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The liberal Warren Court went still further in 1966, restricting the definition of obscenity to material judged to be "utterly without redeeming social value." The "utterly" standard opened the floodgates of porn as an army of literary critics, psychologists, First Amendment libertarians and even clergymen testified at obscenity trials that they could detect a trace of social value in almost any erotica.
In 1973 the more conservative Burger Court tried to reverse the tide and at the same time take the Justices out of the business of personally reviewing every allegedly objectionable work.
In its 5-to-4 Miller ruling, the court declared that local juries would have to decide what offended standards of taste and convict if they found that a work, "taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value"—a much easier standard, so it seemed, for prosecutors.
The day after the decision, the office walls of Penthouse magazine were covered with x-ed out galleys of hastily killed articles, including one that explored a then new frontier of slick-paper porn: how to make love to your dog. The rest of the spectator-sex industry pulled back too, fearing simultaneous prosecutions in hundreds of different localities with varying "community standards."
But that worry soon faded for a number of reasons. Most important was the general revolution in sexual attitudes that had altered many of the traditional American views of sex. So at the very time the court was remanding to communities the right to judge pornography, "community standards" on such delicate matters were in more disarray than ever before. Few localities were in the mood or of the single mind required to take on the porn lords. Another factor was the growing tendency of police and prosecutors to argue that campaigns against "victimless crime" represented a misuse of limited resources that should be devoted to coping with the ever rising rates of murder, rape, robbery and mugging.
Raids on porn establishments and arrests continue, but they are increasingly taking on the look of ragtag rear-guard actions against an onrushing horde. Says Seattle's King County prosecutor Christopher Bayley: "We filed case after case, but unfortunately, the juries' reactions were so disparate we were unable to come up with anything to guide police and law-enforcement agencies."
In New York City, the situation is no better despite sporadic forays by the embattled Beame administration, which is more concerned with default than depravity. Last month police raided eleven midtown Manhattan bookstores, confiscating material on bestiality and sex with children. The next day the stores were open for business as usual, though the offending material had disappeared—temporarily. Hobbled by cumbersome legal procedures, picayune fines for offenders and a lack of popular support, New York's antiporn effort so far has had little effect. Says Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau: