Pornography, like rape, is a male invention, designed to dehumanize women, to reduce the female to an object of sexual access, not to free sensuality from moralistic or parental inhibition. . . . Pornography is the undiluted essence of anti-female propaganda.
Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape1
It is often asserted that a distinguishing characteristic of sexually explicit material is the degrading and demeaning portrayal of the role and status of the human female. It has been argued that erotic materials describe the female as a mere sexual object to be exploited and manipulated sexually. . . . A recent survey shows that 41 percent of American males and 46 percent of the females believe that "sexual materials lead people to lose respect for women." . . .
Recent experiments suggest that such fears are probably unwarranted. Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography 2
The kind of apparent conflict illustrated in these passages is easy to find in one's own thinking as well. For example, I have been inclined to think that pornography is innocuous and to dismiss "moral" arguments for censoring it because many such arguments rest on an assumption I do not share -- that sex is an evil to be controlled. At the same time I believe that it is wrong to
This article first appeared in Social Theory and Practice, 4 ( Summer 1978). It is reprinted here as it appears in Sharon Bishop and Marjorie Weinzweig, eds., Philosophy and Women, Wadsworth ( 1979). Reprinted by permission of the author.