Sex Questions from the Twittersphere: Why is Fisting illegal in Film?

Question:

Why is it obscene/illegal to show fisting in adult DVDs in the USA? Will it ever become legal?

Nothing in US porn is de facto illegal except underage participants. But the law allows porn to be charged as obscene according to “community standards, which are nebulous and changeable. So literally anything *could* be judged illegal if a jury said it was, and that’s why certain kinds of porn are presumed to be illegal in the US: either because it HAS been so adjudged, or because it probably could be, especially in conservative states/small towns. (These “possibly/probably obscene things include sex with bondage or hitting; beasties; scat and watersports; and fisting¦ and it’s also a little-known and shocking thing that has been judged as obscene that tells you just how very socially inflected this all is: interracial hetero vanilla sex.)

So pornmakers mostly now err on the side of caution and omit these things. Some edgy pornmakers incorporate them; some get in legal trouble for it, and any of them *could*. Will this ever change? Well, community standards change a lot over time, and one current argument has it that on the Internet, community standards are different (and much more open) because the Internet itself is a community. But the real answer to your question is another question: Will the government ever treat porn without question as protected speech, and/or will prosecutors ever decide to stop going after porn? Until that answer is yes, fisting and its extreme-porn cousins will have to watch out.

Tweet tweet! –CQ

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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