The battle lines over the censorship of “pornographic” materials have been shifted by a faction of the women’s movement following the publication of Andrea Dworkin’s Pornography: Men Possessing Women. With Dworkin, Catharine A. MacKinnon, a vocal and influential female advocate, co-authored a prototypical ordinance to protect against the degradation of individuals, mainly women, in pornography. To these advocates, pornography causes direct harm to individuals coerced into sexual activity and indirect harm by inculcating society with the chauvinistic norms of the pornographic world. While Wirenius agrees with MacKinnon and Dworkin about the importance of pornography in First Amendment jurisprudence, he disagrees with them on the protections it should be provided. Using pornography as a concrete example, Wirenius espouses a justification for free speech that incorporates the three major historical justifications: a space for political discourse, the development of the citizens’ character, and a search for truth. While MacKinnon and Dworkin are benevolent in intentions, the harm their ordinance would have greatly outweighs the benefit. Not only are their restrictions foreign to the fundamental tenets of our political system, but the precedential potential of their ordinance could also serve as an invitation for future incursions into our liberties.
John F. Wirenius,
Giving the Devil the Benefit of Law: Pornographers, The Feminist Attack on Free Speech, and the First Amendment,
20 Fordham Urb. L.J. 27
Available at: https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ulj/vol20/iss1/2