Staunton porn case prompts statewide crackdown?

When Staunton prosecutors levied eight felony obscenity charges against the owner of After Hours Video in November, obscenity cases were few in Virginia. Now it appears Staunton may have started a statewide trend, as police in Virginia Beach are going after a national apparel vendor for a risqué display in its window, and a state legislator wants to keep former porn stars from taking the stage in Williamsburg.

The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported yesterday that Virginia Beach police confiscated two blown-up photographs from an Abercrombie & Fitch store in the Lynnhaven Mall and cited the store's manager for obscenity. One of the photographs is described as of three young men with their backs to the camera, one of them sports his dungarees just low enough to expose the top of his derriere. The other reportedly shows a bare-breasted woman using her hands to cover her nipples. Police officials say that the manager refused to take down the display even after being warned he might be charged.

Already, the story is getting national attention. Internet news aggregator the Drudge Report posted a link to the Virginian-Pilot article this morning, and the New York Daily News, United Press International, and the Associated Press have published items about the citation.

Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson says that while he has no problem going after the porn purveyors in his town, the Abercrombie ads don't sound like obscenity to him. "I haven't see the ad," he says, "but I would say that wearing the jeans so low that your crack shows wouldn't get me hot and bothered."

Obscenity charges may soon be filed in Williamsburg, too, if Del. Brenda Pogge (R-York) has her way. She has come out against the Sex Workers' Art Show, a touring exhibition featuring former prostitutes and adult film stars sharing their professional experiences in a cabaret-style performance, which has a planned show at the College of William & Mary tonight. In a Friday letter to William & Mary president Gene Nichol, Pogge said the show's arrival means that "not only has this controversy brought considerable embarrassment to our community, but in my estimation this will inflict damage to the dignity and decorum that the college enjoys."

According to the tour's website, the show "offers a wide range of perspectives on sex work, from celebration of prostitutes' rights and sex-positivity to views from the darker sides of the industry." Nichol did not agree to Pogge's request to cancel the show; however, he did ban any and all photography at the show, even by members of the media.

But that's not enough for Pogge. She wants Williamsburg police to stand by ready to arrest the performers should they violate the state obscenity statute, a la Jim Morrison's arrest for indecent exposure at a 1969 Doors concert in Miami. Pogge wrote to Nichols she wanted the police presence because she believes the performance "violates the standard of decency that the citizens of this area uphold and wish to maintain."

It appears that Pogge will get her wish. A William & Mary police spokesperson says officers will be present at tonight's performance at the Commonwealth Auditorium.

Robertson says the police are justified in watching the touring act closely. "I wouldn't go after Hair, because that has artistic value," he says, "but this sounds bad because prostitution is illegal, and if you've got someone saying people ought to prostitute themselves, then they ought to prosecute because that's inciting someone to commit a crime."

Robertson is glad to see his fellow law enforcement officials keeping a close eye on potentially obscene materials. "I'm elated that they're going after this stuff," he says. "If it's patently offensive and doesn't have any literary, political, scientific, or artistic value, it's serious stuff. Not only is this stuff degrading to women, it leads to AIDS and STD epidemics, teenage pregnancy, and it goes hand in glove with drugs, because in both cases it's people looking for a high, and they need a worse and worse version to get the same high."

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7 comments

If you don't like it, don't look. Stop trying to force your phony "morals" on other people...we are NOT interested! What is REALLY obscene is this self-righteous attitude. MYOB

Wow. Obviously if someone watches the memoirs of a prostitute they'll feel inclined to become one. It's kind of insulting how these statements portray so little faith in people.

This sounds like something HomeLandSecurity needs to investigate. Perhaps these people who are renting/selling adult entertainment are funding terrorist!!!

Cheney we need you...NOT!

Plus, if getting the CA "hot and bothered" is his definition of obscenity, is he saying that kiddie porn gets him hot and bothered? that would make him a certified pervert to most people. How about "Playboy?" "Desperate Housewives?"

Jeeze.

"Not only is this stuff degrading to women, it leads to AIDS and STD epidemics, teenage pregnancy, and it goes hand in glove with drugs, because in both cases it's people looking for a high, and they need a worse and worse version to get the same high" The same can be said of extra-marital sexual activity. Would any of the government agents be willing to take a lie detector test?

Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson says ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??I haven't see the ad,¢Ã¢â??¬ he says, ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??but I would say that wearing the jeans so low that your crack shows wouldn't get me hot and bothered.¢Ã¢â??¬

That's a pretty obscene remark to make in public. If you can't say something in church, you shouldn't be saying it in a press release. WTF's wrong with these people?

whatever happened to our 1st amendment rights. If the masses want it, let them buy it, as long as children are kept away from it. State and local governments benefit from the revenues generated, so stop telling us what we can and cannot have. Stop raising our taxes to compensate for the loss revenue!!!!! END CENSORSHIP!!!!