Porn again

By ANITA DIAMANT  |  May 31, 2006

The terms of the debate over pornography are beginning to change. Dworkin says that a few years ago, it was difficult to find a room full of feminists who did not take a strict First Amendment position. That is no longer true. The old prudery vs. liberty split no longer seems valid. The discussion about erotica vs. pornography has begun to look like a shadow play. The Dworkin-Dershowitz debate exposes the emptiness of knee-jerk defenses of the First Amendment that fail to acknowledge the impact of pornography. Even so, Dworkin says, “A case can be made that the only means for women to change the system is through the strongest possible First Amendment protections…But in order to make that plea with any integrity, you would have to understand that pornography is a form of violence against women. It’s your responsibility (if you make that argument) to find ways to protect the civil liberties of women. If you know the system doesn’t do that, you cant just deplore the violence and defend the system.”

Dworkin ends her book with a call to consciousness of the dangers posed by pornography and for resistance to its message. “We will know that we are free when the pornography no longer exists. As long as it does exist, we must understand that we are the women in it; used by the same power, subject to the same valuation, as the vile whores who beg for more.”

The author of these words says that the cry of censorship is a red herring. “It’s absurd for them to invoke censorship when we don’t aspire to that and we don’t have the power to censor.” If not censorship, what then is to be done? “I am an ecumenical strategist,” she says. “I think it’s fine to do anything short of taking human life, from the writing of a letter to picketing to sitting in at stores to boycotting supermarkets that sell Playboy to spilling blood over sexual paraphernalia and waiting to be arrested.”

Susan Griffin also ends her book with a call for consciousness and resistance. She writes: “We begin to believe the world is soul-less, and our belief makes this true.” But she insists, “We have a choice,” which affirms the belief that people have the ability and responsibility to change the shape and content of culture. Nothing less than that is what is to be done.

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