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'Lockhart' Commission


The 'Lockhart' commission is the name given to the first American commission on obscenity and pornography, which was formed in 1968. It was appointed by President Johnson and its results were published in 1970. The conclusion was that pornography was not harmful in any way.
The Commission stated (10) that national surveys of psychiatrists, psychologists, sex educators, social workers, and counsellors show a large majority to believe that sexual materials do not have harmful effects on either adults or adolescents.

Significantly, the Commission's report was immediately denounced by President Nixon who "categorically rejected its morally bankrupt conclusions" and promised that "pornography which can corrupt and poison the wellsprings of American and Western culture and civilization" would be controlled if not eliminated under his aegis.

Earl Kemp published an illustrated edition of this report and subsequently served a one year prison sentence for doing so. [Oct 2005]

Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1968 - 1970)

In 1968, Fr. Hill (who also served as president of MIM until his death in 1985) was appointed by President Johnson to serve on the Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. In 1970, the Commission issued a report which recommended that all "adult" obscenity laws be repealed. Fr. Hill and another Commission member, Dr. Winfrey Link, co-authored a minority report that described the Commission's report as a "Magna Carta for the pornographers." In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court cited the Hill-Link minority report in upholding obscenity laws. --http://www.obscenitycrimes.org/aboutmim.cfm [Aug 2004]

Stanley v. Georgia

Possession of obscene material in the home may not be prohibited by law. In writing for the Court in the case of Stanley v. Georgia, Justice John Marshall Harlan suggested, "if the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man sitting in his own house what books he may read or what films he may watch." It is not, however, unconstitutional for the government to prevent the mailing or sale of obscene items, though they may be viewed only in private. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution#Obscenity [Aug 2004]


Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970). The Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, September 1970. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office.

Berl Kutchinsky [...]

United States Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970, p. 53) (or rather twelve of the seventeen participating members) arrived at a similar conclusion, stating that 'empirical research designed to clarify the question has found no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behaviour among youth or adults' --http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/proceedings/14/kutchinsky.pdf [Aug 2004]

A number of cathartic effects have been found for pornography, but perhaps the most widely cited is the so called "Danish experience." In the 1960's Denmark experienced a "porno wave", but rather than censoring this content, in 1967 the government lifted all restriction on pornography (save a 16 year old age limit for purchasing porn). Yet rather than experiencing a wave of sex crimes as some had predicted, sex crimes actually declined. For example, Kutchinsky (1970; 1985; 1987; 1991) found that from 1965 to 1982 sex crimes against children declined from 30 per 100,000 in '65 to about 5 per 100,000 in '82. Similar evidence is found for rape rates. Kutchinsky concludes that this is likely the effect of pornography providing potential sex offenders an alternate means of sexual satisfaction, most likely through masturbation. --http://www.asc.upenn.edu/usr/chunter/porn_effects.html [Jul 2004]

Kutchinsky, B. (1991). Pornography and rape: Theory and practice? International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 14: 47-64.

Kutchinsky, B. (1987). Deception and propaganda. Society, 24 (5) : 21-24.

Kutchinsky, B. (1985). Pornography and its effects in Denmark and the United States: A rejoinder and beyond. Comparative Social Research: An Annual, 8: 301-330.

Kutchinsky, B. (1970). Toward an explanation of the decrease in registered sex crimes in Copenhagen. In U.S. commission on obscenity and pornography, Technical Report, Vol.

Sex Crimes in Denmark'

Kutchinsky, B. (1971) 'Studies on Pornography and Sex Crimes in Denmark', Kopenhagen, s.n.

Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography

In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Stanley v. Georgia that people could read and look at whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes. The "deeply concerned" U.S. Congress, in hope of finding another approach to controlling what many considered to be a threat to traditional American values, authorized $2 million to fund a Presidential commission to study pornography in the United States and recommend what Congress should do about it. Of the original 18 members of the commission appointed by President Johnson, all served to the end of the commission's existence except Judge Kenneth Keating (no relation to his replacement, Charles H. Keating, Jr.), who was appointed Ambassador to India by President Nixon. According to Eli M. Oboler, "Certainly this is as 'representative' a group as could have been put together for such a difficult set of purposes as were those set forth for the Commission" (4226). When a preliminary draft of the report was leaked to a House subcommittee, they discovered "to their unconcealed horror" that the commission's findings were the opposite of what the Congressmen had expected ("Pornography and Politics").

Extremists from both ends of the political spectrum expressed their displeasure during the Commission's proceedings. Two anti-pornography ministers on the commission staged their own public hearings outside of Washington; and at one of the commission's regular sessions a young radical called the project a "blatant McCarthyesque witchhunt," and threw a whipped-cream pie in the face of his questioner ("Pornography and Politics"). Charles H. Keating, Jr., head of the Citizens for Decent Literature and President Nixon's only appointment to the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, requested and received a temporary restraining order from a Federal District Court in Washington, D. C. preventing publication of the Commission's final report ("Court Enjoins"). An out-of-court settlement was reached by the commission chairman and the dissenting members just weeks before the Commission's scheduled expiration date of September 30, 1970, clearing the way for publication of the report ("Porno Cleared" 58).

In the final report, the Commission made the following non-legislative recommendations:

(1) A massive sex education campaign should be initiated, encompassing biological, social, psychological and religious information; (2) There should be continued open discussion, based on facts, of issues relating to obscenity and pornography; (3) Additional factual information should be developed through long-term research; (4) Citizens should organize at local, regional, and national levels to aid the implementation of these recommendations (PCOP 47-49).

The Commission's legislative recommendations were divided into statutes relating to adults, and statutes relating to young persons. In general, with regard to adults, the Commission recommended that legislation "should not seek to interfere with the right of adults who wish to do so to read, obtain, or view explicit sexual materials." Regarding the view that these materials should be restricted for adults in order to protect young people from exposure to them, the Commission found that it is "inappropriate to adjust the level of adult communication to that considered suitable for children." The Supreme Court supported this view. The Commission recommended legislative action prohibiting the sale of sexual materials to young persons, and to protect any person from unwanted exposure to sexual materials either through the mails or through open public display (PCOP 51-64).

A large portion of the Commission's budget was applied to funding original research on the effects of sexually explicit materials. One experiment is described in which repeated exposure of male college students to pornography "caused decreased interest in it, less response to it and no lasting effect," although it appears that the satiation effect does wear off eventually ("Once more").

With the release of the Commission's report, the political firestorm intensified. In an effort to discredit the report, Vice President Agnew associated the commission with the Johnson administration, and said, "As long as Richard Nixon is President, Main Street is not going to turn into smut alley" ("Porno Report Becomes" 34). President Nixon is quoted as saying, "So long as I am in the White House, there will be no relaxation of the national effort to control and eliminate smut from our national life" ("Critics: Censored!"). President Nixon's only appointment to the commission, Charles H. Keating Jr., asserting that he was the only "ordinary citizen" on the commission, said that the report points up the "'root cause of the trouble' on American campuses-namely, permissive professors" ("Porno Report Becomes" 34). Keating accused members of the Commission who supported the report of doing so out of economic self-interest ("Court Enjoins").

William B. Lockhart, Dean of the University of Minnesota Law School and chairman of the commission, said that before his work with the commission he had favored control of obscenity for both children and adults, but had changed his mind as a result of scientific studies done by commission researchers. In reference to dissenting commission members Keating and Rev. Morton Hill, Lockhart said, "When these men have been forgotten, the research developed by the commission will provide a factual basis for informed, intelligent policymaking by the legislators of tomorrow" ("Porno Report Becomes").

An article which appeared in the conservative National Review that October opened with a tongue-in-cheek conclusion drawn from the point made by the report that political conservatives are not as easily aroused by pornography as liberals, saying that this shows "conservatives are superior in taste and good sense." The article went on to accuse the commission of failing to confront the problem of how to protect the "quality of our public culture" ("That Porno" 1097).

On Oct. 13, just three weeks before a Congressional election, the Senate voted 60-5 (with 35 abstentions) to reject the findings and recommendations of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Senator Mondale of Minnesota, one of the minority voters, said the lawmakers were trying to deal "with an issue that perhaps cannot be grappled with in light of the current temperament of this country" (Oboler 4225). The resolution was sponsored by Sen. John L. McClellan (D. Ark.), who said that Congress "might just as well have asked the pornographers to write this report." To this statement, A. Plotnik replied, "Congress might just as well write its own reports, if all it wants is a scientific-sounding confirmation of its preconceptions and politically safe postures" (232). This would eventually turn out to be an eerily prophetic statement.

In his dissenting report, Charles H. Keating Jr. put forth the premise that the commission had a mandate from Congress to find ways of stopping pornography, and not to "analyze, ascertain, study, and make recommendations based on what it found to be the truth." Keating accused the Commission majority of being "dedicated to a position of complete moral anarchy," and assured the reader that "One can consult all the experts he chooses, can write reports, make studies, etc., but the fact that obscenity corrupts lies within the common sense, the reason, and the logic of every man." According to Plotnik, "It would be a sad state of affairs if each fact-finding body were to revert to 'intuition,' 'common sense,' and moral indignation, which to each citizen is something else and probably always will be" (332). --http://home.earthlink.net/~durangodave/html/writing/Censorship.htm [Aug 2004]

Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography

The most sensational support for the libertarian view un- expectedly has come from the 1970 report of the American Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Its voluminous, heavily documented and researched, 650-page report (9) was the result of a Congressionally- initiated $2,000,000 study covering definitions, effects, extent, existing, and proposed legislation for the control of pornography and obscenity. Entirely an "Establishment" committee, its members included leading judges, educators, scientists, attorneys, psychiatrists, and clergymen.

Their conclusions, embodied in what is a historic document, contradicted in every instance the popular stereotypes regarding pornography. This was even more significant in the light of the fact that due to the lack of sufficient experimental data, the commission had initiated careful studies, tests, and research to arrive at its findings.

Entirely unexpectedly, the report called for the repeal of all laws against the showing and selling of sexually-explicit films, books, and other materials to consenting adults. ("Sexually-explicit" was chosen to avoid the pejorative term "pornography".)

Declaring it "exceedingly unwise to attempt to legislate individual moral values and standards", the recommendations were based on detailed findings that sexually-explicit materials do not cause crime, juvenile delinquency, anti-social acts, character disorder, sexual or non-sexual deviation. The Commission stated (10) that national surveys of psychiatrists, psychologists, sex educators, social workers, and counsellors show a large majority to believe that sexual materials do not have harmful effects on either adults or adolescents.

It did find that exposure to erotic stimuli produced sexual arousal in most men and women) (women being not less aroused than men) and, not surprisingly, that the young of both sexes (especially if college educated, religiously inac- tive, and sexually experienced) were more easily stimulated. This arousal led to a temporary increase in masturbation or coital behavior for some, a temporary decrease for others (!) and no change in behavior for the majority.

Established patterns of sexual behavior were not found to be substantially altered by exposure to eroticism, though pre-existing patterns may be temporarily activated: another way of saying that one does not become a sado- masochist, a homosexual, or a rapist by looking or by reading.

Substantial numbers of married couples reported better and more agreeable marital communication, increased feelings of love and closeness, increased willingness to discuss sexual matters and to ex- periment, and greater tolerance towards other peoples' sex activities.

Most importantly, no link whatsoever was found with sex crimes. In fact, sex offenders were found to have had less adolescent exposure to erotica than other adults, less sexual experience, and a more repressive and sexually deprived environment.

The conclusions of the Commission were very specific:

a. The Commission recommends that federal, state and local legislation prohibiting the sale, exhibition and distribution of sexual materials to consenting adults be repealed.

b. Governmental regulation of moral choice can deprive the individual of the responsibility for personal decision which is essential to the formation of genuine moral standards. Such regulations would also tend to establish an official moral orthodoxy, contrary to our most fundamental constitutional traditions.

c. Though there is no definite evidence, the Commission favors, due to insufficient research, that children not be exposed to pictorial eroticism (except by parents), this to be reconsidered every six years due to changing standards.

d. The Commission does not believe that sufficient social justification exists for the retention or enactment of broad legislation prohibiting the consensual distribution of sexual materials to adults.

We therefore do not recommend any definition of what is obscene for adults. (11) (Author's emphasis)

Significantly, the Commission's report (though further vindicated in European sex studies) ([Peter Gorsen, Sexual-aesthetic, 1972]), was immediately denounced by President Nixon who "categorically rejected its morally bankrupt conclusions" and promised that "pornography which can corrupt and poison the wellsprings of American and Western culture and civilization" would be controlled if not eliminated under his aegis. --Film As a Subversive Art (1974) - Amos Vogel

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