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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 28, 2012

Freedom, Religion, and Gender

Justin L. Harmon
Pages 115-130

Dwelling In the House that Porn Built
A Phenomenological Critique of Pornography In the Age of Internet Technology

This paper is a critique of pornography from within the framework of Heideggerian phenomenology. I contend that pornography is a pernicious form of technological discourse in which women are reduced to spectral and anonymous figures fulfilling a universal role, namely that of sexual subordination. Further, the danger of pornography is covered over in the public sphere as a result of the pervasive appeal to its status as mere fantasy. I argue that relegating the problem to the domain of fantasy is superficial and specious at best, inasmuch as fantasy itself is ultimately grounded in everyday reality. When not concealed as innocuous “fantasy,” pornography has been defended under the rubric of “free speech.” One of my aims is to repudiate this approach by revealing it as grounded in a highly suspect and self-contradictory phallocentric view of language. Rae Langton’s (2009) recently published collection of essays on pornography attacks the problem largely in terms of “objectification” and the Austinian notion of “illocutionary disablement” from a position of authority. In this paper, I too confront the issues of language, objectification, and authority, but as articulated by means of Heidegger’s critique of technology.

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