Is it true that it's illegal (in mississippi I think) in some states to write 'offensive' erotic fiction? Regardless of whether or not it's published or meant for public consumption.

I read something in a fact book that I interpreted as:

If someone finds erotic fiction in your house that they find offensive, then they can sue you.

If it's true then what exactly is the punishment/how much could someone sue you for?

  • 1
    The statute is MS Code Section 97-29-101 "Distribution of Obscene Materials", and this sounds like the Texas Obscenity Statute, and while it is a "law on the books" in Texas it is technically unenforceable, and a quick drive through Texas will show quite a few stores that would be in violation. I'm not sure if it is enforced in MS.
    – Ron Beyer
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:21
  • interesting, what's meant by unenforceable? The way I see it, as long as it is written in the law then someone that cares enough can pursue conviction. Is it just that nobody pays attention to that particular law, but if someone wanted to then they could push a complaint to court and achieve a conviction on the back of that law (since it hasn't been officially written-off)
    – HelloWorld
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:27
  • @HelloWorld Lots of laws that have been declared unconstitutional remain on the books but can't be enforced because a court has determined that the law is invalid. This is not simply a manner of non-enforcement.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:28
  • Learning as I go. So it's effectively 'overridden' basically
    – HelloWorld
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:30
  • @HelloWorld Yes.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


The term of art used in MS Code Section 97-29-101 which is probably what is being referred to in the OP, is "obscene" (not offensive or erotic, which are frequently not legally "obscene").

This term is defined in such a restrictive manner by First Amendment case law that it is almost impossible to prevail on a charge like this in the fact of any remotely competent attorney defending the case, unless it involves child pornography. The currently controlling definition under the federal First Amendment is from the U.S. Supreme Court case Miller v. California (1973), which held that:

materials were obscene if they appealed, "to a prurient interest", showed "patently offensive sexual conduct" that was specifically defined by a state obscenity law, and "lacked serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value." Decisions regarding whether material was obscene should be based on local, not national, standards.

In practice, the "lacked serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value" portion of the definition is usually what defeats these prosecutions as a matter of law.

Some of the most relevant case law is summarized here.

Is it true that it's illegal (in mississippi I think) in some states to write 'offensive' erotic fiction? Regardless of whether or not it's published or meant for public consumption.

This is definitely not true. The offense in Mississippi is distributing obscene fiction, not writing it. Any ban on writing it without distributing it would definitely be unconstitutional.

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    Nicely worded. Ok, good, I read this in a fact book that said specifically "erotic fiction". just shows don't trust what you read aha
    – HelloWorld
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:29
  • It's a good job obscene is defined in a restricted manner because otherwise I would be sent straight to jail
    – HelloWorld
    Jul 5, 2018 at 18:33
  • I was looking over my history and found this and wanted to give you another thank you because this is a good answer!
    – HelloWorld
    Oct 18, 2022 at 15:00

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