TITLE

Estimating Community Standards: The Use of Social Science Evidence in an Obscenity Prosecution

AUTHOR(S)
Linz, Daniel; Donnerstein, Edward; Land, Kenneth C.; McCall, Patricia L.; Scott, Joseph; Shafer, Bradley J.; Klein, Lee J.; Lance, Larry
PUB. DATE
March 1991
SOURCE
Public Opinion Quarterly;Spring91, Vol. 55 Issue 1, p80
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
Elements of the legal test for obscenity of sexually explicit material indicted in a criminal case are examined. A cross-section of residents of Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, NC) were randomly assigned to view either one of the sexually explicit films and the sexually explicit magazine charged in the criminal case, or a control film. Before and alter the viewing, residents judged the materials' appeal to a prurient interest (a shameful, morbid, unhealthy interest in sex) and patent offensiveness (community tolerance for such material). The results indicated that the respondents felt that the films and magazine did not appeal to a shameful, morbid, or unhealthy interest in sex, nor did they perceive these materials as going beyond the level of tolerance regarding depictions of sexual conduct for the average adult in that community. A lower percentage of subjects thought the community tolerated the materials they had just viewed than when they were asked to report on what they personally tolerated. Fewer people felt the films appealed to a shameful, morbid, or unhealthy interest in sex after they had an opportunity to see them than before viewing. The advantages of providing jurors in obscenity cases with information about community standards based on summations of personal tolerance for materials actually charged in these cases, rather than hypothetical judgments about the community and obscenity, is discussed.
ACCESSION #
9104290608

 

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