Let’s get legal: Henry Miller and the SLAPS Test

To paraphrase Olivia-Newton John, let’s get legal..ical.  Specifically, let’s talk about Henry Miller and the SLAPS Test.

The SLAPS tests sounds like something I encountered at a frat party in college, but in reality, its something that’d be very familiar to lawyers and their ilk.

And while we don’t to get too academic on you, it really is fascinating to grasp the impact of the “legalization” of “Cancer,” as the ruling has impacts pretty much every other book every written since then.

Here come da judges: The Supreme Court, 1964
Here come da judges: The Supreme Court, 1964

The test, also known as the “Miller Test” or the Three Prong Obscenity Test (TPOT), is the United States Supreme Court’s test for determining whether speech or expression can be labeled obscene, in which case it is not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and can be prohibited.

Basically, the court said a book can be banned only if it passes all three of the following criteria:

1) the dominant theme must be prurient (e.g. having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters.)

2) the book must offend contemporary community standards;

3) the book must be “utterly without redeeming social importance,” by virtue of having no “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific” merit.

You can read more about the court’s thinking here, but we know how this one turned out.  Yay!

(That said, if you click that link you’ll see that with the Internet, the Miller Test is becoming harder to apply as the definition of “community standards” becomes more fungible. See? “Cancer” is still with us – the gift that keeps on giving.)

What was particularly cool, by the way, was Miller’s aw-shucks defense of the book: “If it was not good, it was true; if it was not artistic, it was sincere; if it was in bad taste, it was on the side of life.”

Two more things.  One, I Google Image Searched “SLAPS Test” and this came up.

Lastly, can someone tell us why it was called the SLAPS test?

SLAP’S all folks!

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