The Obscenity Debate

December 20, 1991 • Volume 1, Issue 31
Crackdowns on pornography and lewdness draw cries of censorship
By Charles S. Clark


Five years after a call to arms from a federal commission on pornography, the war over obscenity is at full tilt. Justice Department prosecutors are putting heat on pornography purveyors nationwide, and an alliance of religious activists and political conservatives is blasting the work of avant-garde artists, raunchy rap singers and on-the-edge filmmakers. A counterattack has been launched by the sex-film industry as well as a diverse coalition of artists, publishers and librarians who see censorship as a threat to First Amendment rights to free speech. As similar fights in the past have shown, obscenity is a gray legal area that is highly politicized. A national consensus on the issue remains elusive.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Apr. 16, 2004  Broadcast Indecency
Mar. 28, 2003  Movie Ratings
Nov. 17, 1995  Sex, Violence and the Media
Feb. 19, 1993  School Censorship
Dec. 20, 1991  The Obscenity Debate
Dec. 07, 1990  Does Cable TV Need More Regulation?
May 16, 1986  Pornography
Jan. 04, 1985  The Modern First Amendment
Oct. 19, 1979  Pornography Business Upsurge
Mar. 09, 1979  Broadcasting's Deregulated Future
Mar. 21, 1973  Pornography Control
May 17, 1972  Violence in the Media
Jan. 21, 1970  First Amendment and Mass Media
Jul. 05, 1967  Prosecution and the Press
Jun. 28, 1961  Peacetime Censorship
Apr. 12, 1961  Censorship of Movies and TV
Dec. 23, 1959  Regulation of Television
Jul. 29, 1959  Control of Obscenity
Jul. 27, 1955  Bad Influences on Youth
Mar. 21, 1952  Policing the Comics
Apr. 12, 1950  Censorship of Motion Pictures
Sep. 20, 1939  Censorship of Press and Radio
Freedom of Speech and Press
Regulation and Legal Issues