History and Importance of Law in Combatting Pornography – Presentation by Robert Peters

Posted on September 30, 2015, in Pornography Laws, Research

Publication Information

Title: History and Importance of Law in Combatting Pornography
Publication: Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation 2015 Summit
Author: Robert Peters
Date: 09/13/2015


When I began working at MIM as a staff attorney in May 1985, federal obscenity laws were rarely enforced; and state prosecutors who enforced obscenity laws were the rare exception. Not surprisingly, there were influential people back then who said that obscenity laws were no longer enforceable. But the gainsayers were proved wrong; and here is why I think they were wrong:

  • First, most adult Americans still knew right from wrong and given a choice would support what is right.
  • Second, the nation had a President who decided to do something about the explosion of pornography and an Attorney General who did not shirk his duty.
  • Third, the federal courts had become more restrained and upheld obscenity laws and obscenity convictions against various “constitutional” challenges.
  • Fourth, opposition to pornography had arisen from both sides of the political divide, and Congress was quick to enact legislation to fight pornography.
  • Fifth, there were many state and local citizen organizations nationwide that focused primarily if not exclusively on fighting pornography.   Many religious organizations also publicly supported enforcement of laws against pornography.
  • Sixth, there was a silver lining behind the dark cloud of lax enforcement of obscenity laws. As hardcore pornography became more available, more people were harmed by it; and this caused alarm. As the content of pornography became more abusive, degrading, violent and perverse, juries in obscenity cases were also more apt to find that the material to be patently offensive.



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