Constructing the Meaning of Obscenity: An Empirical Investigation and an Experientialist Account [Book Review]

International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue Internationale de Sémiotique Juridique 25 (3):415-430 (2012)
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This paper takes a bottom-up approach to empirically investigate how people construct the meaning of obscenity, and offers an experientialist, cognitive linguistic account to explain why the term appears to defy definition and makes a problematic legal concept. To study the contextual dependence of the term, we examined the extent to which various item characteristics (such as genre, context, and the race or celebrity status of the people portrayed) and individual variables (such as gender, religion, sexual orientation and previous personal and cultural experiences) influence our perception of seemingly obscene materials. We report correlations that have not been previously shown. The data support the thesis that the meaning of obscenity emerges in a cognitive-affective response that arises during a dynamic process of interpretation, and thus allows for extralegal factors to influence judgment. The results challenge the assumption that obscenity is a symbolic representation of objectively existing reality and argue that community standard of obscenity is a legal fiction



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Objectification.Martha C. Nussbaum - 1995 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (4):249-291.
Offense to Others.Joel Feinberg - 1984 - Oxford University Press USA.

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