Statutes: A Clearly-Worded Law

Efforts to curb obscenity often go awry because of the difficulty of defining the term "obscene." Courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, keep slipping on that semantic banana peel. But New York State has a clearly-worded law that gets around the problem with directness and ease. It explicitly prohibits selling to persons under 18 any book or magazine that "exploits, is devoted to, or is made up of descriptions of illicit sex or sexual immorality."

In Manhattan last week a three-judge Criminal Court was called upon to decide whether the prohibition applies to Fanny Hill, that ancient and now once...

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