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  • Cited by 1
  • Cited by
    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Cawston, Amanda 2018. The feminist case against pornography: a review and re-evaluation. Inquiry, p. 1.

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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: May 2018

9 - The porn wars

Summary

At the time of writing, pornography is all over the media. Of course, it is always all over the media, in the sense that our TV programmes, advertisements and newspapers are typically saturated with images of naked and semi-naked women, offered up for our enjoyment, judgement or ridicule. But every so often, alongside these images (sometimes literally alongside them), there are also flurries of identikit journalistic articles about whether porn – in particular, internet porn – is harmless fun or the sign of civilisation's end, degrading to women or a means of liberation. There are self-described ‘feminists’ on both sides (and never any shortage of undisguised misogyny).

Pornography (and its regulation) is also a controversial topic amongst political philosophers. It divides not only political philosophers, but feminist political philosophers; and, increasingly, it divides not only feminist political philosophers, but liberal feminist political philosophers.

This debate very quickly gets messy, and one of the main aims of this chapter is to gain a clear overview of the main issues that divide those engaged in it. I'm not so much interested in pushing for one position or other within this standard debate. I'm more concerned to issue some correctives to the course which this debate usually runs and to the assumptions on which it rests. In particular, I want to bring out a couple of points which tend to be lost, insufficiently appreciated, or never raised at all. The first sounds obvious: that porn is an issue belonging to real politics, not an abstract academic problem. And perhaps it is obvious, but philosophers in particular are not known for their ability to grasp obvious things, and the signs suggest that many of them have not grasped this one yet. The second, related point is that the issue of porn is not just about censorship. In fact, as we'll see, the issue of porn is not even just about porn.

When it comes to the issue of pornography, feminists argue amongst themselves and with their opponents over three main questions: what is porn? What (if anything) is wrong with it? What (if anything) should be done about it?

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An Introduction to Feminism
  • Online ISBN: 9781316343579
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316343579
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