Whenever you take a public stand against traffic in illegal hardcore pornography, pornographers and their defenders will make cliched arguments to undermine your effort. The answers published here will help you to respond. They are adapted from Morality in Media's publication Cliches - Debunking Misinformation about Pornography and Obscenity Law, which is available from MIM ($3.00 per copy).
1. District Attorneys and U.S. Attorneys have good reason for not enforcing the obscenity laws - namely, "limited resources and more important priorities."
Generally speaking, limited budgets and priorities determine what gets most of a prosecutor's attention. They rarely justify a prosecutor's decision to refuse to enforce some laws altogether -- especially when the refusal continues throughout the prosecutor's term of office. Can you imagine a prosecutor refusing to prosecute consumer fraud cases because he or she decided to concentrate his or her energies on prosecuting those who violate environmental protection laws? Or refusing to enforce laws aimed at endangering the welfare of a minor because he or she wanted to concentrate on prosecuting corrupt politicians? Or refusing to prosecute assault and rape cases involving spouses and "domestic partners" because he or she wanted to focus on drug violence?
Prosecutors are typically required, either by their oath of office or by statute (or both), to enforce all of the laws. Prosecutors who fail or refuse to enforce obscenity laws are not doing their job; and by not doing their job, they are exposing individuals (young and old), families and the entire community to serious harm. Excuses for not enforcing obscenity laws vary. Some prosecutors may be unaware of the harms that pornography causes; or may mistakenly believe that it is their job to address the results of moral breakdown (rape, sexual child abuse, domestic violence, teen violence, prostitution, etc.) rather than a cause of it. Prosecutors with political aspirations may fear that the liberal media will not support enforcement of obscenity laws. Other prosecutors are ideologically opposed to obscenity laws.
But whatever their excuse, most prosecutors will begin enforcing obscenity laws when enough citizens complain; and the community will be a better place as a result of the enforcement.
2. Pornography is thriving, so the American people must want it or accept it.
Almost every national opinion poll -- including a March 2002 Wirthlin Worldwide poll for Morality in Media -- has shown that the majority of Americans are opposed to the traffic in pornography and support legal measures to curb it. The majority care, but they are confused and discouraged in the face of a highly organized propaganda campaign orchestrated by the pornography industry and its defenders.
3. Pornography is a victimless crime.
The victims of the pornography industry are strewn from coast to coast. They include sexually abused children, corrupted teens, degraded and violated women, addicted men, broken marriages, ruined neighborhoods, AIDS victims, and ultimately, the very soul and humanity of a nation.
4. When "consenting adults" view obscene material, no one is being harmed.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in 1973: "We categorically disapprove the theory that obscene films acquire constitutional immunity from state regulation simply because they are exhibited for consenting adults only. Rights and interests other than those of the advocates are involved. These include the interest of the public in the quality of life, the total community environment and possibly, the public safety itself.
"Apart from sex crimes . . . there is a 'right of the Nation and of the States to maintain a decent society.'
" . . .The sum of experience . . . affords an ample basis . . . to conclude that a sensitive, key relationship of human existence, central to family life, community welfare, and the development of human personality, can be debased and distorted by crass commercial exploitation of sex." (Paris Adult Theater I v. Slaton)
In Paris Adult Theater I, the Supreme Court held that a government does not need conclusive scientific proof that porn causes sex crimes before it acts to curb traffic in obscenity. As the Court noted, many laws rest on judgments that cannot be proven scientifically. The Paris Court also recognized that the prevention of sex crimes is not the only reason for prohibiting the dissemination of obscenity.
6. Pornography is harmless. The 1970 Presidential Commission report said so.
The 1970 Majority Report of the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography was called a "scientific scandal" by many in the scientific community. A minority report of that commission (the "Hill-Link Minority Report") cited numerous instances where evidence was suppressed when it went counter to the predetermined "findings" of the majority report. In addition, the Hill-Link Minority Report was read into the record in both Houses of Congress as a "responsible position on the issues," and was later cited four times by the Supreme Court in upholding obscenity laws. However, pornographers and their defenders continue to resurrect the flawed and discredited majority report, which was rejected by the President and by the U.S. Senate (by a vote of 60 to 5).
7. You cannot legislate morality.
Yes, you can. Think of all the criminal laws - those against theft, rape, murder, robbery, and so forth. Defining what is morally right and wrong is and always has been the essence of the legislative function. Public morals are the business of the entire community, and it is public morality that obscenity laws are designed to safeguard. In its Paris Adult Theater I decision (1973), the Supreme Court said that a legislative body could prohibit obscenity "to protect 'the social interest in order and morality.'"
8. Who are you to tell me what I can see or read? You are imposing your morality on me!
A. I am not telling you what to see or to read. The people, through their elected representatives in Washington, D.C. and in over 40 state capitals, have decided that obscene materials cannot be distributed in interstate commerce or in their states. The people, with the approval of the courts, have decided to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from the harms associated with hard-core obscene pornography.
B. Pornography invades the home in the form of mail porn, dial-a-porn, video porn, cable porn, satellite-to-dish porn, and now computer porn. The reality is that the sex business is trying to impose its libertine immorality on an entire nation by appealing to the worst in individuals and exploiting human weakness.
C. In any society, someone's morality (or immorality) must prevail. The real question becomes, "Whose will prevail in America?" The pornographer's, leading to anarchy and decadence? Or the moral principles of those who honor the Judeo-Christian code -- a code which has been embraced, not imposed, as the cornerstone of Western civilization.
9. Why bother enforcing the law? The "adult" bookstores keep operating while their owners are in the courts, and even if they close eventually, they later come back.
A. Persistent, continuous, and vigorous enforcement of the law is the answer. When arrests and prosecutions begin, the sex industry is put on warning. Prison sentences and fines can eventually put the pornographers out of business. Many cities across America were ridded of obscene material because of vigorous, continuous law enforcement.
B. The RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) laws provide a powerful weapon against the pornography industry. Besides imposing stiff fines and prison sentences, RICO laws can force the forfeiture of all assets of a pornography business, including real property, stores, vehicles, and bank accounts. This is what breaks the racketeer's financial back. The federal government and some state governments have RICO obscenity statutes. Every state should be armed with such a law.
C. "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance," as one of our nation's Founding Fathers said.
10. If you'd let pornography flow freely, people would get bored and the problem would take care of itself.
A. This boredom or satiation theory is invalid. Many users of pornography do not get bored; they become addicted, seeking more and more bizarre materials. For many, pornography-fueled fantasies must eventually give way to action, which includes sexual abuse, rape, and sometimes even murder.
B. Because of a lack of obscenity law enforcement throughout the 1970's and most of the 1980's, pornography was allowed to flow freely. Yet, instead of pornography going away, it has lured more and more people into destructive addictions.
C. Remember also that new markets for the industry are being created every day as children and teens succumb to the allure of pornography.
11. People who fight pornography are anti-sex, prudish, and sexually repressed.
Anti-sex? Surely you joke. The pornography business takes the beauty of real love and converts it into soulless, commercialized slime. The porn-fighters protect healthy sexuality with the key ingredients of love, tenderness, commitment, and the privacy of intimate moments. If "prudish" and "sexually repressed" are the labels attached to those who oppose the depictions of sadomasochism, gang rape, sexual orgies, bestiality, rubbing excrement on others, ad infinitum, then we will wear those labels proudly.
Printed with permission from ObscenityCrimes.org.