Having been a witness who presented research data to the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography that contradicts the commission "conclusion" that pornography causes sexual violence, I fear that the word "joke," as applied to the commission in your editorial, understates its malignancy.
With a Supreme Court that believes that what two consenting adults do sexually in the privacy of their bedroom is the state's business, with an attorney general who believes that the Bill of Rights should not protect citizens against actions of a state that would be unconstitutional if effected by the federal government, with nationally acclaimed religious fundamentalists prescribing a national morality, and with thousands of 7-Eleven stores terrorized into banning Playboy magazine, the American public may be set for a time-machine journey that deposits it in an era where sexual conduct was dictated by public scrutiny and no one talked about doing "it."
An encouraging aside in all of this flap is that the strategy of the commission prudes who would save women from sexual victimization backfired. The dissenting commission votes denying the causal link between pornography and sexual violence were cast by women members. The National Organization for Women opposes the recommendation for stricter law enforcement in obscenity prosecutions. NOW and other groups such as the Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force know that the first step toward repression of women and sexual minority groups is a "safe" attack on another unpopular target.
Pornography is an easy first target. There are enough persons frightened by their own sexuality and that of others that they want any suggestions of it hidden or erased; there are enough zealots heaven-bent on minding their neighbor's business, and those to whom thoughtful consideration suggests that pornography is harmful, to forge a coalition of censorship. Strange bedfellows indeed, Jerry Falwell and Linda Lovelace.
The ominous significance of such a coalition is that the climate in which it succeeds is one in which, in turn, other "less unpopular" actions, causes, and groups will fall under the executioner's blade.
Adult bookstores in California or two men lovers in their bedroom in Georgia are easy targets for testing the waters of oppression. Encouraged by his success against Gypsies and gays, two very unpopular groups, Hitler was ready for his final solution for the big target.
The commission's impact will be soon felt. First will be the rush to obtain the commission report, the most extensive verbally explicit accounting of the range of sexual acts ever compiled at public expense.
Then will come the test for the American people. It was, after all, the unwillingness of juries to convict in pornography trials during the past decade that led to inaction by government prosecutors. The people will have their say again. Then they can thwart this attempted rape of democracy by the attorney general's kangaroo commission.
RICHARD GREEN MD
Green is director of the Program in Psychiatry, Law and Human Sexuality at the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences.