Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996
Philosophical Perspectives on Free Speech and CMC

A Dialogical Perspective of Feminism and Pornography

by Robert Cavalier

In the 60s and 70s, debates over pornography mirrored the counter-culture's clash with conservative values. The nude actors in "Oh, Calcutta!" challenged the intent of obscenity laws to resonate with "community standards." [See []Birsch's discussion of obscenity.] Stanley v. Georgia (1969) upheld the civil rights of consumers to possess pornography in their home.

But the debate over pornography is more than just a -- classic liberal vs. conservative encounter. Instead, pornography can be looked up on as a crime or as an act of subordination or sex discrimination. However, some argue that the ambiguity in defining pornography could lead to suppression of some individual rights. Others see a middle ground, in which the focus is on exploring and discussing pornography and its expressive value, rather than defining it.

The pornography debate is further complicated by new societal and technological changes. This dynamism suggests a new model of altered terms for debating pornography. This model brings with it the risks of stifling alternative views. In contrast, a dialogical approach may be possible. [CMC TOC]

References / Notes /

Robert Cavalier ( is a Senior Researcher at the Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics at Carnegie Mellon University. He is also a member of the Philosophy Department, where he teaches courses in Ethics. Co-editor of Ethics in the History of Western Philosophy (New York: St. Martin's/Macmillan, 1990) and other works in ethics, he is the author of articles in educational computing and co-principal in the 1989 EDUCOM award winner for Best Humanities Software ("A Right to Die? The Case of Dax Cowart").

Copyright © 1996 by Robert Cavalier. All Rights Reserved.

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