‘soft-core’ liberalization of indecent material in Europe
Since the 1960s, the regulation of pornography or indecent material has undergone substantial changes in many Western European countries. Yet, specifically, cultural pressures as well as noncompliance-induced legal pressures have created an impulse pushing the status quo towards more permissive styles of regulation and obscenity laws. This impulse has not resulted in similar policy shifts in all countries, however. By focusing on two deviant cases—Austria and Germany—the chapter finds that theoretically expected compensatory policy shifts are rather exceptional in the regulation of adult pornography and can only be identified when taking child pornography into account. Furthermore, the chapter highlights the relevance of the national degree of legal activism in explaining the occurrence of absorption as courts can put legal pressure on or take legal pressure off the regulatory status quo. Sometimes they even function as decision-makers themselves in light of political stalemate, as the Austrian case illustrates.
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