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Obscene material covers work that “depict[s] or describe[s] sexual conduct.” In deciding whether or not material is obscene, one must look at: (1) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (3) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value (Miller v. California). Obscene material does not receive First Amendment protection, but “sexual expression which is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment.” (Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union).

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]