Pornography Commission

views updated


PORNOGRAPHY COMMISSION. There have been two presidential commissions charged with investigating the explicit depictions of sex and sexuality that some call pornography—even though "pornography" (unlike "obscenity") is not a legal term.

In 1970 President Richard Nixon appointed the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, also known as the Lockhart Commission. The commission's eighteen members spent over $2 million reviewing the extant research, interviewing experts, and also funding a survey of its own. The final report concluded that there was no evidence demonstrating any significant social harm from pornography depicting consenting adults, and recommended that existing obscenity laws should be repealed. President Nixon refused to accept either the report or the commission's conclusions.

President Ronald Reagan charged Attorney General Edwin Meese in 1985 with forming a commission to investigate the effects of pornography. The Meese Commission was given a budget of $500,000—in real dollars about one-sixteenth of the Lockhart Commission's funding. Unable to afford research of its own, the commission held hearings to interview invited witnesses in six major cities. The commission's final report said that pornography contributed significantly both to sexual violence and to societal discrimination against women, although critics charged that the commission's membership and witness list were both selected to make such conclusions foregone.


Donnerstein, Edward, Daniel Linz, and Steven Penrod. The Question of Pornography: Research Findings and Policy Implications. New York: Free Press, 1987.

Hawkins, Gordon, and Franklin E. Zimring. Pornography in a Free Society. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

J. JustinGustainis