Court Upholds Prisoner’s Inalienable Right to Read Werewolf Erotica

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Although anti-porn crusaders may howl with indignity, inmates in California prisons will be allowed to read their werewolf erotica—at least, the well-written stuff.


A three-judge panel of the California First District Court of Appeal unanimously ruled (pdf) last week that Andres Martinez, serving a 20-year sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison for multiple crimes including attempted murder, can get his copy of The Silver Crown by Mathilde Madden back from prison authorities. They confiscated the book from Martinez, claiming it was obscene and likely to incite violence.


But after a careful reading, Justice James Richman found the book’s explicit sex and violence—and its depiction of a love affair between a werewolf and a female werewolf hunter—did not mean it lacked serious literary value and was, therefore, protected by the First Amendment.


Richman did acknowledge, on the one hand, that there were “a great number of graphic sexual encounters, one per chapter through most of the book, including detailed descriptions of intercourse, sodomy, oral-genital contact, oral-anal contact, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and ménage à trois. Semen is mentioned. Crude slang is used to describe various body parts and the sex act itself. The sex is sometimes rough but always consensual. Women are portrayed as frequently aggressive, always willing, and seemingly insatiable. Men are portrayed as frequently demanding, always ready, and seemingly inexhaustible. The sex occurs between humans and werewolves, as well as intra-species.”


On the other hand, “No minors are involved. No bestiality is portrayed (unless werewolves count). And there is no sadomasochism.” 


Scott Graham, writing for the legal publication The Recorder, thinks the court’s decision broke new ground in defining obscenity and could contradict another court’s findings. “The decision sets up a conflict with the Fifth District [Court of Appeal] by holding that prison officials can't expand the definition of obscenity for inmate reading materials,” Graham wrote. He said the decision also sets a stricter standard for banning written pornography by requiring that the text as a whole be considered and cites Justice Richman’s analysis.


“We find it harder to dismiss a novel-length work of fiction as lacking in literary value than we might find it to so dismiss a magazine containing obscene photographs,” Richman wrote. 


While Richman devoted a good deal of space in his opinion to reviewing the 262-page book—and liberally cites a complimentary assessment by Peter Orner, a creative writing instructor at San Francisco State University—he questioned the analysis and intentions of prison authorities and the state.


“Instead of presenting expert literary opinion, as discussed above, the Attorney General submitted the declaration of correctional officer Graves that he considered the ‘serious literary value’ factor in determining The Silver Crown was contraband. But we have no clue what criteria or reasoning he used in reaching any such decision, and his own description of his process leads us to doubt that he applied any such test at all.”


Whether Mathilde Madden, the author of the novel in question, thought her work had literary merit is not clear. In describing how she came up with the idea to write about having sex with werewolves, she explained on her blog, “I’d done a woman who spies on gay men having sex, a woman obsessed with a male prostitute and a woman who likes to tie disabled men to their wheelchairs. Where to go next?...I looked at some naked pictures of David Boreanaz to psyche myself up. I love werewolves. I love the beast within (slightly clumsy) metaphor for what male desire is like and what women desire in men. I love machismo, butchness, bestialness. Muscles and jaws and fangs and claws.”


Madden summarizes the beginning of the story of The Silver Collar, the book that preceded The Silver Crown thus: “The plot of The Silver Collar is almost traditional. Iris and Alfie are lovers. Deeply besotted until one night a werewolf attacks them and Iris’s twin brother, Matthew. Matthew is killed and Alfie is bitten. Alfie becomes a werewolf as Iris becomes a werewolf killer. Suddenly their relationship isn’t going so well….”

-Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Prisoners Are Free to Read as Much Werewolf Erotica as They Want (by Abby Ohlheiser, The Atlantic)

Court Says Prison Can't Confiscate Erotic Werewolf  Novel (by Scott Graham, The Recorder)

Habeas Corpus Decision for Andres Martinez (California First District Court of Appeal) (pdf)


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