Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Steven H. Hatting
The term obscenity denotes offensiveness to modesty or decency, typically in terms of human communication about sex or sexuality. As a legal concept, the term long resisted clear definition, especially during a 16-year period between 1957 and 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court encountered the issue repeatedly. No majority of the High Court, before or since, ever deviated from the view that obscenity, like libelous and seditious expression, had blanket constitutional protection for socially injurious content. Yet, the subjective nature of the concept produced multiple failed attempts by the judiciary to delineate its scope and limits. In 1957, the Court first engaged in extended analysis of the constitutional status of such communication in companion cases styled Samuel Roth v. United States and David Alberts v. State of California. The relevant provisions of the U.S. Constitution that the defendants invoked were the freedoms of speech and press imbedded within the Samuel ...