Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

 A Dialogical Perspective of Feminism and Pornography, by Robert Cavalier

Pornography and Middle Ground

A middle ground, of sorts, is explored by Drucilla Cornell in The Imaginary Domain. While clearly not satisfied with the MacKinnon/Dworkin attempt to link pornography to intrinsically coercive speech acts, she does recognize the 'degradation' problem as found in many sex films and magazines produced by the mainstream sex-industry. But her response includes the possibility of sex-positive pornography of the kind found in women pornographers such as Ona Zee and Candidia Royalle.

For Cornell, the task is not to prohibit pornography because it is an act of sex discrimination, but to look for new and different ways that pornography can be explored and discussed. "It is a mistake, then, to reject out of hand the argument that 'more speech' is one feminist weapon to take up against the pornography industry. Candida Royalle's films [for instance] should be understood as a form of feminist practice. Without new images and new words in which to express our sexuality, we will be unable to create a new world for women" (p. 138).

The argument seems to have come full circle. But the debate has been unalterably changed by this circle. Discussions about "What's right or wrong with pornography?" move away from the standard liberal/conservative dualism to concerns with the representation of women and the subtle and complex domain of the sexual imagination. In the process, the very conversation about pornography changes. The issue becomes dialectical; the response, I'd argue, becomes Deweyan.

The current issue of pornography reveals an unforeseen -- confluence of societal and technological change.

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