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Jan 23 2009

Sex — The Great Exception: The Blowfish Blog

Gay-leather-cuirI have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog. It asks a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time: Why is sex always the exception?

Why is sex the exception to laws about free speech? Why is it okay for a Supreme Court Justice to say he can’t define obscenity but he knows it when he sees it… when he wouldn’t in a million years say that he can’t define treason, or separation of church and state, but he knows it when he sees it? Why does our culture have a basic (if grudging) respect for differing tastes in music and movies and home decor… but little to no respect for differing tastes in sex?

It’s called Sex — The Great Exception, and here’s the teaser:

Why is sex an exception?

The principle of free speech is interpreted pretty darned broadly in the U.S. But there are exceptions. There are exceptions for false advertising. For violating copyright. For slander and libel. For revealing state secrets. And for talking about sex.

In other words: Sex is seen as being in a category with fraud, theft, character defamation, and treason.

Why?

What — if you’ll excuse my language — the fuck?

The whole idea of “community standards” for obscenity is another perfect example of this principle. Think about it. We don’t allow communities to set standards for any other area of expression. We don’t allow communities to set standards for expression of political opinions or religious beliefs; for musical genres or styles of poetry. But the idea that a community should be able to set its own standards for sexual expression: this, for some reason, is seen as totally normal and entirely reasonable.

To find out more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!

6 comments

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  1. 1
    s. pimpernel

    Excellent article Greta. Because of these attitudes, lots of people go to jail for many years for looking at pictures.

  2. 2
    nina hartley

    Bang up job, as always, Greta!
    I want to say the main reason the culture’s long-standing fears about sex are still with us is that religious ignorance, hypocrisy and prejudice toward all things sexual are the basis for our laws and attitudes about sexual matters.

  3. 3
    Rick

    I’ve actually read the Miller v. California decision, which led to the community standards principle you mention. Though I consider myself quite liberal, I’ve long thought “well, I guess that makes sense”. You’ve effectively pointed out that I need to rethink that position. You’re point about the “otherwise…untenable” situation this creates is, I think, dead on.

  4. 4
    Buck Fuddy

    Another way in which sex is an exception is that a married guy can spend hours golfing or hunting with his buddies, and this is considered normal; but if he steps out for an hour and a half to get laid, his wife has grounds for divorce.

  5. 5
    Pierce R. Butler

    Izzat Jesse Helms + Wm. F. Buckley?
    Ewwww!

  6. 6
    Laura Upstairs

    I will say that the *other* exception is drugs – see the “Bong Hits for Jesus” case for example. When drugs are involved, or even mentioned, basic standards of free speech, privacy, and liberty go right out the window. Not to disagree with your statements around sex at all – just to say that there’s at least one other area where we are sincerely fucked up as a culture.

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