PORNOGRAPHY.   Leave a comment

Perhaps the lowest level of artistic or literary endeavour, pornography may be defined as the presentation of sexual behaviour in books, pictures, or films solely to cause sexual excitement. The word pornography is derived from a Greek term meaning “the writings of harlots,” or prostitutes. Closely related, and in legal terms virtually identical, is obscenity, which is behaviour or material that is immoral and designed to produce lust.

West Germany, (or Federal Republic of Germany), until 1990 reunification, nation in central Europe; cap. Bonn; area 95,963 sq mi (248,543 sq km), pop. 60,924,000, both excluding West Berlin. Circa 1995.

Throughout the centuries such material has been both banned and regulated by law. Most nations have laws concerning pornography, though in some places public attitudes are quite permissive. Denmark, for example, removed all restrictions on the sale of pictorial and written material in the years 1967 to 1969. In other places Germany and the United States, for example pornography is readily available in major cities, though laws regulate its distribution.

Legal issues. Pornography, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. Neither legislative bodies nor courts have been able to give clear-cut definitions of what it is or by what standards it should be regulated. In nations like the United States, where freedom of speech is written into the Constitution, it has been virtually impossible to ban pornography outright.

There have been three major court rulings that have determined public policy toward obscene matter in the United States. The earliest, in 1868, was a British case, Regina vs. Hicklin, which influenced American law for many decades. The others were rulings by the United States Supreme Court: Roth vs. United States in 1957 and Miller vs. California in 1973.

The Hicklin case set a strict test for determining obscenity: a book can be declared pornographic if only isolated passages in it are offensive. This ruling stood until the famous case in 1933 of United States vs. One Book Entitled Ulysses, in which a federal court ruled that a work must be judged in its entirety.

Freedom of speech, guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In the Roth case the Supreme Court attempted for the first time to give standards for judging pornography. It ruled that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, and for a work to be pornographic it must appeal “to the prurient [unwholesome] interest” and be “utterly without redeeming social importance.” Justices on the court who were against the Roth decision found it to be vague, imprecise, and flexible. Modifications in later cases proved this to be true. The Miller case of 1973 removed some vagueness but not the flexibility.

The ruling in the Miller case stated that a work does not have to be “utterly without redeeming social value” to be considered obscene, and obscenity was defined as material that is “patently offensive.” Most significantly, the ruling asserted that it is not possible to set a national standard for obscenity. Such material must be judged by the prevailing standards of a community: local laws and enforcement are needed. The Miller decision has not solved the pornography problem because application of it has tended to vary widely.

Radio and television. The regulation of the broadcast media is more stringent than that of other materials because access to them is as easy as turning a knob on a receiver. The United States Congress and the Federal Communications Commission govern the way programming may be presented, and they have consistently ruled against obscenity.

Cable television, system that distributes television signals by means of transmission cables; originated in U.S. in 1950s; improves picture and sound quality in areas with poor reception; provides additional motion picture and sports channels to subscribers; a few systems allow viewers to call up various materials or participate in public opinion polls through two-way channels.

Cable television, on the other hand, is not so regulated because though available to millions it is not considered a public medium. It must be purchased and installed. A great amount of pornography appears on cable.

Child pornography. A serious form of child abuse, child pornography had become a multimillion-dollar international industry by the mid-1970s. To deal with it governments have passed laws making it a felony punishable by heavy fines and jail sentences.

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Posted 2011/12/07 by Stelios in Education

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