From Netsafe Kids:
WHAT IS PORNOGRAPHY?
“I shall not today attempt further to define [obscenity]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it….”
That famous statement, uttered by the late Justice Potter Stewart in 1973 when faced with a case involving obscenity, illustrates the difficulty of trying to determine what constitutes obscene or pornographic content. The term “pornography” has no well-defined meaning, certainly no legal definition. And if a Supreme Court justice had trouble defining the nature of sexually explicit material, how easy is it for the rest of us—each of whom looks at the world in a different way? Lack of consensus is one reason the subject of pornography is such a contentious legal issue.
Pornography is a word thrown about all too easily. We call lots of things ‘porn’ or pornography when we really don’t mean it. We joke a lot about porn. Obviously the XXX girlie shows are porn, aren’t they? Anything that says XXX has to be porn and it has been my experience, if it has even one X, it is.
I realized last week that people have very different ideas about what constitutes pornography. A new adult boutique will be opening in the City of Manassas in the near future and the townspeople are beside themselves. I am asking what’s the big deal? Another such shop exists on route 28 that has been in business for at least 20 years. People don’t like the location of the new kid on the block, it seems. Not in the City of Manassas! So do we want to take what we perceive as porn and brush it under the rug? Do we want it far away so we can sneak into the store and buy something we wouldn’t want our mothers to know about and not be seen by our friends and neighbors?
Is Old Town Manassas the crown jewel where there are no secrets? Young people (under 40) seem to have a lot easier time simply discussing things like sex toys and real fancy erotic underwear much easier than those of us who are post 40. Yet, some of the people hollering the loudest are not in the post 40 demographic.
The best example I can come up with when someone asks what is porn would be the John Bobbitt flick he made after he was sliced and diced. Someone got Mr. Howler an advanced copy and he was all proud of himself for getting the coveted video. I lasted maybe all of 30 seconds before I left the room. Mr. Howler, tough guy that he is, was even grossed out and he didn’t last more than 5 minutes. So is porn stuff that grosses us out? Is it always sexual? How do we decide what ‘community standards’ are? Is the issue of porn on a collision course with 1st amendment rights?
Before we can decide what kind of shops we want to condone or condemn , it seems sensible to clarify what we really consider pornographic, obscene or indecent. In doing so, we have to realize that our neighbors probably won’t come up with the same set of attributes.