Issues Bearing on the Legal Regulation of Violent and Sexually Violent Media

Daniel Linz, Steven Penrod, Edward I Donnerstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In this article we consider a number of legal responses to the problem of media violence. We underscore the tension between evidence collected by social scientists and traditional First Amendment (free speech) protections, noting several criticisms of media violence research that challenge the use of this research to establish legal harms. The second half of this article covers legal actions against sexually violent materials to which social science research may be relevant. One legal alternative that has been suggested includes establishing liability for a range of social harms sustained to certain groups of persons, namely women, as a result of the proliferation of sexually demeaning images. Even though the courts give some credence to social science evidence concerning the harms of exposure to sexual violence, they are most concerned with balancing the harm done to women as a class against the harm done to the rights of free speech. The courts are currently unwilling to remove First Amendment protections for materials other than those that fall within traditional categories (e.g., obscenity). We suggest that social science research may be most useful in establishing liability for individual injuries sustained indirectly through media portrayals of sexual violence subsumed by traditional definitions of obscenity. 1986 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-193
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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