What is Obscene?


Well-Known Member
Aug 8, 2006
Where do you feel the line should be drawn when it comes to obscene television, books, movies, music, etc…?

Can the war on obscenity ever be won, or is it all just a futile effort on the part of the religious right?
Obscenity I always thought referred to personal sensibilities. That is- that it is something, be it an object, action, portrayal or otherwise that offends somebody...but perhaps additionally it is percieved to do so either intentionally, or without intention of avoiding such offense.

There will be certain common areas in most peoples thinking about what obscene is, and according to our current cultural expectations I suppose things like gratuitous or graphic description of various disapproved or taboo acts, such as explicitly sexually related material would be what the thrust of the 'war on obscenity' is about. I don't see any line that I can draw specifically, but I suppose a general principle would be to bestow more value upon books that are not generating controversy for the sake of controversy, or in this case being obscene for the sake of being obscene.

Given that the "right" would be the most vociferous when it comes to this matter, because they have the most to speak about here, I assume the concern is that obscenity a) degrades the 'value' of cultural objects, b) encourages obscene conduct or social irresponsibility especially in children. In a way, there is some merit to the arguments, but I do not think obscenity is in itself supposed to be a factor in deciding where to draw a line. I see no point in banning a film showing real as opposed to simulated sex if it's already R rated (as was the case with Romance). In fact, I see less of a point in banning things if they're obscene than if they're inflammatory and there might be the possibility that it will cause some kind of violent and backward social reaction (and that's hard to judge).

Besides, obscenity or whatever the manifestations might be called are all part of the product of the commercialisation of culture, not in that it wrecks the general output, but we see alot more art literature etc. being common denominator driven. Trying to attack 'obscenity' per se is not addressing the source of the problem, which I think is more the twisted individualism spawned by a degradation of the original liberal ideals.
But where do you think the line should be drawn when it comes to mass media?
I really can't provide a bearing on a line...much as we'd like to try and implement principles and consistent rules in the interest of fairness, everything is still reviewed on a case-by-case basis. I struggle to come to grips with attempting to find the balance between exposure, audience, values and thus dynamic cultural influences.

However, I do believe that something does need to be done about the commercialisation of sex as it has become a drive in its own. Also, the greed culture is only now being addressed by major constitutents of the media (the practice of giving ridiculously massive 'swag' bonus gifts to presenters at major film awards like the Oscars is being discontinued, for one). I do not think that the problem is with the actual media itself, but it certainly does perpetuate the situation.

I thus wonder just how one could prevent media from being treated as a commodity. Is there any way in which economics isn't god?
I am not sure how everyone is going to agree considering that in many cases reasonible people can disagree on what is obscene. i think that the ratings system on TV was probably a good idea as it may help people avoid things they may not want to see (or their children to see). Also limiting the hours certain programs can be shown is a good idea as well.

I do agree with Doug on the mass commercialization of sexuality. i am not sure what the solution here is though I do think it is caused at least in part by the massive consolidation of media companies. Perhaps helping to break them down would be a partial solution.


Should the media be held responsible for parents slacking off in their duties? How far do you think the media should have to go to cover it's own a**??
I think tha parent's should take primary responsibility. Though I think the ratings system and other things can be used to help them do so.


Some people will not agree with me on this, but i feel that when it concerns the media we have the option of not watching, listening.... At the same time i don't think that nudity, sexual content needs to be on in the middle of the day. To me things like child porn should be stopped and i really don't care how they go about doing it as long as they are caught.
I'm raising two young sons and i believe it is my job as the parent to know what they are watching, listening to, looking up on the internet. I'm not niave and i understand that as they get older and are out in society more that they will come across all this stuff. But when they are in my home i will to the best of my ability know what they are watching and listening to.
this is just my two sense on the subject.
Thanks for listening.
So you are willing to give the government a free pass to look for child pornographers? isn't that what is already going on?
I agree with you guys that parents need to be responsible and take care that their kids don't get exposed to stuff that isn't age appropriate. People who allow their young kids to watch whatever they want on TV really mystify me.
The war on obscenity will never be won. I think you try to teach children morals and you hope that they don't get caught up in all the trash that bombards them from all angles.
The war on obscenity will never be won. I think you try to teach children morals and you hope that they don't get caught up in all the trash that bombards them from all angles.
I agree, but in order for this to work parents have to be prepared to take responsibility for what their children see and hear.
Hear hear. Parental responsibility is an assumed social pre-requisite for the current model of society, assuming of course that the parents are the best ones for the job (which isn't always the case but usually...)

Problem is that the notion seems to have been lost in the works somewhere around the "me time" mass phenomenon.
I think obscenities only have as much power as you give them. An obscenity in another language means nothing to you so whats the big deal.
Of course. What we are referring to are the way that the concepts such "obscenities" are pinned on interact, and the power vested in them by cultural practice. Given that we're in such and such a situation at this point in time, I think it most appropriate that we examine it from this perspective, as we are essentially trying to discuss how to best mediate social responsibility.