The Supreme Court is still wrestling with the question of obscanity. Last week it ruled that, while juries must vote what is obscene by the standards of the local community, they cannot include children as part of the community. The juror must decide not just for himself but for everyone in the area what should and should not be permitted to go through the mails.
It's a helluva burden to put on somebody as Melcher, a friend who is now sitting on a jury judging on obscenity trial, told me the other night.
Melcher said, "This is tougher than a murder trial. I'm not just sitting in judgment for myself. I'm representing the entire community, excluding children."
"That shouldn't be hard," I said. "Everyone in this neighborhood is against obscenity."
"That's what they say," Melcher said. "But they tell me one thing and then go out and tell Kinsey and Masters & Johnson researches something entirely different. If we believe their statistics, there's more going on in this community than people will admit."
"How do you know this?" I asked.
"Well, I was trying to figure out some way of getting a fix or was not community thought was or was not obscene, so I took a copy of 'The Joy of Sex' and went from door to door asking people what positions in the book appealed to their prurient interests."
"What was the result?"
Melcher replied. "Nobody would talk, but I sold 61 books."
"That's a lot," I admitted.
"Everyone tells me they're against X-rated movies, but 'Deep Throat' is still playing at a downtown theater. It's had a longer run than 'Star Wars.' Who keeps going to the movie?"
"Probably people from Georgetown," I said. "Their morals are a lot looser than those of us who live in Wesley Heights. I'd say they've been lowering the community standards in Washington by at least 10 percent."
"That's the problem," Melcher said. "The Supreme Court has ruled that a jury in an obscenity case must take into consideration the opinions of everybody in the community, from the 'most sensitive people' to the 'deviant sexual groups', before we come to a decision."
"What do they mean by 'deviant sexual groups'?" I asked him.
"Nobody has really spelled it out for us. Maybe it's people who go skinny-dipping or who dress up in each other's clothes."
"We don't have anybody like that in our neighborhood," I said. "I heard that's the sort of thing that goes on in Bethesda."
"But Bethesda is part of the community," Melcher said. "I have to think of them, too."
"Don't forget Chevy Chase," I told him. "They pretend to be straight, but I've heard the husbands go to massage parlors when their wives are away on summer vacation."
Melcher said, "That's my problem. Every time I think I've got the community standards down pat someone tells me something that throws them completely out of kilter. You've heard about the waterbeds at the Watergate, haven't you?"
Who hasn't heard about the Watergate waterbeds? You know something Melcher? I think you're taking the Supreme Court guidelines on obscenity too seriously. If you try to figure out whether the guy is guilty or not by community standards you're going to go crazy. Send him up for life and forget about it."
"But the conviction could be thrown out by a higher court."
"Why?" I asked.
"Most of the pictures the defendant mailed were taken on Capitol Hill."