Sex and the Supreme Court

Obscenity and Indecency Law in Canada

By Richard Jochelson and Kirsten Kramar  

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Canadian laws pertaining to pornography and bawdy houses were first developed during the Victorian era, when “non-normative” sexualities were understood as a corruption of conservative morals and harmful to society as a whole. Tracing the socio-legal history of contemporary obscenity and indecency laws, Kramar and Jochelson contend that the law continues to function to protect society from harm. Today, rather than seeing harm to conservative values, the court sees harm to liberal political values. While reforms have been made, especially in light of feminist and queer challenges, Kramar and Jochelson use Foucault’s governmentality framework to show that the liberal harm strategy for governing obscenity and indecency continues to disguise power.

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  • Introduction
  • From Hicklin to Butler (from hick to chic?)
  • From Here to Queer: Little Sisters
  • Keeping It Close to the Chest: Indecency and Community Standards in Mara and Tremblay
  • Taking a Swing at Harm: Labaye
  • The Future of Indecency and Obscenity
  • Conclusion
  • References


  • Richard Jochelson

    University of Winnipeg

    Richard Jochelson is a faculty member in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg and holds his PhD in law from Osgoode Hall. He has published articles dealing with obscenity, indecency, judicial activism and police powers. He is a member of the Bar of Manitoba and co-authored Sex and the Supreme Court: Obscenity and Indecency Law in Canada with Kirsten Kramar (2010).

  • Kirsten Kramar

    University of Winnipeg

    Kirsten Kramar is a professor of sociology at the University of Winnipeg.

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