Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How pornography is and isn't protected

To start: A reiteration of something I think I said- this isn't really a blog, but a place for me to semi-anonymously post rants about stuff and think about my ideas. As a result, don't expect too much coherence.

Anyway. First, some definitions. You don't have to agree with these; I just need to be precise for the purposes of my argument.

Pornography is defined as material that uses sexual elements for the purpose of sexual arousal/titilation (now there's a fun word!).

Erotica is defined as material that uses sexual elements for the purpose of creative expression, or any sort of expression (so, we include both nude sculpture and the sex scene in Looking for Alaska, and even anatomy textbooks, if we consider those sexual).

One thing I've heard from (frequently religious) conservatives is that pornography is not protected under the First Amendment, for whatever reason, and, by my definition (which is most likely different from theirs), it isn't. Whether sexually arousing material should be restricted is, of course, still up to debate, but it isn't constitutionally protected.

However, erotica is absolutely protected. It, by defintion, is used for expression, and the First Amendment (not to mention the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but I'm being Amerocentric) protects expression.

The issue is, then, how we distinguish pornography from erotica. After all, if a work is used in any way at all for expression, it's protected; therefore, in order to ban (or, I would argue, restrict at all, including agewise) a work, we need to decide that it has not use whatsoever than sexual arousal. Then we have the issue of who does the deciding, especially because any kind of meaning at all to anyone, anywhere would protect a work from restriction.

So, unless we want to establish censorship boards and somehow align them with public opinion, plus deal with the headache of varying standards, we should just eliminate a ban on sexual materials.