Pornography and Censorship
Should the government be allowed to legitimately prohibit citizens from publishing or viewing pornography, or would this be an unjustified violation of basic freedoms? Traditionally, liberals defended the freedom of consenting adults to publish and consume pornography in private from moral and religious conservatives who wanted pornography banned for its obscenity, its corrupting impact on consumers and its corrosive effect on traditional family and religious values. But, in more recent times, the pornography debate has taken on a somewhat new and surprising shape. Some feminists have found themselves allied with their traditional conservative foes in calling on the state to regulate or prohibit pornography-although the primary focus of feminist concern is on the harm that pornography may cause to women (and children), rather than the obscenity or immorality of its sexually explicit content. And some liberals have joined pro-censorship feminists in suggesting that the harms that violent and degrading pornography causes to women's social standing and opportunities might be sufficiently serious to justify prohibiting pornography, even by liberals' own lights. Many others, both liberals and feminists, remain unconvinced. They are doubtful that pornography is a significant cause of the oppression of women or that the "blunt and treacherous weapon" of the law is the best solution to such harm as pornography may cause. As we shall see, the debate over whether pornography should be censored remains very much alive. •
1. What is pornography?
2. The shape of the traditional pornography debate
2.1 Conservative arguments for censorship
2.2. The traditional liberal defence of a right to pornography
2.2.1 The harm principle
2.2.2 Pornography and offence
2.2.3 The dangers of censorship
3. Recent liberal dissent
4. Feminist approaches
4.1 Feminist arguments against pornography
4.2 Feminist arguments against legal regulation
5. Recent debate: liberals and feminists
5.1 Does pornography cause harm to others?: The empirical evidence o
5.2 Liberals and feminists
1. What is Pornography?
"I can't define pornography," one judge once famously said, "but I know it when I see it." (Justice Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 US 184 (1964).) Can we do better? The word "pornography" comes from the Greek for writing about prostitutes. However, the etymology of the term is not much of a guide to its current use, since many of the things commonly called "pornography" nowadays are neither literally written nor literally about prostitutes. Here is a first, simple definition. Pornography is any material (either pictures or words) that is sexually explicit. This definition of pornography may pick out different types of material in different contexts, since what is viewed as sexually explicit can vary from culture to culture and over time. "Sexually explicit" functions as a kind of indexical term, picking out different features depending on what has certain effects or breaks certain taboos in different contexts and cultures. Displays of women's uncovered ankles count as sexually explicit in some cultures, but not in most western cultures nowadays (although they once did: the display of a female ankle in Victorian times was regarded as most risqué). There may be borderline cases too: do displays of bared breasts still count as sexually explicit in various contemporary western cultures? However, some material seems clearly to count as sexually explicit in many contexts today: in particular, audio, written or visual representations of sexual acts (e.g., sexual intercourse, oral sex) and exposed body parts (e.g., the vagina, anus and penis-especially the erect penis). Within the general class of sexually explicit material, there is great variety in content. For example, some sexually explicit material depicts women, and sometimes men, in...
Bibliography: • Baird, R. and Rosenbaum, S. (eds.), 1991, Pornography: Private Right or Public Menace?, Buffalo: Prometheus.
• Berlin, I., 1969, "Two Concepts of Liberty" in Four Essays on Liberty, London: Oxford University Press.
• Bird, A., 2002, "Illocutionary Silencing", Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 83(1):1-15.
• Burstyn, V. (ed.), 1985, Women Against Censorship, Vancouver: Douglas and MacIntyre.
• Carse, A., 1995, "Pornography: An Uncivil Liberty?", Hypatia 10(1): 155-182.
• Chester, G. and Dickey, J. (eds.), 1988, Feminism and Censorship, London: Prism Press.
• Cocks, J., 1989, The Oppositional Imagination, London: Routledge.
• Cornell, D. (ed.), 2000, Feminism and Pornography, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• Copp, D. and Wendell, S. (eds.), 1983, Pornography and Censorship, Buffalo: Prometheus.
• Coward, R., 1984, Female Desire, London: Paladin.
• Devlin, P., 1968, The Enforcement of Morals, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• Donnerstein, E., Linz, D. and Penrod, S., 1987, The Question of Pornography: Research Findings and Policy Implications, New York: Free Press; London: Collier Macmillan.
• Dworkin, A., 1981, Pornography: Men Possessing Women, London: The Women 's Press.
• Dworkin, R., 1985, "Do We Have a Right to Pornography?" in A Matter of Principle, Harvard: Harvard University Press, ch. 17.
• Dwyer, S. (ed.), 1995, The Problem of Pornography, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
• Dyzenhaus, D., 1992, "John Stuart Mill and the Harm of Pornography", Ethics 102: 534-51.
• Easton, S., 1994, The Problem of Pornography: Regulation and the right to free speech, London: Routledge.
• Feinberg, J., 1983, "Pornography and the Criminal Law" in Copp, D. and Wendell, S. (eds.), Pornography and Censorship, Buffalo: Prometheus: 105-137.
• -----, 1985, Offense to Others, Oxford: Oxford University Press, chs. 11 & 12.
• -----, 1987, Harm to Others, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• -----, 1999, "The offence principle" (excerpt from Offense to Others) in Sher, G. and Brody, B. (eds.) Social and Political Philosophy: Contemporary Readings, Harcourt Brace: 84-96.
• Green, L., 1998, "Pornographizing, Subordinating and Silencing" in Post, R (ed.): 285-311.
• Gruen, L. and Panichas, G. (eds.), 1997, Sex, Morality, and the Law, New York: Routledge: ch.3.
• Hill, J. 1987, "Pornography and Degradation", Hypatia 2: 39-54.
• Hornsby, J., 1995, "Speech Acts and Pornography" in Dwyer, S. (ed.), The Problem of Pornography, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
• -----, and Langton, R., 1998, "Free Speech and Illocution", Legal Theory, 4(1): 21-37.
• Hunter, N. and Law, S., 1985, "Brief Amici Curiae of Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce, et al.", in American Booksellers, Inc. v. Hudnut, 771 F 2d 323.
• Itzin, C. (ed.), 1992, Pornography: Women, Violence and Civil Liberties, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• Jacobsen, D., 1995, "Freedom of Speech Acts? A Response to Langton", Philosophy & Public Affairs, 24 (1): 64-79.
• -----, 2001, "Speech and Action: Replies to Hornsby and Langton", Legal Theory, 7(2):179-201.
• Kappeler, S., 1986, The Pornography of Representation, Cambridge: Polity Press.
• Lacey, N., 1998, Unspeakable Subjects: Feminist Essays in Legal and Social Theory, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• Langton, R., 1990, "Whose Right? Ronald Dworkin, Women, and Pornographers", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 19(4): 311-359.
• -----, 1993, "Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts", Philosophy and Public Affairs 22(4): 293-330.
• -----, and West, C., 1999, "Scorekeeping in a Pornographic Language Game", Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 77(3):303-319.
• Laura Lederer (ed.), 1980, Take Back The Night, New York: William Morrow.
• Longino, H., 1980, "Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom: A Closer Look" in Laura Lederer (ed.), Take Back The Night, New York: William Morrow.
• Lovelace, L. (with McGrady, M.), 1980, Ordeal, Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press.
• MacKinnon, C., 1984, Brief, Amicus Curiae, American Booksellers Association Inc. et al. v. William H. Hudnut III, US District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.
• -----, 1992, "Pornography, Civil Rights and Speech" in Catherine Itzin (ed.) Pornography: Women, Violence and Civil Liberties, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• -----, 1995, Only Words, London: Harper Collins.
• Mappes, T. and Zembaty, J. 1997, Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy, 5th ed., New York: McGraw-Hill.
• Mendus, S., 1985, "Harm, Offence and Censorship", in Horton, J. and Mendus, S. (eds.), Aspects of Toleration, London: Methuen.
• Mill, J.S. (1859), 1975, On Liberty in Three Essays, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
• Okin, S., 1987, "Justice and Gender", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 16/1: 42-72.
• Parent, W., 1990, "A Second Look at Pornography and the Subordination of Women", Journal of Philosophy 87(4): 205-211.
• Post, R. (ed.), 1998, Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation, Los Angeles: The Getty Research Institute.
• Sandel, M., 1984, "Morality and the Liberal Ideal", New Republic, 7 May (190): 15-17.
• Schauer, F., 1982, Free speech: a philosophical enquiry, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
• -----, 1987, "Causation Theory and the Causes of Sexual Violence", American Bar Foundation Research Journal, 4: 737-70.
• Scoccia, D., 1996, "Can Liberals Support a Ban on Violent Pornography?", Ethics, 106: 776-799.
• Skipper, R., 1993, "Mill and Pornography", Ethics, 103(4): 726-730.
• Smart, C., 1989, Feminism and the Power of Law, London: Routledge.
• Soble, A. 1985, "Pornography: Defamation and the Endorsement of Degradation", Social Theory and Practice, 11(1:XX-XX).
• Sunstein, C., 1986, "Pornography and the First Amendment," Duke Law Journal: 589-627
• Vadas, M., 1987, "A First Look at the Pornography/Civil Rights Ordinance: Could Pornography Be the Subordination of Women?", Journal of Philosophy: 487-511
• Valverde, M. 1985, Sex, Power And Pleasure, Toronto: The Women 's Press.
• Vernon, R., 1996, "John Stuart Mill and Pornography: Beyond the Harm Principle", Ethics, 106 (3): 621-632.
• Wendell, S., 1983, "Pornography and Freedom of Expression" in Copp, D. and Wendell, S. (eds.), Pornography and Censorship, Buffalo: Prometheus: 167-183.
• West, C., 2003, "The Free Speech Argument Against Pornography", Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 33( 3): 391-422.
• Williams, B. (ed.), 1981, Obscenity and Film Censorship: An Abridgement of the Williams Report, New York: Cambridge University Press, esp. ch. 5, 7 and 8.
• -----, 1988, Pornography and Sexual Violence: Evidence of the Links, London: Everywoman.
• -----, 1986, Report of the Attorney General 's Commission on Pornography, Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document