Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* Sexually Explicit Materials and the Internet, by Douglas Birsch

What is Pornography?

While obscenity is offensive and low value sexually explicit material, the term "pornography" is often used to pick out a different subset of sexually explicit materials. Creating an adequate account of pornographic material is as difficult as identifying obscene material. While there are many competing definitions, I endorse the account provided by Helen Longino in her article "Pornography, Oppression, and Freedom: A Closer Look." ^13 She offers the following account: "Pornography, then, is verbal or pictorial material which represents or describes sexual behavior that is degrading or abusive to one or more of the participants in such a way as to endorse the degradation." 14 She adds that, "The contextual features, moreover, which communicate such endorsement are intrinsic to the material; that is, they are features whose removal or alteration would change the representation or description." ^15 Pornography describes or depicts violence or degradation of women in a context that endorses the behavior. It describes or depicts women being raped, beaten, tortured, bound, violated, or even killed, and sometimes suggests that women enjoy such treatment. The description or depiction does not take place in the context of bringing out the harm or evil of such treatment, but instead the context offers an explicit or implicit endorsement of the behavior.

There are --legal considerations about pornography.

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