Pornographic Politics: Santorum Pledges To Prosecute The Country Into a Better Moral State

Rick Santorum is continuing his faith-based campaign with a pledge to wipe out pornography in his Administration. The problem is that pornography is lawful and now a multi-billion dollar industry. It is obscenity that can be criminalized, but what is obscene remains exceptionally vague and ill-defined. Indeed, many may find parts of this presidential campaign to border on the obscene.

Santorum has proclaimed “The Obama Administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws.” He pledges that he will “vigorously” enforce laws that “prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier.”

What constitutes obscenity remains maddeningly vague. Indeed, many find laughable Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s test for pornography in his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964): “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

Santorum shows the dangers of the fluid test described by Stewart. What Santorum would consider obscene is obviously far greater than millions of Americans who either work or patronize porn sites. Federal courts are reluctant to define movies or pictures as obscene based on such different opinions in society. For that reason, Santorum’s view of the standard appears to fall well outside of the accepted view of the case law. Prohibitions have focused on areas like child pornography, snuff films, and animal abuse. Sexual films of consenting adults that are watched by consenting adults are generally presumed to be pornographic but not obscene. The Court has also emphasized the difficulty in determining what is obscene and what is artistic or literary. For many years, great novels were defined as obscene under the community standards that Santorum appears to favor.

However, the Supreme Court’s poorly conceived precedent in the area has left the standard of obscenity ill-defined — creating an opening for someone like Santorum to seek to limit what adults can view as part of new crackdown on immoral lifestyles and values.

Santorum’s suggestion of a crackdown, however, ignores the fact that this material is widely available on the Internet with thousands of foreign sites. An attempt to prosecute standard pornography would result in bizarrely uneven enforcement. It would also attempt to criminalize an industry that is supported by millions of Americans much as prohibition sought to criminalize alcohol consumption. The difference is that today’s “speakeasies” are found in virtual space on the Internet. He may find that Wall Street would be a bit peeved with the attempt to eradicate an over $12 billion a year industry.

I would bet against such an expanded effort in the courts if it targeted explicit sexual acts between consenting adults. Such a crackdown was attempted under Ed Meese in the Reagan Administration with limited lasting effect.

Ironically, the more promising avenue for regulation would not be to try to widen obscenity laws but to extend prostitution laws. There has always been an odd contradiction in criminalizing prostitution between consenting adults while allowing the same person to accept money to have sex before millions. For libertarians, the prohibition on prostitution by consenting adults is a denial of individual choice and freedom. I oppose laws that criminalize such personal choices on morality grounds. However, if prostitution laws are valid, it would seem easier to extend them to sex for money in pornographic settings. I would argue against such laws on constitutional grounds, but I would likely be in the minority. I believe that such films have first amendment protection beyond the privacy protections afforded to consenting adults. (Privacy itself is hard to maintain when you are filming sexual encounters for millions to view.).

Regardless of the approach taken by Santorum, what he is advocating is a return to the enforcement of morality codes through criminal prosecution. It would threaten tens of millions of adults to conform their conduct to the moral dictates of Santorum and his followers. It is the type of state-imposed morality that we have criticized in other nations. Indeed, a Santorum Administration might want to consider one more commission — a favorite reaction of Washington in appeasing the public. He could call it the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Source: Daily Caller

74 thoughts on “Pornographic Politics: Santorum Pledges To Prosecute The Country Into a Better Moral State

  1. “Who would have thought – pornography bringing us together in a truly meaningful way.”

    The way whorehouses and speakeasies used to be the social norm that brought many people together. You made me laugh with that last sentence.

  2. Big Fat Mike,

    Geez, you poor people. Come to Sweden.

    I don’t think we have a porn program on cable, only at tourist hotels. It’s not forbidden, it’s just not needed. Of course they buy DVD programs, but mass consumption, nada. Only some like germans and austrian need that.

    Are you horny in Stockholm? Go and get a drink at a bar, if you’re clean, not horrible—–just wait five minutes. And that applies whether you are man or woman.
    If the vibes are there, the action soon follows. Guaranteed.

    In my first year here, live sex shows were all the rage. Now it’s just for tourists.

    My morrocan friend Nasser tonight said that it’s the same among the young people in Casablanca and Marrakech.
    And he’s there often. BTW, he had not seen anything about the sixteen year old suicide. So again. I ask, when did that happen. Wasn’t it the harissa habitué who had checked the local blogs there? Blouise???

    The world is changing folks. Are you connected?

  3. “I learned something very important watching that Clarence Thomas hearing, and d’you know what I learned?

    I don’t stand a fuckin’ chance. Don’t even call the committee to order. It’d be a real short hearing:

    ‘Mr. Hicks, are you familiar at all with the video series called Clam-Lappers, Volumes 1 through 90?’

    ‘All of them? I don’t recall. . . . pornography’s gotten a really bad name in our country, and I’d like to state for the record right now – I love pornography. Love it. . . . For the record.’

    ‘Mr. Hicks, thank you for your testimony. I don’t know if we have a place for ya right now on the Supreme Court, but boy, you ever thought about becoming a Senator?'” – Bill Hicks

    I’m with Bill.

  4. Brown paper bags. You don’t really have them outside of some shameful states I won’t mention. Do you?
    Now an easily recognized plastic bag is a sign of status, if it is wine inside.
    You are not an alcohol drenched vodka slob anymore, but converted to the drink of modern moderate consumers with style. Bla bla,,,,,,,true!
    Propaganda does work even there.
    Think the day might come when maryjane is marketed, and other drugs become as accepted as oxyco and viagra. Noradrenaline anyone?

    Bedtime. Nighty night.

  5. Here’s some of the most disgusting, most dehumanizing and degrading porn ever filmed, please have your vomit-bag handy:

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