Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Pornography vs. Obscenity

What’s the Difference?

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THE KISS by Auguste Rodin

The Supreme Court of the United States has determined that people have a First Amendment (Free Speech) right to own pornographic and obscene materials in the privacy of their own home, including sexually-explicit books, magazines, artwork, and movies, as long as there is no commercial interest involved (Nemeth, 2012).

Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union want to abolish all restrictions on all created materials in the name of Free Speech. For them, any form of free expression — including child pornography — would be exempt from government regulation (Nemeth, 2012).

Obscenity is NOT protected by the U.S. Constitution (Nemeth, 2012). Pornography may or may not fall into the category of obscenity, depending on its content. Although pornographic material is used to arouse sexual excitement, obscene materials go far beyond this need. Images and descriptions of necrophilia, pedophilia, incest, rape, snuff, bestiality, and extreme violence offend the sensibilities of most people; and most people would consider these “obscene.”

Most state and federal statutes are designed to protect children. Laws have been established prohibiting the public display of lewd and obscene materials; restricting the sale of these materials to adults over eighteen years old; regulating the production and sale of such materials; criminalizing exploitation of minors in the production and sale of obscene materials; and denying inmates the right to receive and circulate these materials (Nemeth, 2012).

The Internet has become a hotbed for the distribution of pornographic and obscene materials. Once again, most laws regulating Internet use for this purpose are aimed at protecting children from exposure and exploitation (Nemeth, 2012).

Miller v. California (1973) set the precedent for defining the nature of obscenity (Nemeth, 2012). Whether something can be called obscene is relative to its quality, and this is determined by how a reasonable average person would react to it. The court left it up to the local community to define obscenity and pornography based on community standards (Nemeth, 2012). What is considered obscene in San Francisco will probably differ from what is considered obscene in Salt Lake City. Does the work appeal to prurient interests, provide images or descriptions of sexual behavior that are repugnant, and lack any serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific merit (Siegel, 2012)? These questions are at the heart of Miller v. California.

How do Internet standards apply in this case? If the Internet hosts communities of adult websites that promote lewd, lascivious, pornographic, and obscene materials, what community standards apply (Nemeth, 2012)? It seems like anything goes on the World Wide Web. Even if the Internet was more thoroughly regulated, the Dark Web avoids detection as much as possible, and this is where the truly obscene is mostly found.

History, also, has seen many changes in what is considered pornographic or obscene. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence was considered obscene in early 20th century England (Siegel, 2012). Today, it is viewed as a classic piece of English literature. As Jim Shelley of the UK’s Daily Mail writes, “since it was first published, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has been a byword for illicit, explicit sex and scandal . . . Lawrence’s book has become so synonymous with torrid, florid passions that its once revolutionary frisson has become cliché.” Would Lawrence be shocked by today’s standards of pornography and obscenity? One can only speculate.

Dawn Pisturino

Administration of Justice 109, Mohave Community College, Kingman, Arizona

Copyright 2016 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

References

Nemeth, C.P. (2012). Criminal law. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis.

Shelley, Jim. (2015, September 7). Lady chatterley’s lover was unfaithful and impotent.

       The Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk.

Siegel, L.J. (2012). Criminology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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WRITERS: MIND YOUR MANNERS!

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A MESSAGE FROM JON BARD, MANAGING EDITOR OF CHILDREN’S BOOK INSIDER:

“If you spend a fair amount of time online, perhaps you’ve noticed it:

People are becoming ruder. And angrier. And more entitled.

Really, I’m simply amazed at some of what appears in my e-mail inbox. Folks with whom I’ve never corresponded are sending me demanding messages such as “SEND ME THE EBOOK!!!!” and “I WANT TO GET PUBLISHED. TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”

People (non-customers) send us long, detailed questions out of the blue and expect immediate responses. If they don’t get one, we often receive an abusive message as a follow up.

And then there’s the magic words that many people seem to be using as a justification for curt, nicety-free missives:
“Sent via my iPhone.”

Look, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve got a pretty thick skin. So I raise this not to prevent my feelings from being hurt, but rather as a cautionary message about how *not* to sabotage your writing career.

As a 21st century author, your ability to communicate is paramount to your success. Editors, agents, bloggers, book reviewers, distributors, promotional partners and readers are just some of the people who are important to your career. For goodness sake, treat them with more respect than “Here’s my new book. Write a review!”.

Here then, are my tips to help you be seen as a courteous author worthy of consideration:

• “Dear”, “Thank you”, “Please” and “Sincerely/All the Best/Yours Truly” aren’t archaic leftovers from the distant past. They’re still as important as ever. Use them. Please.

• Composing a message from your phone or tablet is not an excuse for overly-direct curtness. If you have a business message to send, wait until you have the time to write it properly.

• If you’re contacting someone for the first time, make the effort to introduce yourself, and clearly state the purpose of your message.

• If someone doesn’t get right back to you, don’t fire off an angry e-mail accusing them of ignoring you. Perhaps the message got lost. Maybe they’re on vacation. Perhaps they’re ill. Calmly send another friendly message restating your request or comment.

• Remember that you’re dealing with human beings. In our case, every piece of e-mail is read either by me or by Laura. We don’t have a building full of underlings to take care of that for us. When you send us kind words (and many of you do — thank you!), it feels great. When you’re rude or angry, it stings. Treat me with respect — I think I’ve earned at least that.

The vast majority of you are nothing but gracious in your communications with us. That bodes well for your future success. Keep at it, and gently work to correct those who aren’t minding your manners.
For the few of you who may have let your etiquette slip, please take heed of the points I’ve laid out, and make a resolution to make the online world just a little bit more courteous.

That’s it — venting over! Onward….”

THANKS, JON!

Dawn Pisturino

 

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TOO MANY BOOKS, TOO MUCH COMPETITION

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In an interview with the blog SIX QUESTIONS, John Raab, Publisher/CEO/Editor-in-Chief of Suspense Magazine, answered the following question:

“What can you truly expect to get out of your writing?”

“I feel that many authors have false expectations and think they are writing the next NY Times Bestseller. Here is the problem with that. Just because your book is not high on a list or selling that great, doesn’t mean you can’t write. Authors have to remember that anybody can now publish an EBook on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. What does that mean? That means that readers now have to navigate through thousands of more books to find one they like and readers only have a certain amount of money to spend. If you don’t have thousands of marketing dollars behind your work, then you have to spend triple the amount of time marketing to fans than it took you to write the book. Writing the book is the easy part, getting paid from it is the difficult part. Authors should expect to not retire off their work, but instead write for the love of it, because it is your passion. Writing and music are the same thing, you see a great band in a bar and say ‘They are better than anything I hear on the radio, why aren’t they signed?’ Writing is the same way.”

Is it true? Are there too many books on the market? Writers don’t just write for the love of writing, they write to make a living. But if thousands of self-proclaimed authors are flooding the market with books, how can someone achieve that goal?

For myself, I stopped buying books because I was tired of wasting my money on mediocre crap that was marketed as best-seller material. A slick cover and a wide audience do not a-book-worth-reading make. Extensive marketing will not salvage a poorly crafted commodity. Readers might buy from you once, but they won’t come back again.

The book market is, in fact, overwhelming. Every time I go into Barnes & Noble, the stacks of unread (and unbought) books makes me want to swoon.  Scanning through Amazon and Goodreads makes me feel the same way.

The books shout in my head: READ ME! READ ME!

It’s the same on Facebook. Thousands of self-proclaimed authors scream at me: BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!

Millions of blogs and online publications float around in Internet outer space, vying for attention.

TV, movies, and video games also provide tough competition. And to top it off, a recent poll suggested that only 75% of the population ever reads a book (print or digital.)

So, what’s a writer (and reader) to do in an age of information overload?

1. Write the best damned book you can, using original ideas.

2. Don’t write derivative material because thousands of others are doing the same thing. We don’t need anymore books about vampires and wizards unless the slant is so original, and the characters so unforgettable, that the world just can’t live without them.

3. Define your goals realistically. If you are only writing out of love for the craft, then be content to do so. But if you dream of making a living as a writer, then treat it as a business.

Personally, I think the publishing industry bubble is going to burst, just like the dot.com bubble and the housing bubble. Too many books means too many choices and a flattened market. After all, people don’t have the time or the money to spend on reading all the books out there. And traditional publishing houses depend on blockbuster best-sellers to keep themselves afloat.

I will continue to write because I love to write. But don’t be fooled: I want to make a living off of my writing as much as any other writer. The question is: can I beat the competition?

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Writing short fiction has definitely improved my writing. I wholeheartedly agree with this advice.

The Author Chronicles

Now that I have more time to write (Toddler started preschool), I have been trying my hand at short stories. This is a new format for me, but I am enjoying learning the new skills for this format. Even as a novelist, I am finding many benefits to exploring short fiction:

1. Experimentation.

I can play around with things I would not be able to with a novel-length work. For example, if I want to dabble in a genre I usually don’t write, I can test it out quickly. If I have a new or existing character I want to explore more in-depth, I can concentrate on just them.

2. Practicing one particular writing technique at a time.

When dealing with a novel, it is often hard to go back and look at things such as dialogue, to make sure each character sounds different. Even when doing a dialogue pass…

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Bree Ogden, literary agent extraordinaire, is making herself available for all you aspiring authors out there! Check out her class!

this literary life

I’ve had enough experience with writers to know that they almost always feel like this when writing their query letter:

Writers Block

 

Because they know that agents are like this almost every day:

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You want agents fighting over your query and manuscript like it’s the freaking Ring of Mordor. If you are stuck, feel like you just can’t figure out how to write that winning query letter, think about signing up for my LitReactor.com class THE ART OF THE QUERY LETTER.

Being a literary agent myself, I know what grabs us, what immediately turns us off, what makes us laugh in good spirits and what makes us laugh in disgust. Often times, you’ll think that your clever opening will win you a manuscript request, when in reality, it’s the thing that makes us hit the “trash” button.

During the course of my class, I will help you:

  • Learn how…

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