Meese Commission Report Turns 21 Monday

Tod Hunter
WASHINGTON — The report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, commonly known as the "Meese Commission report," was released 21 years ago this Monday, on July 9, 1986. Running two volumes and 1,960 pages, the report was sold through the Government Printing Office and was reprinted by several publishers, some of whom added photographs.

The Meese Commission was established by the Reagan Administration in 1985 after a 1970 report on pornography commissioned by Lyndon Johnson and released under Richard Nixon recommended that legislation "should not seek to interfere with the right of adults who wish to do so to read, obtain or view explicit sexual materials."

Reaction to that report was swift and negative, as Vice President Spiro Agnew said, "As long as Richard Nixon is president, Main Street is not going to turn into smut alley." Additionally, the U.S. Senate voting 60-5 (with 35 abstentions) to reject the findings of the report.

"The Meese Commission was designed to undo the damage that the Reagan Administration thought that the first presidential commission report had done by finding that adult, consensual, sexually explicit material was a big shrug," 1st Amendment attorney Jeffrey Douglas told XBIZ. "They tried to create a commission that created the results they wanted, and the Meese Commission report was publicized as if it had reached the conclusions that its sponsors wanted it to. But the Meese Commission was unable to find any harm associated with the consumption of sexually explicit material. If they had found anything, people would be quoting it now.

"I think there is a consensus among sociologists, political scientists and those who study sex scientifically that there will never be any data supporting harm from viewing sexually explicit material."

Commission Executive Director Alan Sears sent letters to companies with testimony before the Commission accusing the companies of dealing in pornography by selling Playboy and Penthouse magazines. In April 1986, before the report was released, the owners of 7-Eleven stores, Southland Corporation, pulled the magazines from their 4,500 company-owned stores and recommended that their 3,600 franchisees do the same.

In a statement, the president of Southland said, "The testimony indicates a growing public awareness of a possible connection between adult magazines and crime, violence and child abuse."

The Meese Commission report also includes a history of pornography, a list of recommendations for law enforcement and a list of more than 5,000 magazine, book and film titles found by Commission investigators in six adult bookstores, including detailed descriptions of 10 picture magazines, six films and a paperback book.

The entire report is available at