Is Pornography Merely Obscene? Feminist Perspectives on the Regulation of Pornography

Authors: Godwin Tan Published date: 29-10-2017 Status: Published

Feminist legal theory strives, in part, to uncover the ways in which gender shapes law (and vice versa) and propose solutions to change or redirect the law to rectify gender inequality. In this sense, this is a feminist project focusing on the regulation of coercive heterosexual pornography. Traditionally, liberal states around the world, such as the United Kingdom, rely mainly on obscenity law to minimise the dissemination of pornography. However, such an approach is conceptually flawed and, in practice, it will continue to inadequately protect women who are harmed in and through pornography. This is because the traditional approach misunderstands the nature of the damage that flows from pornography and avoids expressly addressing a multitude of indirect harm. Instead, prominent radical feminists view pornography as not merely perversity but also a display and exercise of male dominance. In the light of this understanding, the radical feminist’s approach is to expressly acknowledge that pornography is an issue of gender inequality, and one way to resolve this inequality is through an adjudicatory shift. Specifically, I argue in this paper that adjudication through a dominant/subordinate lens is a preferable alternative that the law and courts should adopt.

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