Commentary Magazine

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Pornography, Art, and Censorship

- Abstract

PRESENT THINKING about obscenity and pornography is wrongheaded and damaging. In order to protect vital liberties, the higher, more intellectual courts often stand out against the police, the postmasters, and popular prejudice; yet since they don’t give the right reasons, the issues are never settled. And worse, the courts lend themselves to the sexual attitude which, at this moment in our history, creates the very “hard-core” pornography that is objected to. That is, the court corrupts, it helps the censors corrupt. It ought to give light and provide leadership, and instead it stands in the way of progress. And worst of all, finally, by misunderstanding the nature of art and speech, the court emasculates them and prevents them from playing their indispensable social role. These are harsh words. Many of the readers of this magazine are going to be offended by this essay: they won’t like my statement of the problem and they will think my remedies are worse than the disease. Nevertheless let us reason about it.

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