Mark Wicclair argues that we should be very wary about the censorship of pornography, even if pornography, as Helen Longino defines it, exists. In order to fully understand Wicclair's reason for being wary of the censorship of pornography it is important that we use Helen Longino's definition of pornography. Helen Longino defines pornography as
"[the] verbal or pictoral explicit representations of sexual behavior that...have as a
distinguishing characteristic the degrading and demeaning portrayal of the role
and status of the human female...as a mere sexual object to be exploited and
manipulated sexually (p.43)."
Helen Longino's definition can be used as the basis of numerous arguments dealing with pornography. In this paper, I will deal with only one controversial aspect of pornography. That aspect is the censorship of pornography. Although Wicclair raises several reasons for being wary of the censorship of pornography, I will discuss only two of those objections in this paper.
The first reason Wicclair gives for his claim that we should be wary about the censorship of pornography is that negative side effects are likely to occur if pornography is censored. Wicclair focuses his argument on the slippery slope effect, which he claims is a negative effect of the censoring of pornography. In this context, the slippery slope effect is defined by Wicclair as "...a serious risk that once any censorship is allowed, the power to censor will, over time, expand in unintended and undesirable directions (p.382)." This definition along with "...the fact that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to formulate unequivocal and unambiguous criteria for censorship (Wicclair p. 382)," Wicclair makes the conclusion that "[t]he slippery slope effect will eventually...suppress the rights, interests, and values of others (p.382)."
I agree with Wicclair's first reason for his argument against the censorship of pornography. I also believe that the censorship of pornography will cause the slippery slope effect. Because the slippery slope effect is extremely difficult to stop once it has been started, I believe the censorship of pornography will lead to the suppression of many freedoms of expression. When many freedoms of expression are suppressed then censorship no longer effects just pornography in Longino's sense. Therefore, I believe that by censoring pornography citizens of American will most likely have less expressive liberty.
I also believe that once Longino's definition of pornography is censored, the slippery slope effect will continually occur, as its name implies. Thus, the argument of censoring pornography as Longino defines it would cease to exist and the argument of censoring pornography as a less explicit definition than Longino's would then take precedence. I believe that the redefining of pornography would continue to occur allowing new censorship arguments to rise. This snowball effect (the slippery slope effect) will eventually impact numerous aspects of American life that were not intended to be effected by the original argument for censoring pornography.
Though I could give several examples that redefining pornography eventually effects American life, I will give only two examples: education and economy. First, continually redefining pornography will eventually lead to the censorship of education because pornographic material, even as Longino defines it, is discussed and visually presented in most higher educational institutions. Many college courses could not be taught if it were not for the liberty to openly discuss and watch pornography and all its aspects. If we begin to censor pornography, then the some aspects of the educational system will eventually disappear, such as certain health courses, and students in higher education will be slighted. Second, if pornography continues to be redefined the economy will be impacted. With the slippery slope effect, the definition...
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