On April 8, 2008, John Stagliano and his businesses Evil Angel Productions, Inc. and John Stagliano, Inc. were indicted by a federal grand jury with seven different counts of obscenity for the films â€œMilk Nymphosâ€ and â€œStorm Squirters 2: â€˜Target Practiceâ€™â€ and a trailer for â€œFetish Fanatic Chapter 5.â€ (for the full indictment, click here)
What happened was this: FBI agent Daniel Bradley, who was serving on the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, ordered copies of the films and downloaded a â€œFetish Fanaticâ€ trailer. Both films and the trailer feature consenting professional talent engaging in all sorts of sex craziness â€“ you gotta know that this is Evil Angel, and itâ€™s not meant for amateurs.
Since theÂ content wasÂ sent to Bradley across state lines, the federal government got jurisdiction to prosecute Stagliano (who lives, works, & distributes in Porn Valley, CA) for the inter-state transportation and intended distribution of the films (it looks like the â€œFetish Fanaticâ€ charges may already be thrown out) in a Washington DC court. Stagliano is now facing 32 years in prison and seven million dollars in fines.
The trial began this week, and man-oh-man do I have a lot to say about it! But before I get to all my commentary, I want to make sure we all understand the legal definition of obscenityâ€¦
Marvin Miller was convicted by the state of California for distributing unsolicited, sexually explicit materials via the US mail (read: mail order catalogues for sex-related stuffâ€¦ like junk mail, in a way, or all those Victoriaâ€™s Secret catalogs that keep coming no matter how many times you move), but the subsequent Miller v California (413 US 15; 1973) decision overturned his conviction and clarified obscenity standards in the US.
The three-pronged â€œMiller Testâ€ for obscenity requires an assessment of 1) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests, 2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and 3) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value (Miller v California 1973).
Let me put that in normal person language.
Something is considered obscene if 1) a regular Jane and her community (whatever that means) thinks something is lewd just for the sake of being lewd (this is what prurient means â€“ â€œhaving or arising from lewd thoughtsâ€), 2) it shows sexual conduct that is illegal, and 3) it has no literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. You have to show all three things.
So then the point is this: think about what you love, what you think is brilliant, and what you think is super hottâ€¦ chances are someone else out there hates all those things, and may even find them “patently offensive.” Now think about what you really canâ€™t stand, what grosses you out, and what you find moreÂ awful than anything else ever (!)Â â€“ chances are, thereâ€™s some porn about it out there that thousands of other people have bought.
Who gets to say whatâ€™s prurient? Who gets to say whatâ€™s lacking in value? And on the interwebs, where you can find a community for just about anything, all bets are offâ€¦
But not really, as John Stagliano would likely tell you at this very moment.
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