Where is the Line between Porn and Prostitution?

Escort services and adult films are said to be engaged in what is essentially the same activity.  Do you think pornography qualifies as prostitution?  Prostitution is the practice or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment.  Pornography is printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity.  By contrast, prostitution is generally understood as the trading of sex for money, while pornography involves a customer paying an actor for providing sexual services to another actor, while receiving no sexual favors himself/herself in return.

Where should the line be drawn when it comes to porn and prostitution then?  “New York Penal Law defines a prostitute as a person who engages, agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.  A pornographic actor does just that; like a more typical prostitute, he or she engages in sex in return for a fee”.  So, why does court protect adult movies?  The U.S. Supreme Court would hold that pornographic actors are indeed engaged in First-Amendment protected activity, as long as obscenity is not involved.  The ultimate demand for pornography comes from the viewer of pornography, therefore the “enjoyment” of pornography is therefore as “speech,” rather than as action.

The porn-or-prostitution issue came up in the 1980’s, when California prosecutors argued that an adult film producer named Harold Freeman was guilty of “pimping” women because he had hired five women to perform sexual actions for a movie called Caught From Behind II.  The court ruled that anti-pimping laws weren’t intended to apply to pornographic films.  Even if the actors had engaged in prostitution, it was ruled that applying the anti-pandering laws to “skin flicks” would impinge on the First Amendment.

Pornography has enjoyed the First Amendment protection since the 1950’s.  In the early 20th century, pornography was considered obscene, even though it was rare.  It wasn’t until adult movies became more popular that authorities paid more attention to this arising issue.  In a 1957 Supreme Court case, Roth vs. United States, Justice Brennan concluded that obscenity wasn’t protected by the First Amendment, but also defined it, which effectively legitimized most pornography.

Researching this subject made me think about how far our society has come to socially accept something like Playboy magazine.  Marilyn Monroe famously posed nude for a calendar in 1949 and landed on the front cover of the first edition of Playboy in 1953. She was the first centerfold for the .50 cent Playboy Magazine and since posing for nude photos during the 50’s was not common, exposing herself bare in Playboy magazine could have been seen as controversial along with the possibility of hurting ones career.  Although, instead of hurting her career, these images enhanced it and the Hollywood sex symbol never regretted taking these pictures for she was and will always be known as a sex siren on the Silver Screen.  Marilyn Monroe felt that she did not commit a crime or do anything wrong, for it was her choice to pose nude in front of the camera.  This first edition of Playboy sold 54,175 copies leading up to the best selling edition almost 20 years later of 7,161,561 copies.  Today, Playboy Company is valued at over $185 million and is still growing.

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