Sexually Explicit Materials and the Internet, by Douglas Birsch
Obscene Material: A Definition
Two important categories of sexually explicit material are
obscene and pornographic material. One way to define obscene
material is to use the Supreme Court's guidelines developed in
the 1973 case Miller v. California. If the material is obscene,
an average person applying community standards would conclude
There are several key phrases in this definition. The court
rejected the idea of a national standard of obscenity and left it
to local communities to apply their "community standards" to
potentially obscene material. The phrase "prurient interest"
refers to a shameful, morbid, lustful, degrading, or unhealthy
interest in sex. "Patently offensive" is more difficult to
define. Apparently the idea is that the material offends people
because it is perverted or lewd. The last important phrase is
"serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." The
court held that the entire work must be considered and that the
government must prove that the material lacks this value based on
a national standard.
- the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient
- the work depicts or describes, in a patently
offensive way, sexual conduct, and that
- the material lacks
serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
This definition of obscene material obviously
raises some questions.