Desire - Antipornography Legislature, Duggan.docx

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Western University
Women's Studies
Women's Studies 2283F/G
Andrea Allen

FALSE PROMISES: FEMINIST ANTIPORNOGRAPHY LEGISLATION IN THE US – DUGGAN, HUNTER, VANCE  Antipornography feminists who oppose traditional obscenity and censorship laws. The model of this type, which is now being widely copied, was drawn up in the politically progressive city of Minneapolis by two radical feminists, author Andrea Dworkin and attorney Catherine MacKinnon  The new antipornography laws are not censorship laws  Not criminal laws leading to arrest and imprisonment, their censoring impact would be substantially as severe as criminal obscenity laws  Ironically, many antifeminist conservatives back these laws, while many feminists opposed them  Anticensorship feminists have become alarmed at these new developments and are seeking to galvanize feminists opposition to the new antipornography legislative strategy pioneered in Minneapolis  Pornography has come to be seen as a central cause of the women’s oppression by a significant number of feminists  They suggested that pornography be defined as a form of sex discrimination, and that an amendment to the city’s civil rights law be passed to proscribe it  The only feminists to make public statements opposed the legislation which was nevertheless passed in a council meeting packed with 300 religious fundamentalists  Mutated versions of the Dworkin-MacKinnon bill have begun to appear  The Suffolk county bill clearly illustrates the repressive antifeminist potential of the new antipornography legislation. The appearance of a federal bill, together with the possibility of a new, Reagan-appointed commission to study new antipornography legislation, indicates how widespread the repressive effects of the ordinances may become  There is therefore a critical moment in the feminist debate over sexual politics. As anticensorship feminists work to develop alternatives to antipornography campaigns, we also need to examine carefully the new laws and expose their underlying assumptions THE CENTRAL FLAW  If enforced, the laws would make illegal public or private availability (except in libraries) of any materials deemed pornographic  Under this law, a woman acting as a woman against the subordination of women could file a complaint  The Minneapolis ordinance defines pornography as the sexually explicit subordination of women, graphically depicted, whether in the pictures or in words  The legislation does not prohibit just the images of gross sexual violence that most supporters claim to be its target, but instead drifts toward covering an increasingly wide range of sexually explicit material  Be actionable under the law as pornography, material must be judged by the courts to be the sexually explicit subordination of women, graphically depicted whether in pictures or in words that also includes at least one or more of nine criteria  Women are presented as sexual objects who experience sexual pleasure in being raped  Several other clauses have little to do with violence at all; they refer to material that is sexually explicit and sexist, thus falling outside the triad of characteristics at which the legislation is supposedly aimed  Proponents of the law have counted on women’s repugnance at allegations of coerced sexual acts to spill over and discredit the sexual acts themselves in this movie  The court briefs treat SM material as depicting violence and aggression, not consensual sex, in spite of avowals to the contrary by many SM practitioners  SM Material was assumed to be male dominant/female submissive thereby squeezing a nonconforming reality into prepackaged inadequate – and therefore dangerous – categories  Even more difficulties arise from the vagueness of certain terms crucial in interpreting the ordinances. The term subordination is especially important, since pornography is defined as the sexually explicit subordination of women  By has enjoyed a wide popularity in mainstream American culture, and is used to denote the objectification of a person on the basis of the sex or sex appeal  Women are never sexually autonomous agents who direct and enjoy their sexuality or their own purposes but rather are victims  It is also striking that so many feminists have failed to notice that the laws (as well as examples of actionable material) cover so much diverse work, not just that small and symbolic epicentre
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