4.1 The Market for Sexual Explicitness

Part: 
Two
Chapter: 
4

More than in 1957, when the law of obscenity became inextricably a part of constitutional law, more than in 1970, when the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography issued its report, and indeed more than just a year ago in 1985, we live in a society unquestionably pervaded by sexual explicitness. In virtually every medium, from books to magazines to newspapers to music to radio to network television to cable television, matters relating to sex are discussed, described, and depicted with a frankness and an explicitness of detail that has accelerated dramatically within a comparatively short period of time. To attempt to isolate the causes of this phenomenon is inevitably to embark on a futile enterprise, for the sexual openness of contemporary America is unquestionably a product of that immense interplay of factors that makes contemporary America what it is in numerous aspects apart from sexual explicitness.

We have spent much of our time investigating the nature of the industry that produces, distributes, and sells sexually explicit materials, for we do not believe we could responsibly have drawn conclusions relating to that industry unless we became familiar with it. The results of this investigation are set out comprehensively and in detail in a later Part of this Report, but we feel nevertheless that a general overview of the market and the industry is necessary here.

The pervasiveness of sexual explicitness in the society in which we live underscores the importance of distinguishing what might plausibly be characterized as "pornographic" from the entire range of descriptions, depictions, and discussions that are more sexually explicit than would have been the case in earlier times, and that, for that reason, engender some or substantial objection from various people within the society. We find it useful in this Report to describe some particularly salient aspects of the pornography industry, but any such discussion must be preceded by a brief survey of some other forms of sexually explicit material that are usefully contrasted with the more unquestionably pornographic.