Catharine A. MacKinnon on Pornography and the State

block-14-may-2016Liberal convention imagines a state hostile to sexuality and to speech, especially dissident sexuality and dissident speech. The state, in this view, would leap at any opportunity to restrict pornography. The utter failure of this state to do anything effective about it–with the extremely elastic obscenity standard in its hands and all of its power at its disposal–should suggest that this theory of the state is lacking. The hostile, even contemptuous, response of the courts to the first round of women’s attempt to gain civil rights against pornographers should suggest that this theory of the state is wrong. At the least, this response implies that the dissident and the conventional have been misdiagnosed. The behavior of the state better supports the view that its interest, expressed through its law, is to guarantee that the pornography stays. Just as aesthetics defines and protects pornography as art, literary criticism defines and protects it as literature, and sexology defines and protects it as sex, the First Amendment defines and protects it as speech. And for the same reasons: political reasons, reasons of sexual politics, reasons of the power of men over women.

~ Catharine A. MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law (1987, Harvard University Press).


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