Dalhousie Law Journal


Ian A. Hunter


Law reform, obscenity, pornography


This note is concerned only with obscenity and pornography in written or pictorial form, that is, books and magazines. To some extent, different considerations apply to television, theatre and motion pictures. The first section deals with the origin and development of the concept of obscenity; the second section attempts to articulate some differences between obscenity and pornography, and the reasons for greater concern about the latter; finally, a proposal for law reform is made. One of the greatest obstacles to discussion of obscenity and pornography is definitional imprecision: people seldom agree on what the terms mean. If one cannot define what it is one is talking about, it is difficult to know what, if anything, should be done about it. Throughout this paper, I distinguish between obscenity and pornography. My working distinction is this: obscenity is material depicting, however explicitly, sexual activities between adult consenting human beings. Pornography is material whose principal theme is sexual activity between other than consenting adults: primarily depicting violence, bondage or torture of unwilling victims for sexual gratification; or sexual activity involving other than consenting adults (necrophilia, sexual activity with children, bestiality, etc.).

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.