Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* Sexually Explicit Materials and the Internet, by Douglas Birsch

Pornography and the Law

The Federal Courts have treated pornography differently than obscene material. In a key case, American Booksellers Association v. William H. Hudnut, III, Mayor, City of Indianapolis (1985), a federal Court declared unconstitutional an ordinance that would have allowed women who were injured by pornography to sue the people who produced, sold, exhibited, or distributed it. ^16 The ordinance defined pornography in a more specific way than Longino's account presented above, but the two definitions contained a similar theme: that pornography depicts or describes the degradation of and injury to women. The judge in the American Booksellers case wrote:

"...speech treating women in the disapproved way--as submissive in matters sexual or as enjoying humiliation-- is unlawful no matter how significant the literary, artistic, or political qualities of the work taken as a whole. The state may not ordain preferred viewpoints in this way. The Constitution forbids the state to declare one perspective right and silence opponents." ^17

In contrast to obscene material which has no political value, the court seemed to hold that pornography has political significance. Pornography is speech that presents the political view that women are inferior, and exist to be used by men. The judge believed that the government cannot censor political speech, no matter how abhorrent.

There is an alternative--a --feminist/human rights view of pornography.

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