Screw the Feminists Who Are Trying to Ban Porn

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UK feminist groups Feminista and Object have begun a campaign to force retailers to stop selling magazines with images of naked and semi-naked women, using the Equality Act of 2010. This is bad news for sex-positive, individualist feminists for two reasons. First, it’s extremely off-putting from an outreach perspective. Second, it actually endangers individual liberty.

Look, porn is a mixed blessing. Where porn is prevalent, rates of violence against women fall. It may reinforce objectification of women. And its proliferation has wilted many an erection for real-life, unairbrushed and un-extreme partners.

There is a strong anti-porn movement in the United States as well. Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin have led the charge against porn since the 1980s, and their supporters are still holding strong. But the thing about the First Amendment is that it’s not really supposed to be subject to our own personal, mercurial feels about things like porn.

Now, the UK doesn’t have the same kind of speech protection we enjoy in the United States. We have spent many-a-long year attempting to decide what counts as “obscenity”—which is the kind of speech governments can regulate—and what just counts as pornography—which they can’t. After a long time fighting about it, the Supreme Court came up with the following guidelines for what counts as obscene:

  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest (which has, of course, become complicated with the advent of the Internet).
  • Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law.
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Why is this? It’s not as if the founding fathers and the Courts were like, “Congress shall make no law, unless, ya know, misogyny.”

I take umbrage to this crap because as a sex-positive, individual feminist, this makes it much harder to defend feminism. Most of feminism’s flaws are really just annoying. Oh, you get too upset with slut-shamers and don’t have a sense of humor? Well that’s unfortunate and makes feminism a harder sell.

But when sex-negative, collectivist feminists propose laws that limit individuals’ right to free expression and prevent business owners from selling the wares they want to sell in their own businesses, it’s actually dangerous. This is where I have to agree with people who say feminism is bad. This kind of feminism really is.

One interesting aspect of the move to ban porn is how it dovetails nicely with the evangelical drive to ban sex toys. Both groups use ideology to justify using the state to police what objects people use, voluntarily and in the privacy of their own homes, to get off.

That women feel harassed by having to work with and around porn magazines is one argument for the law, depending on how the UK defines harassment (it probably wouldn’t be here in the U.S.). But couldn’t the same argument be made by men who, for whatever reason, feel harassed by Cosmo? Should the law intervene anytime someone is uncomfortable? This is where the liberty to work where you want to work is essential. I suspect Great Britain could do a lot to expand that freedom, and that would be a great place for individualist feminists to start.

In addition, if women feel that porn, in and of itself, constitutes harassment, that sounds like a great opportunity for a public awareness and education campaign. Convince consumers that porn is bad and shouldn’t be consumed, don’t try to outlaw its sale.

Certainly too much infighting can make movements less effective, but when feminists make moves that are antithetical to individual liberty, individualist feminists must step up to proclaim that this does not represent feminism. I cannot support any moves to limit free expression or infringe on business owner’s rights, regardless of their intention.

Image via androlib.com