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Title:The feminist pornography debates: Civil rights v. civil liberties
Author(s):Russo, Ann Marie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Kramarae, Cheris
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American Studies
Women's Studies
Speech Communication
Abstract:This study is an explication and analysis of the contemporary feminist pornography debates in the United States. It focuses on the specific controversy among feminists over a proposed civil rights antipornography ordinance. This ordinance was written by antipornography feminists' Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, and as a result of its popularity, an opposing feminist organization, the Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce (FACT), initiated a public campaign against the ordinance and against feminist antiporn politics in general. The purpose of this study was to understand the debates in the context of the difficulties or politicizing women's personal lives. The issue of pornography itself embodies the difficulties because it mandates a simultaneous focus on sexuality, individual choice and privacy, as well as gender and racial inequality, misogyny and racial bigotry, and sexual violence. In this context, the individual right to be active autonomous sexual agents comes into conflict with the right to refuse sexual abuse and violence, particularly in the context of privatized contractual relationships.
The two opposing feminist perspectives on pornography are delineated, compared, and evaluated in terms of their relationship to the conditions of women's lives. In general, the feminist antipornography perspective focuses on the sexual subordination of women, particularly in the form of sexual coercion and violence, while the "pro-sex" and anti-censorship feminist perspective focuses on the sexual repression of women and the need to defend women's individual sexual choices against stigmatization and punishment, as well as to expand women's sexual options. The antipornography civil rights ordinance redefines pornography to be the active subordination of women through coercion, force, assault, defamation and trafficking through its production, distribution and consumption; while the anti-censorship feminists approach pornography as sexual speech and image set apart from social and political inequality. The central points of disagreement between the two opposing perspectives are highlighted. These include the opposing assumptions about gender inequality and sexuality, men's power and women's oppression, as well as the nature of individual choice, privacy, equality, freedom of speech, and women's liberation which inform each group's perspectives and politics.
Issue Date:1990
Rights Information:Copyright 1990 Russo, Ann Marie
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9114395
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9114395

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