Pornography and Censorship

By David Copp; Susan Wendell | Go to book overview
Save to active project


As I mentioned before, there is material we would call pornography that is not included in any of the categories I have been discussing. Much of it depicts women as passive objects for men's sexual desire, and the message it conveys to me is that both women and sex exist for men's pleasure. It seems probable that the prevalence of this sort of pornography has bad effects on women's self-images, on women's and men's repertoires of sexual enjoyment, and on our abilities to interact with responsibility and mutual care. Some of its effects are being studied now;13 but even if social scientists prove that non-coercive pornography is harmful to us in these ways (and possibly others), we should not restrict it. To do so would open the door to unlimited efforts to eliminate by law the influences in society that tend toward results we do not want. If we restricted pornography because of its bad effects on our sexuality and relationships, think what we would have to do to television, to non-pornographic magazines and books, and to some sorts of religious teaching, if we were to be consistent.

If we value freedom of expression at all, we must not allow expression to be restricted unless the harm it does outweighs the harm of restriction and cannot be prevented by other acceptable means (see p. 169). In the case of non-coercive pornography, the harm that restriction would cause includes infringing on the freedom of people who want to have access to pornography, infringing on the freedom of those who want to sell or distribute pornography, creating a repressive enforcement apparatus that would inevitably infringe upon other freedoms and catch harmless expressions of sexuality in its net, and setting a precedent for restriction of all forms of expression which could be shown to cause similar harms. In addition, we have other acceptable means of preventing, or at least mitigating, the harm caused by non-coercive pornography. We can present people with more images, stories, and descriptions of people enjoying sex together as equals, more material that depicts the full range of non-coercive sexual pleasures for women as well as men and presents the possibility of combining intense pleasure with mutual respect and caring. 14 In other words, if non-coercive pornography is harming us, then we need better erotic material to compete with it.


I thank David Copp, Don Brown, Lorenne Clark, and Bob Hadley for their very helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Other feminists have been responsible for changing the focus of the debate over pornography to concern with its portrayal of violence and coercion. See, for example, SusanBrownmiller


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Pornography and Censorship
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 414

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?