Sex News – Needed: A New Constitutional Amendment – Freedom Of Pleasure.
It has often been said that comedians are among the few people with license to tell the real truth. There’s just something disarming about laughter, a sense in which once a person has made you laugh, you’re might be more receptive to having that same person ask you to think — particularly when it comes to uncomfortable or unpopular thoughts.
At a time when social conservatives are seeking to rekindle their (quite odd) political alliance with left-wing feminists to combat the familiar foe of pornography, remembering an old satirical song has Calico thinking it’s time for lawmakers to step in — not to respond dutifully to the call to crack down on porn, but to protect their constituents from the potential prosecutorial whims of the likes of William Barr and those currently pushing for him to renew the so-called “War on Porn.”
What sort of protection does Calico have in mind for those of us who enjoy sexually-explicit entertainment and sincerely don’t want to see producers of it placed behind bars? The title of her new post puts it right up front: “Needed: A New Constitutional Amendment.”
by Calico Rudasill, Sssh.com Porn for Women and Couples
Growing up, I was repeatedly exposed to satire and parody long before I knew what those words meant. If it wasn’t my older siblings watching Monty Python, it was my dad listening to Allan Sherman. The first time I was permitted to watch a movie that had been previously considered “too mature” for me, it was Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein.
While I always found these works funny, it wasn’t until I got a little older that I came to appreciate that satirical humor sometimes does a better job of making a serious point than any expert on the subject. I believe part of this is because if someone can make you laugh, then they’ve established a kind of rapport with you, even without ever being in your presence.
Of all the many satirists whose work I was exposed to in my youth, the one who has stuck with me and impacted my thinking as an adult the most is also one of the least prolific of them all. His name is Tom Lehrer – and even though he recorded fewer than 50 original songs in his all-too-brief career (even counting the 10 or so he wrote for the children’s television show “The Electric Company”), his impact and influence on other satirists and their fans cannot be overstated. Here is the one most relevant to this article: “Smut”.
Another “War on Porn”? With All Due Respect GTFO, Constitutional Congressfolks
What got me thinking about Tom Lehrer recently is a renewed push on the part of social conservatives (and some odd-bedfellow type allies, like liberal feminist academics) to get the U.S. government to reinvigorate enforcement of the nation’s obscenity laws.
Late last year, four Republican members of Congress, Mark Meadows (North Carolina), Vicky Hartzler (Missouri), Jim Banks (Indiana) and Brian Babin (Texas), sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr, imploring Barr to “declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority” and to urge U.S. attorneys around the country to “bring prosecutions against the major producers and distributors of such material.”
Now, without wading into a long (and from your perspective, possibly quite dull) dissection of the “Miller test” for obscenity established in the landmark case Miller v. California, suffice to say these lawmakers are being a bit simplistic when they assert the internet is rife with “obscene pornography,” considering that whether a work can be considered obscene under U.S. law is a fact-dependent determination established on a case-by-case basis.
As the Reason article I linked above shows, these legislators are not alone in calling for a new War on Porn – and from where I sit, they couldn’t be any more out of touch with how a lot of their constituents feel about porn, judging by the geography of the traffic data collected by those of us who run adult websites.
Freedom of the Press is Great; How About a Constitutional Freedom of Pleasure to Go with It?
What does any of this have to do with Tom Lehrer, a guy who stopped making music back in the 70s, you might ask?
Long before a single pixel of pornography had been transmitted across the internet, Lehrer put his finger (or perhaps his tongue would be the more appropriate appendage here) on the heart of the problem when it comes to outlawing “indecent” or “obscene” creations.
In a spoken preamble to one recorded-live version of his excellent song “Smut,” Lehrer needled both the moralistic folks who would have the government crackdown on sexually-explicit materials and the arguments employed by those who defend the likes of pornographers in court, when it comes to that.
After noting and lightly mocking the proliferation of people singing protest songs and political anthems at the time (this was the 1960s, after all), Lehrer said “I do have a cause, though; it is obscenity – I’m for it.”
“Unfortunately, the civil liberties types who are fighting this issue have to fight it, owing to the nature of the laws, as a matter of freedom of speech and stifling of free expression and so on, but we know what’s really involved; dirty books are fun – that’s all there is to it,” Lehrer continued. “But you can’t get up in a court and say that, I suppose. It’s simply a matter of freedom of pleasure, a right which is not guaranteed by the Constitution, unfortunately.”
An Immodest Constitutional Proposal
While Lehrer may have been speaking tongue-in-cheek about freedom of pleasure unfortunately not being guaranteed by the Constitution, I’m being anything but jocular when I say this country needs a Constitutional Amendment that assures us such a freedom.
And no, I’m not suggesting that anything and everything that brings people pleasure ought to be informed by a legal right to do that thing – mostly because I figure cannibals probably rather enjoy eating other people and I certainly would not derive any pleasure at all from being someone else’s supper.
Obviously, the precise contours of such an Amendment would have to be determined by people smarter than I am, better versed in the law than I am, with nicer clothes than I have and, most importantly, who are more likely to be taken seriously by Congress than I am.
That said, I think the core of a Constitutional right to pleasure could be expressed in terms similar to those set forth by another musical satirist – the late, great Frank Zappa.
As Zappa once sang in “The Jazz Discharge Party Hats,” (a song definitely not recommended for the easily offended, excessively PC and/or chronically humorless, by the way): “Whatever you can do to have a good time, let’s get on with it, so long as it doesn’t cause a murder.”
OK, so maybe the law should have a slightly higher threshold than “so long as it doesn’t cause a murder,” but you get my (and Frank and Tom’s) point: This is supposed to be the “Land of the Free,” dammit – and it’s high time we included a Freedom of Pleasure in the mix.
Well, there you have it. If I can’t get an amendment, can I least get an amen?
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