The Pentagon has a group of people who, quite literally, review pornography for the US military.
It's not a review that gives a play-by-play of the action. Instead, a board of military and civilian officials has to review material and determine whether it's "sexually explicit," as it's against the law for hardcore porn to be sold or rented on military bases.
Though the regulation has been in effect for quite some time and remains so, a source recently tipped us to a Freedom of Information Act request at the website Government Attic that offered a few more details on the inner workings of this review process, and what kind of titles the board banned for sale to US troops.
The earliest year of banned titles that the FOIA uncovered was from 2008, which included magazines titled "Nasty Housewives" and "Cheri." The 2006 board included magazines such as "30 Something," "Raunchy Couples," "Young & Stacked," and videos "Beach Babes 2," "Bikini Traffic School," and "Obsessed with Lust."
The 2006 board reviewed many more video titles and deemed them to be "not sexually explicit," which included some from Playboy and talk show host Jerry Springer, such as "Bad Boys & Naughty Girls" and "Too Hot for TV." Apparently, Jerry Springer is not too hot for the troops to watch.
The DoD doesn't ban all media that has nudity in it, and service members can walk into their post exchange and pick up a magazine such as Playboy, Maxim, and FHM, for example. It bans what is deemed "sexually explicit" material, which it defines as nudity that is depicted in a lascivious way. Lascivious, the regulation says, is material that is "lewd and intended or designed to elicit a sexual response."
Though even this definition is left up to interpretation. Some have called for the DoD to ban all porn, "lascivious" or not.
It seems strange that military members, most of whom are over the age of 18, are not allowed to buy pornography on a military base. Though they can go off-base to get it, and there's nothing saying troops can't view it online.
"I believe this proposed rule is not only an excellent example of agency waste, but a direct infringement of Constitutional Rights that employment by the DoD in any manner cannot supersede," one person wrote of the regulation, for the public comment period at the Federal Register.
"So not only can a man or woman be sent into harm's way without questioning the reasons for being sent, but they can't even purchase from the exchange or PX material that is deemed lascivious?" wrote another.
(Cpl. Andre Dakis/USMC)
How it all works
The ban of porn on PX shelves stems from a 1996 law called the Military Honor and Decency Act. The law sought to restrict sales and rentals of sexually explicit material on bases, and though it was challenged on first amendment grounds, it was upheld as constitutional by an appeals court in 1997. The porn "censorship board" held its first meeting on July 29, 1998.
According to meeting minutes released under FOIA of what is called the Resale Activities Board of Review, it takes about a day or two for the Pentagon to figure out what is and is not porn.
Once everyone is present, the Board is called into session by its chairman. Members, who are either members of the military or DoD civilians, represent each branch of service. Typically, the chair goes over the regulation again with the members before presenting the material for review. In 2006, the board looked at 18 magazines and 6 videos. In 2007 and 2008, they checked out 23 and 24 magazines, respectively.
After they've reviewed the materials, they vote by secret ballot, the documents show. And once it's deemed "sexually explicit," it's supposed to come off the shelves.
The board costs the DoD about $5,500 a year.
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