Skip to comments.Prostitutes And Porn: 1st Amend. Protects Porn But Not Prostitutes? Absurd CA Supreme Court
Posted on 11/24/2011 11:07:08 PM PST by stevelackner
The Atlantic's socially liberal Andrew Sullivan asked in March 2008 two very interesting questions: "1. Why is it illegal for me to pay a prostitute for sex, but its NOT illegal for a film director to pay two people to have sex in front of a camera and then make money for his product in the form of a DVD or an online download? 2. As a corollary: Why are a prostitute and her john held in such contempt by the media and the public, but Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy are treated as rock stars on both cable and network television? Are they not prostitutes? They were, in actuality, paid for sex. No?" The questions clearly answer themselves. The obvious answer to these questions is that Sullivan had pounced upon a legal contradiction that makes absolutely no sense. As a matter of consistency in the law alone, either both should be illegal or both should be legal. I recently read the 1988 California Supreme Court opinion of People v. Freeman. It is an interesting case in that it dealt with a law against prostitution being used by the government to prosecute a pornographer who paid others to engage in ultimate sex acts such as sodomy and more. The pornographer was convicted for violating State statutes criminalizing prostitution. The Court had to accept that such a pornographer is no different than prostitution, or else explain the difference. In other words, the sole ruling of the Court was dedicated to answering precisely the sort of thoughtful questions posed by Andrew Sullivan and should have any legal theorist scratching their head.
If you expected an answer from this high court that was on par in profundity with the questions posed, you will be sorely disappointed. My first reaction to People v. Freeman is that the First Amendment "obscenity" doctrines created by the judiciary and United States Supreme Court are completely nonsensical (see http://www.stevelackner.com/2011/05/right-constitutional-approach-to-first.html for an explanation of why pornography and sexually explicit material should not be considered protected First Amendment speech in the first place). The linchpin of the entire case in People v. Freeman is faulty, the reasoning laying on shaky ground at the outset. The Court states that the film was not determined to be obscene and for purposes of this review must be deemed to be not obscene. Thus the prosecution of defendant under the pandering statute must be viewed as a somewhat transparent attempt at an end run around the First Amendment and the state obscenity laws. Landmark decisions of this court and the United States Supreme Court compel us to reject such an effort. All this proves is that landmark decisions of the California and United States Supreme Court have been foolish and have themselves made a mockery of the First Amendment. No end running should be needed, the prosecutor should be able to run head on without First Amendment worry. The idea that as a matter of law decided by a few judges this is not an obscene film, despite the fact that the jury in the case felt it was worthy of prosecution under a prostitution statute, is an absurdity. I take very serious issue with the line of reasoning of this Court that states since the acts involved here have not been adjudged obscene, they are within the protection of the First Amendment. They should indeed be considered obscene as judged by those who prosecuted and convicted the pornographer, and they should not therefore be within the protection of the First Amendment. This faulty reasoning is so pervasive in this case that it makes the Court completely unable to accept or even respond to the governments reasonable constitutional arguments.
The Court said that the State of California argued it was prosecuting criminal conduct, not speech. The First Amendment only protects against government "abridging the freedom of speech," and the Supreme Court has rightly long recognized that there is an obvious difference between Constitutionally protected speech and unprotected conduct. In response to this argument, once again the California Supreme Court mindlessly repeats that the actions of the pornographer cannot be considered within the constitutional power of the government to criminalize to begin with because his product is not obscene. In the mind of the Court, it is sufficient to rule simply that the pornographer's activities are not within the power of government because the film is nonobscene, and therefore it is not conduct that the government can regulate. But that line of reasoning is a restatement of the absurd "obscenity" rule as seen in case law, not an actual response to the fact that what is being targeted is clearly conduct. Anyone watching the film would realize right away that conduct is taking place, not speech. Otherwise, no one would watch the film and the pornographer would not profit from it. In the case, a pornographer was paying individuals to engage in acts of intercourse and sodomy. If sodomy is not "conduct," the word "conduct" has lost all meaning. Even if one were to accept that a film depicting sodomy is not obscene, that does not magically transform what is taking place on screen into any sort of "speech." Ultimate sex acts performed in front of a camera is undoubtedly conduct that happens to be performed in front of a camera.
Because of the judiciary's wrongheaded obscenity precedents, the government was forced to try to come up with alternative reasons for the prosecution that it should not have had to. The Court explained the government justifications for the conviction were the prevention of profiteering from prostitution, and second is a public health purpose. Again, repetition of this is not obscene is all the Court needed to declare in response. The Court arrogantly declared that punishment of a motion picture producer for the making of a nonobscene film, however, has little if anything to do with the purpose of combating prostitution. This is utter madness. If combating prostitution is defined as targeting for criminal prosecution those who pay for sex, then it of course has everything to do with combating prostitution. There is clearly profiteering from paying for sex acts to take place. Pray tell, if the client of an actual prostitute were to demand that all services be performed in front of a camera, would it now transform into a nonobscene non-conduct First Amendment right? The fact that it is being filmed would of course no longer transform this from an act of prostitution into an act of First Amendment protected speech.
The Supreme Court of California then further writes that these government interests not only directly involve the suppression of free expression but are, in the context of a pandering prosecution for the making of a nonobscene motion picture, not credible. Does that really in any way even attempt to respond to the public health justification? Not even slightly. The absurdity of legal precedents concerning obscenity is on full display in this case. It makes the California Supreme Court not even have to respond to basic points being made by the side from which it has chosen to ignore. All that needs to be done is continuously parroting the line in response to whatever the government says that is this is not obscene and therefore First Amendment protected speech no matter the argument made.
This Court seems to assume that a commercial pornographer is not a form of prostitution because a third party is paying others to have sex. If that is the case, such an assumption makes little sense. Prostitution itself would then be completely legal so long as a third party pays for the service. Yet I do not think any Court would extend this reasoning to an actual case of prostitution.
The Court then states that this case is incomparable to filming a murder or robbery because considered aside from the payment of the acting fees, itself fully lawful otherwise, the sexual acts depicted in the motion picture here were completely lawful. Are you kidding me? This is astounding. Could this exact line not be transferred to prostitution itself? Aside from the payment of service fees, itself fully lawful otherwise, the sexual acts of a prostitute are completely lawful. As George Carlin joked about prostitution itself, One thing I don't understand is sex is legal and selling things is legal, but selling sex is illegal." It is flabbergasting that the California Supreme Court would attempt to make such an asinine distinction.
Whether paying for porn actors to perform sex acts on film should be a criminal act is an interesting policy question for the legislature and jury to decide upon, but the absolutely feeble attempts to distinguish it from prostitution coming from the California Supreme Court in and of itself demonstrates that it is not a constitutional or judicial one. This conviction should have been upheld. The perverse "obscenity" precedents that are so strongly relied upon for such results need also be abandoned to return some basic Constitutional sanity the First Amendment.
Interesting business model.
Since any secular belief is merely a hypotheses you are welcome to believe in one but you are not free to bind others to the rules or beliefs of secularism. See, that mantra works both ways.
About 20 years ago, when the last serious effort to legalize prostitution ws gearing up, we used to heard endlessly that prostitution was a “victimless” crime...well..that’s shown not to be the case..
You have been reading the wrong dots.
And your post expanded that to "laws about morality". Those were the dots I was commenting on and I still can't connect them.
The First Amendment was not intended to protect pornography. It was intended to protect political speech. Simply put, the perversion of it came from the ACLU. They hacked at it until the Supreme Court gave them that ruling.
How about the prostitutes themselves who are put outside the law and left to the vicious mercies of pimps?
How about the police force which is corrupted and made cynical by unenforceable laws about morality?
How about a judicial system and a political system where our judges and politicians find themselves hypocrites for outlawing the prostitutes that they frequent?
How about the innocent folks with nothing to do with prostitutes but who find themselves the victims of street crime because the neighborhood deteriorates?
How about the innocent folks who find that their justice system grows more and more corrupt and hypocritical?
How about the taxpayer whose taxes are squandered uselessly on jails to incarcerate and courts to convict?
List of victims goes on and on.
In contrast one reads in the Bible, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;" (Hebrews 10:16)
And in another place we read about the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in our lives, "(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." (Ephesians 5:9-12)
Today it seems too many of "those things" are done, not in secret, but openly, in public. And those who do are celebrated for it.
Our era could never write the Constitution. Only a moral and religious people could have written it. And a moral and religious people don't need many laws or finely worded statutes carefully parsed by hoards of lawyers.
To the making of many laws there is no end. And in making those many laws there is an end to liberty. It was Christ Himself who told us, " . . . If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:31-36)
In connecting those dots, you have five or six thousand years of history to overcome and in every year your way has failed.
You are asking us to endorse a failed system. You are asking us to endorse a hypocritical system. You are asking us to endorse an expensive and self-defeating system.
You are asking us to deprive people of their liberty for engaging in sex in commerce when if they did it for free it would be perfectly legal. Society has passed your position by.
This is your law, you defend it. You explain the broken lives and the crowded jails. You explain the venereal disease. You explain the white slavery. You explain the brutal pimps. You explain the traffic in underage girls.
You must explain all of these things because your system has brought them about. Kindly spare me your inability to connect the dots, you are consigning people to misery and worse.
The German system is clearly better because it produces less misery and more freedom. I thought that was what the pursuit of happiness was all about. It is certainly not about our personal biblical views which we impose on others through the vehicle of the criminal law. If you want to impose the criminal law on someone you have the burden of justifying it. And doing so you shall not be heard to say that we would sweep away all laws against all crimes.
We are talking about laws which are not malum in se but laws which impose criminal sanctions not because victims need to be protected but because hypocrites need to be vindicated.
You make no point.
I am merely paraphrasing the Word of the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.
It's not religion, it is faith, the belief in that which is unseen.
Religion is futile.
But it does surprise me to hear such well expressed thoughts coming from someone who uses the image and name of a slave dealer and Klan leader.
No insult intended - I am interested in how you would reconcile Forrest and human freedom.
People behaving badly, as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall always be.
Thank you for your kind comments.
And since imposing criminal sanctions based on religious values in this (and other) regard has been constitutional since the beginning, that's all the reason I need. If a majority of the people support a criminal law based purely on ethical reasons with a religious foundation then that is their right in a democratic republic, baby. Who are you to say your cost/benifit empirical analysis is somehow a more authoritative or moral basis for criminal law than a motivation based on divine revelation from God? If you can bring enough people to your way of thinking so they vote in different laws, go for it. But so far your position has consistently been rejected over a thousand years over a broad spectrum of cultures. And I will continue to support laws consistent with my theistic presuppositions.
Here’s a secular belief; water is wet. That is not an hypothesis, it’s a testable reality, unlike any religion. See, it’s not a mantra.
Why is it legal to promote a film of two men having sex but against the law to criticize them for doing it.
I believe you used this (somewhat) phonetically, but it's Puff, derived from the eponymous boardgame (often played in brothels back in the day), an early form of Backgammon.
(Just in case you ever need to ask for directions...kidding!)
Bare back, huh? And I'll bet the good judges sold tickets to the flogging, too. If someone had a camcorder back in the day, there would have been videos for sale all over the place.
Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003)
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