Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How Good Intentions Run Amok

A recent climbdown by Evanston City Council comes as a relief to local massage and bodywork businesses. The good news is that these local government officials recognized that massage is a valid activity often with a therapeutic purpose. In their efforts to ensure secret prostitution dens were not operating in the local decades-old registered businesses, they came up with a ballooning proposed ordinance that prohibited touching peoples behinds or having advertising with pictures of the masseurs.  Eventually the trouble they were causing legitimate providers, and the fact that illegal sex work is general not done in licensed premises anyway, caused the council to drop the whole idea.

I can't help but see a parallel to the various efforts to quash pornography being accessed by children or the spread of extreme pornogrpahy which end up proxy-banning anything involving nudity or intimacy altogether.  From frozen Paypal accounts to rampant Amazon adult tags to RWAs covergate to prisoners having erotic romance novels seized as contraband.  The relatively short history of erotic romance is replete with examples of the genre being caught in the cross fire between well-meaning regulators and their real target material--generally of some kind of obscene material.

And as a point of clarity, in the United States erotic material in itself has been established as legally not meeting the requirements of "obscenity" because an interest in sex is not innately prurient ("shameful" or "morbid"). In general the features that have been judged to cross the line are sexual activities that would be illegal in real life combined with being in the erotica genre which is widely deemed not to have literary merit, a rather dubious pair of distinctions.

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