Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

 A Dialogical Perspective of Feminism and Pornography, by Robert Cavalier

Multiple Views of Pornography

[Cavalier agrees here with []Susan Dwyer. BUT see []Douglas Birsch for a contrary view, as well as Wes Cooper's discussion of []harm in cyberspace, including his notion of "[]cyberharm."]

But, by the 1980s the issue of pornography was no longer seen simply in terms of the Conservative's attempt to 'protect' society from the ills of sex nor the Liberal's assertion that we have the right to read and look at what we please so long as we hurt no one and that all are of consenting age. Feminist thinkers undercut this traditional Conservative/Liberal dichotomy: "Into the symbiotic dance between left and right, between men who love to hate each other, enters the captive woman, the terms of access to whom they have been fighting over"(Only Words, p. 9).

Catherine MacKinnon argues that pornography is not simply a form of expression with potentially bad effects, it is also a practice...not only 'words' but 'actions' involving treatment of real woman in real situations. And, in the sex industry, this treatment is essentially abusive. Furthermore, pornographic material, in the hands of consumers, is a form of two-dimensional sex. Men (mostly) act on the woman in the pictures. The abuse is doubled.

In this redescription of pornography, such abuse should not be considered 'expression' but subordination, discrimination. In its distribution, pornography should have no more legal standing than a "Whites Only" sign. "On the basis of its reality," writes MacKinnon," Andrea Dworkin and I have proposed a law against pornography that defines it as graphic, sexually explicit materials that subordinate women through pictures or words....This definition includes the harm of what pornography says -- its function as defamation or hate speech -- but defines it and it alone in terms of what it does -- its role as subordination, as sex discrimination" (p. 22).

Thus the anti-porn feminist position aligns itself with the move to censor pornography by making its unwanted presence an actionable offense. In its extreme formulation, the anti-porn feminist would ban its production and prohibit its dissemination.

-- But matters are not so simple.

CMC Magazine Index
Contents Archive Sponsors Studies Contact