The Government vs Erotica: The Siege of Adam & Eve

Publisher: Prometheus Books
Page Count: 296pp
Size: 9.3 x 6.3
Notes: Hardcover
Date Published: 2001
Available from:,and your favorite local bookseller.

What can you do when government prosecutors, in their zeal to impose their own moral agenda, attempt to crush your First Amendment rights, trampling a host of other constitutional rights in the process? If your name is Phil Harvey, you fight back. The Government vs. Erotica is the true story of on company that fought – and won – over our governemtn’s efforts to silence its freedom of expression. The outcome of that battle affects the constitutionally protected rights of all of us.

From Publishers Weekly
Harvey traces the various prosecutions (beginning in 1986) of his company, Adam & Eve, which started as a mail-order supplier of condoms, then branched into the distribution of adult films and sexual paraphernalia. This expansion may have been a mistake, since Adam & Eve was headquartered in North Carolina, and the Supreme Court had established that a jury must apply contemporary community standards when determining whether an item was obscene. Fortunately, Harvey obtained excellent legal help and ultimately prevailed, though at great cost. Although presented from the defendant’s point of view, the account of the political and legal landscape behind these prosecutions is fair. Harvey’s defense of the sexually explicit material sold by Adam & Eve is equally spirited, but somewhat less convincing. He contends that sexually explicit material as long as it is consensual and nonviolent is harmless, even salubrious, but even Harvey clearly senses the limitations of the sexually explicit. When the jury is asked to watch six hours of adult films, he concedes, “I am acutely embarrassed in this context, with the jurors forced to watch all this material in our presence and in the company of each other.” Equally facile is the condemnation of world religions: “Organized religion has caused more mischief in the world than it has done good.” Despite these shortcomings, Harvey writes engagingly and provides an excellent anecdotal way to get a handle on the ongoing pornography debate. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Readers concerned about free speech will enjoy this surprisingly involving tale of the Reagan administration’s effort to shut down a North Carolina “adult” mail-order firm. Harvey started his mail-order business, in part, to fund nonprofit work in international family planning; over the years, it added erotic material in response to customer interest. In 1986, 37 law enforcement officials, including postal inspectors from several states, raided the company and interrogated all employees. In 1987, the firm was acquitted in Alamance County (NC), but the Department of Justice’s National Obscenity Enforcement Unit still threatened federal prosecution in North Carolina and Utah (and later Alabama). But Harvey’s company filed suit against the DOJ, and learned its problems were part of “Operation Postporn,” an effort to drive major “adult” mail-order companies out of business by targeting them for prosecution in multiple jurisdictions. DOJ lawyers knew most of the material these businesses were selling didn’t violate the Supreme Court’s obscenity standards, but they happily destroyed several firms by threatening long prison sentences–until Harvey turned the tables. Mary Carroll
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