Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Criticisms of pornography come from two directions: conservative and religious forces, and feminism. Religious conservatives, exemplified by US Rev. Jerry Falwell, decry pornography because they see it as immoral; sex is reserved for married couples, and pornography is thought to lead to an overall increase in what they consider to be immoral behavior in society.
In the United States, a 1968 Supreme Court decision which held that people could view whatever they wished in the privacy of their own homes caused Congress to fund and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint a commission to study pornography. The commission's report recommended sex education, funding of research into the effects of pornography, restriction of children's access to pornography, and recommended against any restrictions for adults. The report was widely criticized and rejected by Congress.
In 1983, prosecutors in California tried to use pandering and prostitution state statutes against a producer of and actors in a pornographic movie; the California Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that these statutes do not apply to the production of pornography (People v. Freeman (1988) 46 Cal.3d 41). Some speculate that this decision implictly condones pornography and was one of the reasons most modern American porn is produced in California.
- "Evidence of the harm of exposure to sexually explicit images or words in childhood is inconclusive, even nonexistent. The 1970 U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, the 'Lockhart' commission, uncovered no link between adult exposure to pornography and bad behavior and called for the dismantling of legal restrictions on Erotica." - Judith Levine , Harmful to Minors
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan appointed another commission to study pornography issues, specifically to overturn the findings of the Lockhart commission. It was headed by Attorney General Edwin Meese and is generally known as the Meese commission. The commission's report, released in 1986, found that pornography is harmful and can lead to violent acts. This report has been criticised for allegedly producing findings that were politically expedient rather than reflecting the empirical evidence; among those criticising it were some of the scientists who gathered that evidence and reported a conclusion to the Meese commission much different from the conclusion the commission later announced.
The feminist position on pornography is divided. Sex-positive feminists view pornography as a crucial part of the sexual revolution which led to women's liberation, and see conservative views of morality as designed to fortify an oppressive status quo. Other feminists, most vocally Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, saw pornography as degradation of women which leads to violence against women. They attempted to create laws which allow sexually abused and otherwise affected women to sue pornographers in civil court. One such attempt in Indianapolis was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1986.
In a 1992 decision, the Canadian Supreme Court upheld the Canadian obscenity law, accepting the feminist argument that the law is intended to create gender equality and prohibits materials that harm women, rather than "immoral" materials. The first prosecution carried out under MacKinnon's 'feminist' law in Canada was against the Glad Day Bookstore (a gay outlet), for selling the dyke's magazine, Bad Attitude. It has been claimed that the book imports impounded by Canadian customs officials under the new law included two titles written by Dworkin, but the customs were in fact still operating under the old procedures. The books were only held for inspection and later released. Dworkin herself favoured a civil law approach and opposed all criminal pornography prohibitions.
The criticisms of Linda Boreman, who herself worked as a porn actor under the name Linda Lovelace, focus on the exploitative practices of the porn industry, rather than on pornography's societal effects. MacKinnon and others are becoming more interested in this justification for controls on the industry. MacKinnon applies the critical test - would women choose to work in the pornography industry if it was not for the money? Opponents note that this test fails to distinguish pornography from any other industry.
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