Degradation: What the History of Obscenity Tells Us about Hate Speech

Degradation: What the History of Obscenity Tells Us about Hate Speech

by Kevin W. Saunders
     
 

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Throughout history obscenity has not really been about sex but about degradation. Sexual depictions have been suppressed when they were seen as lowering the status of humans, furthering our distance from the gods or God and moving us toward the animals. In the current era, when we recognize ourselves and both humans and animals, sexual depiction has lost some of

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Overview

Throughout history obscenity has not really been about sex but about degradation. Sexual depictions have been suppressed when they were seen as lowering the status of humans, furthering our distance from the gods or God and moving us toward the animals. In the current era, when we recognize ourselves and both humans and animals, sexual depiction has lost some of its sting. Its degrading role has been replaced by hate speech that distances groups, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, not only from God but from humanity to a subhuman level.

In this original study of the relationship between obscenity and hate speech, First Amendment specialist Kevin W. Saunders traces the legal trajectory of degradation as it moved from sexual depiction to hateful speech. Looking closely at hate speech in several arenas, including racist, homophobic, and sexist speech in the workplace, classroom, and other real-life scenarios, Saunders posits that if hate speech is today’s conceptual equivalent of obscenity, then the body of law that dictated obscenity might shed some much-needed light on what may or may not qualify as punishable hate speech.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"While the book covers much ground that is familiar to even casual scholars of the subject, it does so in an innovative fashion, interweaving diverse topics such as global religion, the theory of evolution, and contemporary critical race and legal theory." -S. B. Lichtman,Choice

"Degradation: What the History of Obscenity Tells Us About Hate Speech presents a compelling and timely argument."-Melanie Zoltan,suite101.com

“Kevin Saunders puts forward a striking thesis, namely that hate speech deserves regulation under the First Amendment because it degrades the human personality of those whom it targets. In likening hate speech to pornography and obscenity, Saunders provides a novel and arresting approach that avoids entanglement in the thought-ending clichés that have marked much previous scholarship on this subject.”
-Richard Delgado,co-author of Understanding Words That Wound

"Degradation is provocative and...well presented; it should make interesting reading for both legal professionals and others interested in First Amendment issues."-Michael J. Gentile,Law Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814741443
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
01/18/2011
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
255
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Kevin W. Saunders is Charles Clarke Chair in Constitutional Law at Michigan State University College of Law. He is the author of Violence as Obscenity: Limiting the Media's First Amendment Protection and Saving Our Children from the First Amendment (NYU Press, 2003).

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