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Sociology 2105A/B

Pornography • Pornography is the graphic depiction of sexual behavior through pictures and/or words—including by electronic or other data retrieval systems—in a manner that is intended to be sexually arousing. • Obscenity is the legal term for pornographic materials that are offensive by generally accepted standards of decency. In Miller v. California (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court held that material can be considered legally obscene only if it meets three criteria: 1) The material as a whole appeals to the prurient interests (lustful ideas or desires) 2) The material depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive way as defined by state or federal law 3) The work as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value The Nature and Extent of Pornography • As part of the multibillion-dollar sex industry, pornography is profitable to many people, including investors, film makers, and owners of stores that distribute such materials. Hardcore pornographic films (those that explicitly depict sexual acts and/or genitals) gross over $400 million a year in the United States alone. It is not uncommon for a small production company that shoots, manufactures, and distributes such videos to gross more than $1 million a year. • Technological innovations such as digital media have greatly increased the variety of pornographic materials available as well as methods of distribution. Although some people visit live peep shows and “X-rated” adult bookstores and video arcades, sexually explicit materials are available at home or in the office through mail-order services, movies on “X-rated” cable television channels, dial-a-porn, and private computer bulletin boards and Usenet newsgroups specializing in adult chat areas and graphics exchanges on the Internet. Research on Pornography • During the past three decades, two presidential commissions have examined pornography and reached contradictory conclusions. The 1970 U.S. Commission on Pornography and Obscenity found no conclusive links between pornography and sex crimes. In 1986, however, the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography (also known as the Meese Commission) concluded that pornography is dangerous, causes sex crimes, increases aggression in males, inspires sexism against women, and encourages pedophilia (i.e., adults engaging
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