Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

 A Dialogical Perspective of Feminism and Pornography, by Robert Cavalier

Ambiguity in Defining Pornography

The 1985 cover of Ms. Magazine asked, "Is One Woman's Sensuality Another Woman's Pornography?" Betty Friedan, while expressing concern over the content of some pornography, voiced greater concern over the anti-porn feminist movement: "I want to express my view, on behalf of a great many women in this country, feminists and believers in human rights, that this current move to introduce censorship in the United States in the guise of suppressing pornography is extremely dangerous to women." It's dangerous because it aligns the essentially liberal woman's movement with the right wing of the conservative agenda, an agenda that gains momentum with such an alliance.

Over and above concerns with civil liberties, a number of feminist writers failed to hear their voices in the anti-porn literature. Some, like Sallie Tisdale, struggled with the politicization of their sexual desires: "I was...simply ashamed of my own unasked-for appetites and shockingly incorrect fantasies, which would not be still, and which seemed to violate the hygienic dogma of sexual equality and Amazon health" (pp. 8- 9). Some of those fantasies were of Bondage and Discipline. In truth, much of the 'violent pornographic sex' that is discussed, that which can be found in Adult Bookstores, is of sexual submission and domination. It is a kind of fantasy sex that plays itself out in an endless variety of male/female/hetero/homosexual permutations. It also plays off the essential 'objectification' of the self and other in the theater of the mind. For Tisdale, writers like Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon are simply out of touch with the complexity of the human sexual imagination. Mainstream pornography may have its problems (including work conditions), but its most common offense is its 'limited menu' and myopic view of woman's sexuality.

However, -- some see the possibilites of this view leading toward supression of individual rights; others see a a middle ground.

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