Sex, lies and video games

Posted by Hans Wuerflein

This summer we passed a very important anniversary in American history, and I’m not talking about the moon landing.

Although possibly mankind’s greatest technical achievement, the event I’m referring to took place 10 years earlier and possibly had an even bigger impact on society.

July 21, 1959 marked the end of modern government censorship.

lady chatterley-large

D. H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” was still banned in the U. S. under obscenity law because of its graphic sex scenes. Although Grove Press had acquired the rights to publish the book in the U. S., the postal service still had the authority to confiscate materials deemed obscene, and did so.

During the resulting trial, they were able to convince Judge Frederick van Pelt Bryan that although scenes in the book met the definition of obscenity, the work as a whole dealt with ideas important to society, and thus was protected under the first amendment. The Post Office was ordered to lift all restrictions on distribution of the book.

This decision essentially stripped the postal service of its authority to confiscate materials deemed obscene and prosecute their distributors.  There may have been other cases after this, but it struck a huge blow for the freedom of speech.

It’s kind of funny to think about what an uproar the book caused back then, but I guess that has more to say about the changes in society than the book itself.  “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” is now considered a literary masterpiece, and the few perverts that haven’t figured out how to use the internet yet can walk into Hastings and buy disappointing, softcore porn.

For the record, this column is not endorsing the buying of pornography.  It is irresponsible to support an industry that is so degrading toward women and doesn’t treat the subject of sex with the respect it deserves.  That’s why you should pirate it like everyone else.

Anyway, what we should be remembering is that this is not ancient history.  This event happened in our parents’ or grandparents’ lifetimes.  Even though we have come so far since then, there are still attacks on freedom of speech today.

The main offender at the moment is the state of California.  The state is appealing its 2005 anti-video game bill to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Despite being struck down as unconstitutional on first amendment grounds, State Sen. Leland Yee (D) and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are still supporting it despite claims that the state’s already depleted resources would be better used elsewhere.

In his amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief, Yee talks about working to protect children, a noble goal, but goes so far as to compare this bill to one aimed at preventing children from being exploited through prostitution.

Lee must have included this because of the obvious correlation between a 15-year-old playing Halo and the sex trafficking industry.  While he was at it, why didn’t he put in something in there comparing going swimming after eating without waiting thirty minutes to the rise of Somalian piracy?

In a recent edition of “Sessler’s Soapbox” X-play host and video game journalist Adam Sessler said he doesn’t think we’ve seen the end of similar bills in other states.

“This is a very cheap and easy way to try and show that you are doing something for your constituents,” said Sessler. “Even if your constituents probably weren’t asking for it.”

Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the video game industry, as I sincerely think and hope they will, this won’t be the end of attempts at censorship, but it will hopefully kill a few more bills in committee so legislators can get back to the real problems.


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