President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography

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In 1969, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Stanley v. Georgia that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes. In response, the United States Congress funded the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, set up by President Lyndon B. Johnson to study pornography.


The Commission was established to study and report on:[1]

  • "Constitutional and definitional problems related to obscenity controls."
  • "Traffic in and distribution of obscene and pornographic materials."
  • "The effects of such material, particularly on youth, and their relationship to crime and other antisocial conduct."


Initially, the Commission consisted of Edward E. Elson, Thomas D. Gill, Edward D. Greenwood, Reverend Morton A. Hill, S.J., G. William Jones, Joseph T. Klapper, Otto N. Larsen, Rabbi Irving Lehrman, Freeman Lewis, Reverend Winfrey C. Link, Morris A. Lipton, William B. Lockhart (chair), Thomas C. Lynch, Barbara Scott, Cathryn A. Speits, Frederick Herbert Wagman, Kenneth Keating and Marvin Wolfgang.

Subsequently, K. Keating was replaced with Charles Keating, Jr, by President Richard Nixon.

Studies undertaken

The Commission commissioned Berl Kutchinsky to perform a scientific study on the subject. His report, titled Studies on Pornography and Sex Crimes in Denmark (1970), found that legalizing pornography in Denmark had not (as had been expected) resulted in an increase of sex crimes.[2][3]


The Commission's report, called Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography,[4] and published in 1970, recommended sex education, funding of research into the effects of pornography and restriction of children's access to pornography, and recommended against any restrictions for adults. On balance the report found that obscenity and pornography were not important social problems, that there was no evidence that exposure to such material was harmful to individuals, and that current legal and policy initiatives were more likely to create problems than solve them.[1]

The report was widely criticized and rejected by Congress.[1] The Senate rejected the Commission's findings and recommendations by a 60–5 vote, with 34 abstentions.[5] The Senate rejected the following findings and recommendations in particular:[5]

  • That there was "no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior among youths or adults."
  • That "a majority of American adults believe that adults should be allowed to read or see any sexual materials they wish."
  • That "there is no reason to suppose that elimination of governmental prohibitions upon the sexual materials which may be made available to adults would adversely affect the availability to the public of other books, magazines, or films."
  • That there was no "evidence that exposure to explicit sexual materials adversely affects character or moral attitudes regarding sex and sexual conduct."
  • That "Federal, State, and Local legislation prohibiting the sale, exhibition, or distribution of sexual materials to consenting adults should be repealed."

President Nixon, who had succeeded Johnson in 1969, also emphatically rejected the report.[6]


In an example of détournement, Earl Kemp published an illustrated edition of the Presidential Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in 1970 through a publishing company owned by William Hamling called Greenleaf Classics. Kemp and Hamling were eventually sentenced to one year in prison for "conspiracy to mail obscene material," but both served only the federal minimum of three months and one day.[7][8]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lee Rainwater, Social problems and public policy: deviance and liberty, Aldine Transaction, 1974, p.143 ISBN 0-202-30263-6
  2. Studies on Pornography and Sex Crimes in Denmark (1970) by Berl Kutchinsky.
  3. Pornography, Sex Crime, and Public Policy by Berl Kutchinsky.
  4. Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography by Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. (Bantam Books, 1970) ISBN 9780394469942.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Raymond Tatalovich, Byron W. Daynes, Moral controversies in American politics: cases in social regulatory policy. 2nd edition, M.E. Sharpe, 1998 ISBN 1-56324-994-4
  6. Statement About the Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, October 24, 1970
  7. "An Interview with Earl Kemp of Greenleaf Classics" by Michael Hemmingson, Sin-A-Rama: Sleaze Sex Paperbacks of the Sixties edited by Brittany A. Daley, Hedi El Kholti, Earl Kemp, Miriam Linna, and Adam Parfrey. Feral House, 2004. page 36.
  8. Freedom of the Press: A Bibliocyclopedia : Ten-year Supplement (1967–1977) by Ralph Edward McCoy, Southern Illinois University Press, 1979, page 163.

External links