” hotels and motels are doing the same.
Today, “mainstream” commercial online computer services allow “bulletin boards” which provide hardcore pornography; and “mainstream” computer magazines carry ads for hardcore “CD ROMS.”
Today, “mainstream” newspapers carry ads for “XXX” theatres and other “adult entertainment:” and “mainstream” credit card companies allow dial-a-porn businesses to utilize their cards.
Today, “mainstream” book companies publish books with hardcore pornographic content; and “mainstream” music companies produce recordings with hardcore pornographic lyrics, and the list goes on.
Three reasons for this “blurring line” are: first, the 1970 Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, which issued a slanted and biased report in favor of protecting the business of obscenity; second, the “sexual revolution,” which promoted a false “freedom” from moral restraint; and third, the communications revolution, which offered new technology to distribute pornography
There are those who say that the porn industry is thriving because it is providing what people want. Certainly some do “want it.” but opinion polls repeatedly show that most Americans are concerned about the proliferation of hardcore pornography, and they do support responsible measures to combat it. To effectuate their concern, however. citizens must become better informed–and act.
A first lesson is that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected arguments that enforcement of obscenity laws constitutes “censorship,” that the term “obscene” is vague. that availability of pornography is the same as community acceptance of it and that there is no harm when consenting adults only” view obscenity.
A second lesson is that the constitutional Federal and state obscenity laws don’t “discriminate” between sleazy organized crime controlled “adults only” businesses and “mainstream” businesses. As one court put it: “If it’s obscene. it’s obscene. It doesn’t matter whether its sold in an adult bookstore or a drugstore.”
A third lesson is that citizens must make complaints and insist that the FBI, Postal Service and U.S. Attorneys investigate for possible violations of the Federal Obscenity Laws, and that the police and district attorneys investigate for possible violations of state and local obscenity laws.
A last lesson is that effectiveness grows with numbers. and there is no better institution in the community to lead the fight against pornography than churches and synagogues. What congregations need is to “hear it” from the pulpit, and what law enforcement agencies need is to “hear it” from the congregation!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY MORALITY IN MEDIA, SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER, 1994, PAGE 2. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.