Social Theory and Practice

Volume 44, Issue 1, January 2018

Alex Davies
Pages 21-48

A Liberal Anti-Porn Feminism?

In the 1980s and 1990s, attempts were made to create U.S. legislation that would make it possible to sue the makers and distributors of pornography for doing so. One defence of such legislation was and is the free speech argument against pornography. Philosophers Rae Langton, Jennifer Hornsby, and Caroline West have supposed that this argument can function as a liberal defence of the legislation: in particular, a defence based on the value of women’s liberty. I argue that the free speech argument cannot be so used. The legislation is, to some extent, self-defeating insofar as it is understood in terms acceptable to a fairly standard kind of liberal. This becomes apparent when we consider the value pornography can have for women, which we can see if we consider what female makers, distributors, and consumers of pornography have to say about why they make, distribute, and consume it.

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