As early as the late 1800s, the question of a pornographic ban has been debated many times. Different religious, feminist, and human rights groups believe that pornography has a negative impact on society and that it should be abolished. Luckily, we still have people fighting for our First Amendment rights. The United States should not put a ban on pornography because, there would be no definitive line on what would be considered banned, a prohibition on pornography would be a violation on the First Amendment, and if such a ban were to be put in place it would be near impossible to enforce.
If a pornography ban was to be established, what kind of materials would that cover? Would it only include pornographic movies and magazines or would it include all forms of media and entertainment? What would be considered pornography? The word pornography is generally associated with photographs or movies. Some may say books or music could also be included under that label. In an article from the Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection it states that the meaning of the term has been narrowed somewhat to describe sexually explicit material that is considered offensive (Pornography). Offensive is a wide-ranging word. What one person may consider offensive and what someone else may consider offensive would be very different. Who has the right to say which of these opinions are precise? What is actually considered offensive?
On the legal side of things, a prohibition on pornography would directly violate the First Amendment. The first amendment is the freedom of speech and expression. In a Supreme Court hearing mentioned in the Opposing Views article, the Supreme Court ruled that an Indianapolis anti-pornography law was unconstitutional because it banned certain types of speech not because they lacked value but to prevent people from expressing certain viewpoints (Pornography). In the CRS report for Congress, on the subject of obscenity and pornography; it says that, “Most pornography is protected by the first amendment (CRS 5)” The reason it says most; is because some material is not included. What is not integrated is material that the government considers to be obscene pornography. The CRS report states that for pornography to be considered obscene it must “depict or describe patently offensive ‘hardcore’ sexual; conduct (CRS 5)”. There is also an exception for the material that isn’t covered; “One has the right to possess obscene material ‘in the privacy of his own home’ (CRS 6)”. This was also mentioned in the Opposing Viewpoints article, in the case Stanley v. Georgia (1969), the Court seemed to be moving toward the more liberal position. It claimed that the government did not have the right to prevent individuals from possessing pornography in their own homes because the only justification for obscenity laws was to prevent obscene material from falling into the hands of children or offending the general public (pornography). In simpler words, it means that most pornography is covered by the First Amendment and even the materials that are not are covered as long as it is in your own home. So, if the U.S. government were to put a prohibition on pornography it would breach the First Amendment in more ways than one; first by banning certain types of speech in pornography, secondly by prohibiting all of the non-obscene pornography and a third time by prohibiting obscene porn in a person’s possession in their own home.
Lastly, how would our government eliminate all “pornographic” images in the United States? The world is in an age of technology. Even if the government closed down all sex shops and banned the sell of pornographic books and movies, it would be near impossible to remove it all from the internet. Anyone with a camera or cell phone could make their own from home. Then, it would only take a matter of seconds to upload for download online. Also, almost every book, movie, music video, and television show has sexual content. Would that be banned as well? Almost all advertisements contain sexual content or innuendos also. It would be a next to impossible feat to remove pornography in the United States.
People have been trying to have pornography banned since the invention of photography. In Tim LaHaye’s article, he is quoted saying, “Nothing speeds up a normal person’s decency into the maelstrom of indecency faster than pornography (LaHaye 180)”. This is a common idea found in many anti-porn arguments. It is all speculation with no real evidence to back it up. People like LaHaye want to get such a ban passed in America. If they had it their way, America would revert back to the days when women wore only dresses that had to be to their ankles. We would slowly lose our rights and become one big cookie cutter image of a nation. Where would the line be drawn? Most television shows and movies would be banned. Social media would be even stricter than it is today. The government would have full control over anything you post or upload. Culturally speaking, we would revert back to the early 1960’s. That is not the future I want to see for the great country of the United States of America.
Cohen, Henry. “CRS Report for Congress Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment” USA.gov. 2008: 5-6. USA.gov. PDF file. 23 November 2014.
LaHaye, Tim. “The Mental Poison.” Pornography: Private Right or Public Menace? Eds. Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1991. 177-182.Print.
“Pornography.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2014. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.