I love that term “Prurient Interest”. I first came across it when I was reading about how the Supreme Court came up with definitions of “obscenity”, about fifty years ago. Prurient is defined as “having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters”, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (online). The Court, way back then, was saying that, if a book or movie appealed only to prurient interest and had no other redeeming artistic or social value, it was obscene. I don’t know if they argue about matters like these any more. The time has kind of gotten away from what was considered obscene fifty or eighty years ago. Does anybody read Joyce’s Ulysses for its powerful eroticism any more? I saw the film The Lovers (Les Amoreuses) a few months ago. What is significant about the film is that it figured in what constituted “obscene” in films. The film would probably get a PG-13 rating today. It’s actually a pretty good movie, starring Jeanne Moreau, and her character was having an affair. We can’t leave the subject of defining obscenity without bringing up the Justice Potter Stewart quote, “I can’t define obscenity but I know it when I see it.” By that standard The Lovers is patently NOT obscene.
“Prurient Interest” basically alludes to curiosity about sexual matters. What is left unsaid is that curiosity is a good thing and we human beings can’t help but be curious. My readers will recall some entries I made about my lesbian cousin, Cousins Part One and Cousins Part Two. I became intensely curious about the phenomenon of “Butch”, so I started reading up. The sexual interest aspect was lost soon after I started reading about it, but what remained was an enormous appreciation for lesbian-themed literature. I ordered Best Lesbian Love Stories 2004, and Set in Stone, edited by Angela Brown, published by Alyson Books. The quality of the writing just blew me away. I am in awe of these writers who have extraordinarily good storytelling skills. What follows from reading the stories is empathy for the predicament of LGBT people, and respect for LGBT people.
A cheap thrill will dissipate. Where the search for a cheap thrill led me were places I never dreamed I would go.