Pornography and Censorship

By David Copp; Susan Wendell | Go to book overview

Susan Wendell


Pornography and Freedom of Expression

Although it is part of our present concept of pornography that it has some relationship to sexual feelings or activities, the most important and difficult social issues raised by pornography are not concerned with its sexual content. They are concerned with its sometimes recommending, condoning, or portraying acts of unjustified physical coercion, such as rape, involuntary bondage, torture and mutilation, and sex between adults and children. 1 Acts of physical coercion are morally wrong unless they are justified by such circumstances as self-defense, defense of others, or prevention of greater harms. 2 In addition, we have a right to society's efforts to protect us from unjustified physical coercion and an obligation to contribute to the protection of others from it. In contrast, nothing is immoral just in virtue of its being sexual, and we have no rights or duties with regard to protection from sexual activities that are voluntary. I think that these differences between the two kinds of actions have implications for the treatment of material which recommends, condones, or portrays them.

In this essay, I will not attempt to show that physical coercion requires justification or that we have rights and duties with regard to protection from unjustified physical coercion; I will take it for granted that the reader agrees with these assertions. Nor will I criticize the existing laws concerning pornography, except by implication, nor propose specific legislation or

This article has not been previously published.

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