First Amendment Law
What is it about the nude female body that inspires irrationality, fear, and pandemonium, or at least inspires judges to write bad decisions? This Article offers an analysis of the Supreme Court's nude dancing cases from a perspective that is surprising within First Amendment discourse. This perspective is surprising because it is feminist in spirit and because it is literary and psychoanalytic in methodology. In my view, this unique approach is warranted because the cases have been so notoriously resistant to traditional legal logic. I show that the legal struggles over the meanings and the dangers of the gyrating, naked female body can be fully understood only when placed within a broader context: the highly charged terrain of female sexuality. By rereading the cases as texts regulating gender and sexuality and not just speech, a dramatically new understanding of them emerges: The nude dancing cases are built on a foundation of sexual panic, driven by dread of the female body. Ultimately, this analysis reveals a previously hidden gender anxiety that has implications not only for the law of nude dancing, but for First Amendment law more broadly. By presenting the ways in which irrational cultural forces shape the Court's supposedly rational analysis in the nude dancing cases, in the end I point toward an unusual conception of First Amendment law: Free speech law governs culture, yet in surprising ways, culture also governs free speech law.
The Supreme Court's decisions in the Turner Broadcasting cases ushered in a new era of rigorous judicial oversight of regulations aimed at shaping the economic structure of the media industry. The Turner decisions, and especially their application by lower courts, have expanded the range of regulations subject to heightened First Amendment scrutiny, consistently granted lower levels of deference to legislative and administrative judgments, and applied a degree of economic scrutiny of regulatory choices unseen since the Lochner era. In this Note, Michael Burstein argues that such scrutiny is inappropriate in light of the quickening pace of technological and economic change that marks the modern information environment. He observes that the technological balkanization of First Amendment jurisprudence has outlived its usefulness and that applying a unitary standard to all activities of a particular type of media fails to focus judicial attention on the entity's core speech activities. Instead, Burstein proposes that courts draw a distinction between regulations that impact content production or editorial choices and those which aim to structure the distribution of information. The former remain deserving of heightened scrutiny, but the latter implicate a long tradition of allowing government regulation to improve the information order. Because government necessarily must make choices among competing instrumental arrangements, none of which implicates a particular normative theory of the First Amendment, such choices are entitled to judicial deference. As technology blurs the lines between different media outlets, this framework should provide the needed flexibility to protect the First Amendment interests of both media entities and the public they serve.