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"GOP, hands off my porn!"

on Tuesday, 04 September 2012. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The Republican Party has committed to "vigorously" enforcing obscenity laws. A look at what that could mean

Salon.com

It’s official: A Romney presidency would mean a renewed war on porn. This week, the Republican Party added the following line to its party platform: “Current laws on all forms of pornography and obscenity need to be vigorously enforced.”

Vigorously enforced. Just what does that mean? Which genres would be safe, and which taboos would be targeted? Would they go after wildly popular tube sites like PornHub or industry bigwigs like Hustler? I decided to talk to some experts to find out.

Before we go any further, it’s worth reviewing the legal definition of obscenity. The 1973 Miller decision established a three-pronged test: It must appeal “to the prurient interest,” based on “community standards”; depict sexual behavior “in a patently offensive way”; and lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” But, clearly, “community standards” not only vary but are ever-changing — there is no master list of approved pornographic acts. This makes obscenity prosecutions at once more difficult and more accessible.

Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project, says, “They would lose prosecutions if they went after vanilla sex, like Wicked Pictures and Vivid.” Instead, federal prosecutors are likelier to go after edgier fetish films where “it appears like there is violence happening.” We certainly saw that with some Bush-era obscenity prosecutions. Take the indictment in 2003 of Extreme Associates for films involving simulated kidnapping, murder and rape (as well as, um, vomit-ingestion). Then there’s the conviction of Paul F. Little, aka Max Hardcore in 2008: His work featured intense slapping and choking — indeed, scenes where “it appears like there is violence happening” — as well as vomiting and urination. (As journalist Susannah Breslin wrote, “Watching Little’s work is less like watching a porn movie than it is akin to witnessing a vivisection.”) ...

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