Obscenity and F*cking Censorship

A few weeks ago, Google announced that it was going to ban sexually explicit blogs, and I was gearing up to write an angry blog post about it. However, since then, Google received a ton of negative feedback from bloggers (here's an article from a blogger whose blog, Gross Nudes, was up for deletion) and they changed their minds.

These are the basic rules they've decided to stick to instead:
  • adult content is allowed, but must have an "adult content" warning
  • you can't make money on adult content 
  • no illegal content (like child porn) 
  • no posting/distributing images or videos without the subject's consent 

The proposed ban would have continued to allow nudity, but only if "the content offer[ed] a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts". Basically, so long as it wasn't obscene.

The idea of "obscenity" has been around for awhile, but a lot of people aren't aware of it. In short, obscenity isn't protected by free speech. The Miller test is generally used to determine what's obscene and consists of three conditions that must be met:
  • Would the average person think it may be sexual?
  • Does it explicitly show sexual content?
  • Does it lack literary, artistic, political, or scientific value?

Usually, the sale and distribution of obscene materials isn't protected, but the right to own it is (thanks to privacy laws). Immediately, pornography comes to mind, much of which is, of course, obscene. But sometimes, a story line can be considered to add "literary value". Surprise, those terrible plots have a purpose. And trust me, there's a lot of them.

One of the most popular X rated films of all time,  Deep Throat (1972) was one of the first pornographic films to have a real plot and production value. The movie follows young Linda Lovelace, who discovers her clitoris is in her throat, and spends the movie deep throating various men while fireworks and bells go off whenever she orgasms.  People disagreed on whether or not it was obscene, so it was banned in some locations but allowed in others. A film critic claimed that the comedy of the plot gave it enough merit to be legal. However, a year after it came out, judge Joel Tyler ruled it obscene, claiming:

"The alleged story lines are the facade, the sheer negligee through which 
clearly shines the producer’s and the defendant’s true and only purpose, that is, 
the presentation of unmistakably hard-core pornography."

Obscenity laws aren't a thing of the past. Many states have put bans on sex toys because of their "obscene nature". Thankfully, many of these bans were found to be unconstitutional, the most recent overturn was in Texas in 2008. However, that still leaves Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia.

Apparently, state officials believe there's "no fundamental right to purchase a product to use in pursuit of having an orgasm." Firstly, sex toys aren't just for sex. Secondly, these laws unfairly target women. Thirdly, and I'll borrow the words of Dr. Marty Klein for this, banning sex toys is an "extraordinary erosion of personal liberty, coupled with the massive disrespect of and fear of sexuality." While sex toys may not be for everyone, a lot of people enjoy them, and you can't prevent other people from using them because you think human sexuality is obscene.

(Since the release of Deep Throat, actress Linda Boreman has made statements about not consenting to the acts in the film. Though the film is one of cultural significance, I'd advise you not to watch it, and remind you that RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) is an available resource if you ever need it.)

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