Abstract: I object to the term smut: ''Adult-Type'' Businessmen and the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, 1969-1970

Devin McGeehan Muchmore


In 1967, the United States Congress authorized the creation of a Commission on Obscenity and Pornography amidst widespread anxiety over the perceived social and moral harmfulness of the expanding market in sexual representations. Two of the Commission's key charges were to investigate the traffic and distribution of sexual commodities and to make recommendations for industry regulation. Yet investigating the trade in sexual representations required industry cooperation. In this paper, I examine adult industry entrepreneurs' engagement with the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography between 1969 and 1970, using the Commission as a window into the concerns and strategies of these businessmen during a period of industry growth and increased public scrutiny. Through an analysis of interviews, testimony, and correspondence, I find that businessmen were careful to supplement sales figures with assertions that they were family men, their customers were discerning adults, and they had no interest in selling to children. Adult industry entrepreneurs deployed a strategy of respectability in order to undermine the cultural assumptions legitimating the legal regulation of their industry. Shifting focus away from the courtroom, this analysis suggests that altering public perceptions of the sexual commerce was also a key business strategy of 1960s and 1970s adult industry entrepreneurs.