Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

 A Dialogical Perspective of Feminism and Pornography, by Robert Cavalier

Pornography as Crime

In contrast to a simplistic liberal versus conservative view of pornography, feminist writers seeking to explore the impact of that industry on women and their place in society redefined pornography in light of the proliferation of Adult Bookstores and the new VCR market of the late 70s. In this new context, Helen Longino defined pornography as "verbal or pictorial material which represents or describes sexual behavior that is degrading or abusive to one or more of the participants in such as way as to endorse the degradation" (The Problem of Pornography p. 27).

To these writers, the immorality of pornography is not its sexual content, but its violation of woman's dignity, its lie about who women are and what they want (see Helen Longino, Take Back the Night (1980), reprinted in Susan Dwyer, ed., The Problem of Pornography, p. 39). Since this degrading lie is the basis of the crimes of violence committed against women (see Longino in Dwyer, p. 41), pornography is criminal. This link between pornography and crime thus moves the issue from a personal concern with moral conduct to a legal concern with civil protection. Robin Morgan's phrase, "pornography is the theory, rape is the practice," captures the explicit link between production of pornography and violence against women(quoted in Dwyer, p. 7).

The linkage of pornography to crime, if it could be causally established, would fulfill J. S. Mill's harm principle and buttress efforts to restrict pornography as a form of expression (protected by the First Amendment).

[ []Dwyer comments on J. S. Mill]

However, the evidence in this matter is -- not univocal.

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