Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Crime and Criminal Law » Obscenity and Pornography: Behavioral Aspects - Availability And Spread Of Pornography, Obscenity And Pornography Defined, Ideologies And Estimates Of Harm, Types Of Pornography For Research

Obscenity and Pornography: Behavioral Aspects - Ideologies And Estimates Of Harm

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Although some believe that the question of the behavioral aspects of pornography is a straightforward scientific determination, the matter is not so simple. Anyone who studies the problem of pornography quickly notices how ideology is often a predictor of where a writer stands on the scientific evidence concerning harm. The most important ideologies in this domain are liberal, conservative, and feminist. The liberal view, which is epitomized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is largely relativistic and individualistic: virtually any form of pornography should be permitted for consenting adults in the name of the sanctity of individual choice. Liberals are almost always skeptical of studies that purport to show how pornography causes harm. The conservative view supports legal controls and the claim that pornography causes moral and physical harm. Such conservative legal philosophers as Walter Berns and Roger Scruton maintain that sexual representations should be constrained in order to promote the interpersonal values of reason, responsibility, and commitment. Finally, the pro-censorship feminist view of such feminists as Catherine MacKinnon (as distinguished from the views of such anti-censorship feminists as Nadine Strossen, currently president of the ACLU) downplays the "moral" harms of pornography in favor of the argument that pornography depicting violence or the degradation of women causes actual violence and discrimination against women. Such feminists often endorse the distinction between "pornography" and "erotica" that feminist author Gloria Steinem made famous in 1983. Steinem argued that pornography is harmful, portraying women as the victims of male sexuality, while erotica is benign, showing women and men as equal partners in sexual interaction.

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