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Pornography, Speech Acts and Context Author(s): Jennifer Saul Reviewed work(s): Source: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society,

New Series, Vol. 106 (2006), pp. 229-248 Published by: Wiley on behalf of The Aristotelian Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4545459 . Accessed: 16/01/2013 14:03
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IX*tPORNOGRAPHY, SPEECH ACTS AND CONTEXT

Saul byJennifer
ABSTRACT

is Catharine MacKinnon has claimed that pornography the of and subordination women. Rae Langton has defendedthe plausibility coherenceof this claim by drawingon speech act theory.I argue that the considering role of contextin speech acts poses seriousproblemsfor Langton's defenceof MacKinnon. Langton's account can be alteredin order to accommodatethe role of context.Once this is done, however, her defenceof MacKinnon no longerlooks so plausible.Finally,I argue an that the speech act approach (adapted to account for context)offers overpornography; also but appealingway to make sense of disagreements of thatthiswillprobablynotbe so appealingto mostproponents thespeech acts approach.

ordination of women (MacKinnon 1987, p. 176).' depicts the Importantly, claimis notjust thatpornography this of subordination womenor thatit causes the subordination of that things as women, although MacKinnonbelieves itdoesthese is well.MacKinnon'sclaimthatpornography thesubordination of women is an important one, if true. It allows in two condemnation pornography: of ways fora particularly strong if pornography subordination, thenthereis littleroom for is an opponent subordination defend to pornography; further, of one can arguethatpornography infringes itself to women's right equality (Langton1993,pp. 297-8). The claim thatpornography the subordination women is of has been widelyviewed as incoherent. One can understand, or objectorssay, how films magazinesmightcause or depict but subordination, it just makes no sense to say that they are subordination. Rae Langton (1993) has defendedthe
1. It is worth noting that not all sexually explicitmaterial is pornography by MacKinnon's lights.It is not sexuallyexplicitmaterialper se that she considers womenin particular but material thatsubordinates pornography, rather ways.(See, forexample,MacKinnon 1987,p. 176.) *Meetingof the Aristotelian Society,held in Stewart House, University London, of on Monday 20 February2006 at 4.15 pm.

is the MacKinnon claims pornography subthat atharine

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coherence MacKinnon'sclaim,interpretingas a claimthat of it is and suggesting pornography an act of subordinating women, that 'pornographic images and texts'(Langton 1993, p. 298) are illocutionary acts of subordinating women.2In addition to arguing thatMacKinnon'sclaim is coherent, Langtonalso arguesthatit is plausible. Langton'sclaim that pornographic worksare illocutionary acts of subordinating women is vital to her defence of MacKinnon. A key elementof it is the idea that works of pornography shouldbe understood speechacts. Although as a greatdeal of attention been devotedto Langton'sclaims has about thekindsof speechactsworksof pornography little are,3 attention beendevoted themoregeneral has to idea thatworks of pornography be understood speechacts. can as In this paper, I argue that it does not make sense to understand worksof pornography speechacts. The reason as forthis-briefly stated-is thatonlyutterances contexts in can be speech acts. It is possibleto recastLangton'sclaim that pornography subordinates womenin a way thatdoes not fall victimto this objection.However,once this is done, we see that payingattention the role of contextundermines to the considerations in Langtonoffers support the plausibility of of MacKinnon's claim that pornography subordinates women.4 I Finally, explore somefurther consequences attending the of to roleof context-someof which maybe welcome proponents to ofthespeechact approach, someofwhich very and will be likely unwelcome.
2. Some may findit puzzlingto suggestthatpornographic workscould be acts of any sort.I thinktheyare right puzzled,and discussthisin farmore detail later to in the paper. But Langton intendsher arguments show that thisunderstanding to reallyis a sensibleone. 3. See, for example, Bird 2002, Hornsby and Langton 1998, Jacobson 1995, McGowan 2003. 4. MacKinnon also claims thatpornography silenceswomen.Langtondefendsthis claimas well,arguing thatworksof pornography be understood illocutionary can as acts of silencingwomen. Much of the discussion here is also relevantto the claim that works of pornography are illocutionary acts of silencing:if works of pornography cannotbe understood illocutionary as acts,theycannotbe understood as illocutionary acts of silencing. is worthnoting,however, It that not all defences of the silencing claim will fall victimto this objection.Jennifer Hornsby's(1995) defence,for example,does not seem to be committed the claim that works of to are pornography themselves speechacts.

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Langton's Argument

are that Langton'sargument worksof pornography thesuborthattheyare illocutionary dination womenis herargument of J. She follows L. Austin(1962) women.5 acts of subordinating and between locutionary, perlocutionary, in distinguishing act a acts. illocutionary Veryroughly: locutionary is theact of A content. perlocutionary uttering wordsthathave a particular effect. (It wordsthathave a particular act is theact of uttering effects' rather to morenatural speak of 'perlocutionary is often act acts'.) An illocutionary is theact done than'perlocutionary supposethatGeorgeW. the in uttering words.So, forexample, the resign the Bush appearson TV and utters words'I hereby act of presidency theUnitedStates.'Bush'slocutionary wouldbe the wordsthatmeanthathe resigns presidency thatof uttering wouldhave manyperlocuof theUnitedStates.This utterance it peoplehappy, wouldraise it tionary effects: wouldmakemany the and it would throw RepublicanPartyinto CNN's ratings, act to turmoil, name a few.Bush's illocutionary would be that of the of resigning presidency the UnitedStates.Illocutionary conditions of felicity the require fulfilment certain actsgenerally could not be Bush'sutterance in orderto succeed:forexample, of the an act of resigning presidency theUnitedStatesifhe was the I resign presNo howI try, cannot notthepresident.6 matter on of idency theUnitedStates(norcan I resign Bush'sbehalf). are that some utterances illocuLangton notes,plausibly, For example,she claims,the tionaryacts of subordination. to utterances (such as 'Blacks are not permitted vote') of Accordingto Langton, these created apartheid.7 legislators
effect subof 5. Langton also thinksthat pornographyhas the perlocutionary illocutionary ordinatingwomen. But it is only the claim about pornography's could be (ratherthan cause) the forcethat she takes to explain how pornography of subordination women. and I 6. For the sake of the argument, am assumingthatBush is indeedPresident, would be satisfied Bush's appearing by for thatotherfelicity conditions resignation on TV and makinga declarationof resignation. about whether was really it utterances thisthatcreated like 7. One might raiseworries involving whatcreatedapartheid was muchmorecomplicated, Arguably, apartheid. and so on. But thismore complicatedpicturemay also perhaps votes,documents, as be comprehensible a seriesof utterances.

SpeechActs. on Austin SpeechActs,Subordinating 1.1. Preliminaries.

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blacks because theywere acts of were acts of subordinating 'blacksas having (unjustly) inferior ranking worth', legitimating behavioron the part of whites', and depriving 'discriminatory 'blacksofsomeimportant notes powers'(1993,p. 303). Langton thata keyfelicity condition acts of subordination being for is in a positionof authority over the relevant domain,whichof courselegislators with are to respect thelegaldomain. 1.2 Pornography an Illocutionary as Act of Subordination. Langton acknowledges that her claim that pornography is an illocutionary of subordinating act womenis by no means as obvious as the claim that the speech acts instituting acts of subordinating apartheid were illocutionary blacks. One reason for this might be the thoughtthat there is something unnaturalabout calling pornography speech: it does seem somewhat odd to apply thistermto photographs, for example.Nonetheless, is a commonplace all sides it on of debates over pornography take pornography be to to a formof speech. It seems reasonable,then,to grantthis assumption. A more significant worryis that, as Langton notes, the legislatorsenactingthis legislationintended subordinate to while makers pornography notgenerally the of blacks, do intend to subordinate women. (Most likely,they simplyintendto make money.)However,she suggests thatthismay not be as as important it seems.Many speechacts,she rightly notes,are in some way imperfecttheyfailto fulfil or morefelicity one conditions. Nonetheless, theyare sometimes judged to have succeeded thesefaults. despite Since pornography not an utterlyclear case of an is illocutionary of subordination, act Langtonconsiders how it is thatwe might decidewhether some disputed exampleis an illocutionary of a particular act sort.She suggests thatone who wantsto arguethatsomebit of speechis an act of a particular sortcould do so in three ways: (1) She could make an argument the best explanation, to that maintaining thebestexplanation theeffects for of somebitof speechlie in itsconstituting illocutionary an act of a particular sort.

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bit (2) She could look to how the relevant of speechis if understood: it is takenas an act of a particular sort, somereasonforthinking it is an act that thatprovides of thatsort. conditions thatare fulfilled, (3) She could pointto felicity even if not all felicity conditions fulfilled. are Langton would be the suggeststhat this sort of argument strongest, noting that '[i]t is certainlya part of in life' our practiceof ascribing illocutions everyday (Langton1993,p. 309).
1.2.1 Langton's Three Considerations. Langtonarguesthateach of the above methodscan be used to lend supportto the claimthatpornography an illocutionary of subordinating is act women. 1.2.1.1 Inference the Best Explanation.Langtoncites studies to thatseemto indicate thatviewers pornography of become'more to moredisposedto acceptrape likely viewwomenas inferior, more likelyto see rape victims deserving their as of myths, and would treatment, morelikelyto say thattheythemselves rape if theycould getaway withit' (1993,p. 306).8She argues are worksof pornography that,if thesestudies right, have the effect subordinating of women:viewing (perlocutionary) these films contributes the subordination women.She suggests to of that the best explanationfor pornography's effects that is is an act of pornography actually illocutionary of subordination women. Viewers takeviolence discrimination and against women to be legitimate because pornography legitimatesviolenceand discrimination againstwomen.An act of legitimating violence and discrimination againstwomenis an act of subordinating women.Similarly, suggests pornography she that makesviewers see women as inferior because it ranks women as inferior; and that an act of ranking women as inferior an act of is women. subordinating

8. Questionshave been raisedabout whatthesestudiesreallyshow,butI willassume forthe sake of the current discussionthatLangton'sclaims are accurate.For some discussionof worries about the studies, Saul 2003, pp. 99-100. see

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1.2.1.2 AudienceInterpretation. Next,Langtonsuggests thather claim about pornography's illocutionary force draws some support fromthe factthatsome,thoughnot all, viewers take it to have this force. In particular, feminists who oppose pornography 'take it to be subordination' (Langton 1993, p. 311). Because otherviewers take it in otherways,Langton we recognizes thisdoes notsettle matter, that the unless can find the of somereasonto privilege feminist opponents pornography overother viewers. Still,she says,thewaythat(some)feminists to interpret pornography 'maygivesomesupport theclaimthat subordinates' pornography (1993,p. 311).

conditions performing for some (thoughnot all) of the felicity an illocutionary of subordination met.In particular, act are she notesthatan act of subordination onlybe carriedout by can overtherelevant one withauthority domain.She claimsthatit is reasonable supposethatpornographers have authority to do she thatpornogoverthedomainofthesexual.Although admits or of are raphers not thought as authority figures viewedwith she that respect, suggests they occupya position thatgivesthem overthe sexual.MacKinnonclaims a specialsortof authority that boys and men learn about sex by viewing pornography. of Because pornography servesthis function teachingabout turn overthe sexual sex, pornographers out to have authority domain-whether theymean to or not,theyend up beingthe menand boyswhatsex is. If thisis right, ones telling Langton have authority over the sexual claims, then pornographers domain. AlthoughLangton concedes that it is an empirical it thatpornographers have thissort she do matter, thinks likely of authority, just thereasonssuggested MacKinnon. for by None of thesearguments individually, decisive.Nor are is, whencombined. theydecisive Langtondoes not claimto have established that pornography subordinates women.Her goal is a more modestone-to show that the claim pornography womenis a plausible subordinates and coherent one:
The claimthatpornography subordinates good philosophical has it credentials: is nottrickery, 'sleight hand'; itis byno means or of 'philosophicallyindefensible'. Moreover, considerations about

1.2.1.3 Authority Utterers. of Langton'sfinalargument that is

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and conditions subordination explanation, uptake, thefelicity for that ones-forthinking giveus reasons-though conclusive not theclaim maybe true. (Langton 1993, 313) p.

I consideration thenature of In whatfollows, arguethatcareful to of speechacts showsthisdefence be unsuccessful. II


Against Works of Pornography as Speech Acts. A bit of

backgroundon the role of contextin speech acts will be to of important mydiscussion thecase of pornography.

case of a speechact The paradigm 2.1 Speech Acts and Context.

is that of utteringa series of words, often a sentence. the the Importantly, speechact is thatof uttering sentence (or of itself. see To series words), thesentence series words) of not (or 'I consider thatthesentence do' could be used whythismatters, in an act ofmarrying, act ofagreeing, an act ofconfessing an or to murder. the ('Do you admitthatyou killed deceased?''I do.') act of As Langtonputsit,theillocutionary 'can be thought as a to an use ofthelocution perform action'(1993,p. 300).Although Langtondoes, in thisquotation, take illocutionary to be acts In further. particular, uses, she does not pursuethis thought she does not discussthefactthatin different contexts same the locution uses. maybe putto different This fact-that the same locutionmay be used to perform different acts-matters lessto cases of recorded no illocutionary locutions. see this,imagine To thatEthelis in an environment in (perhapsa verystrict library) whichpeople communicate each othernotesand holding solelyby writing themup. Ethel decidesto make some signswithusefulmulti-purpose phrases on them. One ofhersigns thatEthelhas a reads,'I do'. Imagine eventful which usesthesignto getmarried, very week, during she to agreeto return books on time, her and to confess murder. to Now consider question, the 'What is the illocutionary forceof Ethel'ssign?'The answeris thatit makesno senseto suppose thatthesignitselfhas anyparticular illocutionary force. Rather, thesignis something can be involved manydifferent that in illowiththe sign varies cutionaryacts. Which act will be performed

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withcontext. Illocutionary are acts thatoccurin particular acts the contexts, in different and contexts samesignmaybe used to different It makesno senseto speakofillocutionary acts. perform of This out actswithout attention contexts utterance. turns to to the that be extremely important evaluating suggestion works to of pornography illocutionary of subordinating are acts women. are to Recorded messages, Ethel'ssign, likely be especially like to complicated analyse.(Suppose Ethel didn'tmake the sign herself. be This Would Ethel or the sign-maker the utterer?) in matters philosophy shouldcome as no shock.Whencontext of language, recorded are tricky messages usuallyan especially 'I'm nothere machine case: notesand answering messages saying now' have by now generated quite a sizeableliterature.9 right machine messages or Worksof pornography likeanswering are, Ethel's sign,recordings may be used again and again in that We to different contexts. willsee thatthisfactis also important of a proper issuessurrounding understanding speechact-related
pornography.10

A 2.2 PornographicUtterances. work of pornography is not

in an utterance a context.The reason for this is simple.A can be used in many work of pornography, such as a film, different contexts-muchlike Ethel's sign (or a sentence)."1 in can be speechacts, so worksof Only utterances contexts acts.We cannot, talkabout cannotbe speech then, pornography the illocutionary forceof a workof pornography. means This that Langton'sargument, it stands,cannot accomplish as its

9. See, for example, Corazza, Fish and Gorvett 2002, Predelli 1998 and 2002, Romdenh-Romluc 2002, Sidelle 1991,Weatherson 2002. 10. Alexander Bird (2002, pp. 12-13) briefly discusses the fact that works of pornography, recorded as utterances, maygiveriseto complexities involving multiple audiences,but he does not discusstheworries thatare myfocushere. 11. One might questiontheanalogyto Etheland hersign,on thebasis of thefactthat 'I do' is obviously elliptical an utterance. theelliptical But natureof Ethel'sutterance is not essentialto the point. To see this,considera much less ellipticalutterance, such as 'I, Ethel Smithtake you, Fred Jones, be mylawfully to weddedhusband,to have and to hold, forbetter forworse,forricher, poorer,in sicknessand in or for health,to love and to cherish; from thisday forward untildeathdo us part.' On one occasion, Ethel utters thisas an act of marrying Fred. Severalyearslater,however, things not goingso well in theirrelationship, Ethel utters same vow as are and the an act of mockingFred. The verysame utterance, an especially not elliptical one, is beingused to perform verydifferent acts.

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goal of makingsenseof MacKinnon'sclaimthatpornography is subordination: works of pornography cannot be acts of subordination. This may seem like a technicalpoint, easily answered a slight in by switch formulation: needto focus, we one not might suggest, on works pornography, on something of but like pornographic or utterances-viewings makings, maybe-in contexts. fact,however, slight In this out changeturns to have significant consequences. The need to considerpornographic utterancesand their contextsposes serious problems for Langton'sdefence MacKinnon. of As suggested above, Langton'sclaim thatworksof pornography subordinate women be reformulated one regarding can as utterances pornographic rather thanworksofpornography. We can do thisby rewriting as a claimthatviewings makings it or ofpornography actsof subordinating are women. Whichshould we choose-viewings makings? or This can be seenas a specific of version a moregeneral question: which context determines the speechact accomplished a recording thecontext which in by it is recorded thecontext which is heard/seen? look back or in it A at thesimpler case of Etheland hersigncan helpus here. What contextdetermines speech act Ethel carriesout the withher sign?One candidatewould be the context which in Ethel wroteher sign. But this contextwould be a poor one to use forfiguring what speechact was beingperformed. out After Ethelcreated signas a multi-purpose all, her item, be to used in a variety future of communications. Looking only at the timeEthelcreatedthe signwillnot singleout a particular speechact. Thereare also three timesat whichEthelused her sign in performing speechacts. These seem like much better candidates relevant for from contexts whichto workout what It speechacts Ethelwas performing. seemsright say thatin to each ofthese Ethelusedhersignto perform different contexts, a speechact. Whichspeechact was performed, intuitively, hinges on somecombination Ethel'sintentions usinghersign, of in the audiences'interpretations her utterances, the fulfilment of and of necessary conditions. These are all features the felicity of contexts whichEthel'ssignwas used (rather in thanfeatures of thecontext which was made). in it Now let'sturn thecase of pornography. to Thereis a timeat which pornographic is made,and there manytimes a film are at

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whichit is viewed.If thecase of Etheland her signis a good model, wouldseemthattheviewings a workofpornography it of thatmatter determining illocutionary for its are thetimes force. At each ofthesetimes, havedifferent we whomayinaudiences, workin different and different terpret pornographic the feways; It licity conditions be fulfilled unfulfilled.is lessclearthan or may in Ethel'scase who theutterer Thereare twocandidates. is. One candidate the wouldbe theperson showing film-theprojectionist,or theperson whoputsthefilm theVCR. Another into candidatewouldbe themaker makers theworkofpornography. or of We willconsider each of thesecandidates we consider as speech in acts thatmaybe performed theviewing pornography. of reflections helpus to recastLangton'sargument. can Although she cannotcoherently claimthatworksof pornography acts are of subordinating women, perhapsshe could claimthatviewings of worksof pornography acts of subordinating are women.(I use theword'viewings' rather than'showings' becauseit seems odd to speak of people showing to films themselves, the and case is surely one thatdeserves solitary viewing consideration.) One interpretation thisclaimwould be thatall viewings of of worksof pornography acts of subordinating are women.But thisinterpretation,seemsto me, is one thatLangtonwould it notendorse. Thereare manydifferent of contexts which sorts in is Some viewings in cinemas homes, are pornography viewed. or whileothersare in laboratories at anti-pornography or talks. Someoftheviewers menseeking are sexualpleasure focus of (the mostanti-pornography but discussions), someoftheviewers are women(even feminists) sexual pleasure.Some viewers seeking are not seeking sexualpleasureat all, but merely participating in an experiment, attending talk by a feminist or a opponent of pornography. Langtonand MacKinnonmight well wishto arguethatmostof thesecontexts ones in which are womenare subordinated. they But wouldcertainly acceptthatfeminist not talks anti-pornography are such a context. cannotbe, then, It thatall viewings pornography of subordinate women.'2
be should understood themodel mentions, uses. (and others feminists) by on of not
12. One might respondto thisthatCatharine MacKinnon's showings pornography of

2.3 Viewings Pornography Subordinating as of Speech Acts.These

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Langtoncould argue insteadthatmostviewings pornoof graphy acts of subordinating are women. This seemsa farmore plausible claimthantheclaimthatall viewings pornography of are acts of subordinating women. It seems to me the most charitable revision Langton'sclaimsin a way thatfocuses of on pornographic utterances ratherthan pornographic works. To examineits plausibility, will work through we Langton's argumentsfor pornographyas an illocutionaryact of women. willalso consider possibility We subordinating the that theutterer's intention be might helpful Langton's to as our case, contextual focus mayallowthisto be morehelpful therevised to claimthanit was to Langton'soriginal one.'3
2.4 Langton's Three Considerations

thebestexplanation pornography's for effects was subordinating thesupposition pornography itself illocutionary of that is an act subordination. this to Revising argument focuson pornographic utterances, idea would be that the best explanationfor the in pornography's effects someparticular subordinating viewing is that the viewingin question is an illocutionary of act women.In orderforthisconsideration lend subordinating to supportto the idea that most viewings pornography of are acts illocutionary of subordinating women, Langtonwouldalso need the claimthatmostviewings pornography ones in of are which subordinating the effects occur.
2.4.2 Audience Interpretation. Langton's second consideration

2.4.1 Inference the Best Explanation.Langtonsuggested to that

was the fact that some viewersof pornography take its do illocutionary force be thatof subordinating to women. This,she says,lendssupport theidea thatpornography's to illocutionary forceis that of subordinating women.Our revisedLangton

Thus understood, theydo not serveas evidencethatnot all viewings pornography of are subordinating (because theyare, in some sense, not reallyviewings).If one is happy with this line, then it takes a bit more work to show that the all claim fails. But the considerations adduced against the most claim are clearlysufficient to do this. 13. A furtherpossibilityis that what matters are the paradigm viewings of But pornography. it is hard to see how thesecould be pickedout in a non-questionbeggingmanner.

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would need to say that these viewers'reactionssupportthe of are acts claimthatmostviewings pornography illocutionary of subordinating women. It is difficult seehowaudience to reactions couldbe relevant to discerning illocutionary the forceof an utterance otherthan the one forwhichtheyare the audience.(The police officer's take on Ethel's'I do' signtellsus nothing about what speech act was performed whenshe was asked whether agreedto she return books on time.)'4 If thisis right, her thenthe reactionsof will thosewhotakepornography subordinate onlybe relevant to own pornographic to discerning illocutionary the forceof their versionof Langton'sclaim, viewings. supportour revised To we of then, wouldneedto arguethatmostviewings pornography to involve audiences who take pornography subordinate women. We seem unlikelyto find support for this claim. The viewers who interpret in pornography this way tend to be anti-pornography feminists. For other viewers,audience will interpretation often the countagainst 'act of subordination' claim,as manypeople findit veryunnatural supposethat to is of pornography the subordination women (even once the way thisis meantto workhas been explained them).Many to feminists even resistthe idea. (See, forexample,Califia 1994, Strossen 1995.) The audienceswhose interpretations support claim that the is of pornography the subordination womenare a subgroup of the many audiences that there are: they are the antiIt feminists.'5 does not seemplausibleto suppose pornography that viewings pornography anti-pornography of by feminists constitute majority pornography the of viewings. And Langton and MacKinnonwouldsurely wantto claimthatthey not did ifmostpornography viewing byanti-pornography was feminists,
14. Perhaps in some cases one mighttake an expertaudience who is not present for an utterance be the bestjudge of what speech act has been performed. to But out as singling one group of viewers the experts seemsquestion-begging the case in of pornography. 15. And perhaps not even all of these. One could take pornography play an to role in subordinating important women,and therefore oppose it, withoutthinking thatwe should interpret worksor viewings pornography acts of subordinating of as women.

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it would be strangeto assign pornography authoritative the role that they assign it in shaping subordinating sexual attitudes. It is evenless plausible thatthere wouldbe manycontexts in whichbothLangton'sfirst consideration Langton'ssecond and consideration hold at once. Such a contextwould need to be one in which the audience takes pornography be an to act of subordinating women,and also one in whichviewing pornography producessubordinating effects.16 The contexts in which support 'act ofsubordination' the view, then(those effects in which attitudes towardwomen are worryingly damaged), will tend to be those in which the audience interpretation countsagainst thisview;and thecontexts which audience in the interpretation (those in whichanti-pornography feminists view pornography) supportsthe 'act of subordination' view will tend to be those in whichthe effects countagainstthisview. We certainly cannot claim, then, that most, or even very many, contextswill be ones in which both of Langton's first two considerations hold. Taking seriously will differences between the contexts, weakens force Langton's of then, seriously Their initial forcecame fromnot distinguishing arguments. between different carefully audiences.'7
16. Such audiences are not impossible,thoughtheyare unlikelyto be common: (1) Some anti-pornography feminists may feel pornography theirown influencing attitudes a subordinating in way, and that this may be a part of what convinces themthatpornography If are subordinates. there any such viewers, thentheywillbe viewersin whom subordinating attitudes presentalongsidethe conviction are that pornography subordinates women. (2) Some fans of the subordination women of may take pornography subordinate to women,and may also becomemorelikelyto subordinate womenas a resultof viewing pornography. 17. A defender Langton mightrespondas follows:Suppose that most viewings of are not ones in whichboth (i) audiencestake pornography subordinate, to and (ii) pornography subordinating has effects, thatmost viewings pornography but of are ones on which either(i) or (ii) holds. Why wouldn't this situationbe enough to supportLangton's claims?This wouldn'tbe enough to supportLangton's claims because neither disjunctgivesus verymuch on its own. Since audiencescan err,(i) alone does notestablish anything: as thefactthatCanadian customs just took officials TheJoyofGay Sex to be degrading women(Califia1994,pp. 108-9) does notshow to thatit is, thefactthatsome viewers take pornography subordinate to does not show thatit does. (ii) alone is also inconclusive-given vagariesof humanpsychology, the many thingsmighthave subordinating effects withoutbeing illocutionary acts of To subordination. make a case thatmostviewings pornography illocutionary of are acts of subordination, reallyneed mostviewings be ones in whichmorethan we to one of Langton's considerations present. are

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are of deration-theclaim thatutterers in positions authority It out matters this to overthesexualdomain? turns thatcontext claim as well: different audienceswill take different people to be authoritative. might It seem surprising, first, suppose at to that audienceattitudes could have any relevance the issue to of whether someone is in a positionof authority. Whether withrespect a given to someoneis in a positionof authority it does notdependon whether particular a domain, might seem, This with audiencetakesthemto be authoritative. seemsright of like holderof legal positions authority, 'police officer'-the such a positionhas whatever of authority theyhave regardless whether those theyinteract withrealizeit. However,the sort of authority have Langtonclaimsthatpornographers is notlike this:theirauthority dependson otherslookingto (or at least them authoritative. as treating) we the Before can examine question whether of pornographic utterers have authority, need to know who the relevant we utterers are. Suppose firstthat they are the pornographers. of Makersof pornography well be in positions authority may withrespect the sexual domain for some audiences-those to who look to pornography tell themabout sex. But other to audiences not likethis.Theybelievethatsex is, and should are frompornography. Some viewings, be, different then,will be in contexts wherepornographers have authority, whileothers willnot. Again,Langton'ssupport weakened considering is by therole of context. cannotknowhow muchit is weakened We without knowing how manyviewers take pornographers be to authoritative sex. regarding What if the relevant utterersare not the makers of but pornography, those who show it? These people might or be projectionists, people playingvideos,or even feminists as showing pornography part of an anti-pornography speech. Projectionists poorcandidates authoritymostpeopledo are for not givethemanythought unlesssomething wrong goes witha film. Interestingly, feminist anti-pornography campaigners may be some of the clearest cases of authoritative speakers sex. on Those who admireMacKinnonmaywell acceptwhatshe says when she shows pornography says, 'This is what sex is.' and the of However, restof the context a MacKinnonspeechwill

What of Langton's third consi2.4.3 Authority Utterers. of

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to women.People be unlikely look likea case of subordinating and be playing videos might sometimes viewedas authorities, whatsex someone their choiceofvideocouldbe a wayof telling to phenomenon. is, but thisseemsunlikely be a widespread intentions. one interpretation, On Finally, shouldconsider we of theutterers shouldbe takento be themakers pornography. theirintentions cannot We have alreadyseen thatconsidering is help Langton's case their intention most likely one of of On thansubordination women. theother material gain,rather are interpretation, utterers those showingpornographythe videos into VCRs, and so on. projectionists, people putting Once more,we What of these people, and theirintentions? all to cannotsay thatthey intend subordinate women. certainly MacKinnonherself showspornography partofher as Catharine does not intendto anti-pornography talks,and she certainly subordinate women. Nor can we say,I suspect, thatmostintend to women. Someintend getsomesexualpleasure. to subordinate of Somepresumably couldnotcarelessaboutthesubordination of women,whileothersoppose the subordination womenand wouldnot intentionally anything further But,in most do it. to womenis unlikely be their to intention. So cases,subordinating of seems pornography lookingat the intentions thoseshowing to unlikely helpLangton'scase. act pornographyan illocutionary is We haveseenthattheclaim women does not make sense.Its close relatives, ofsubordinating all viewings pornography illocutionary ofsubordinating are acts of are women mostviewings pornography illocutionary of and acts of women make perfect sense.However, considering subordinating in the variety contexts whichpornography viewedcasts is of doubt on theirplausibility. The contextsin which all the considerations adducedby Langtonhold trueseemunlikely to be commonenoughto groundeven the mostversionof the claim.

III
Some Further Contexts. Consiof Consequences Distinguishing the allowsone to do morethanjust argue dering roleofcontext claimsand onesinspired her.The diversity by against Langton's

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clearthat on makesit abundantly of theliterature pornography works pornography interpreted differentlydifferent of are very by audiences, even amongstfeminists. Langton'sview,on which forceeach have a singleillocutionary worksof pornography thatof subordinating women-has theresult thatsomeof these interpretations simply are correct others and simply incorrect. It who also has the resultthatthosefeminists enjoyand defend of are and defending subordination the pornography enjoying women. This idea has, unsurprisingly, been seen as deeply the offensive suchfeminists.18 by Acknowledging roleofcontext allows a morenuancedapproach.It makesroom forthe idea of couldhave thatdifferent viewings someworkofpornography forces. different illocutionary the example of a To see why this matters, considerfirst and feminist, Althea, who enjoys and defendspornography and a rape crisis also volunteers a battered at women'sshelter centre,campaignsfor free child care provision,and writes to articles increase awareness women's of rates. poverty Viewing does not leave Althea with an inclination to pornography or view or treatwomenas inferior, to curtailher efforts to fight discrimination againstwomen.More generally, viewing in pornography does not have negative perlocutionary effects Althea'scase. This meansthatLangton'sfirst considerationinvoking inference the best explanation-cannoteven get to of offthe ground:in Althea'scase thereis no subordination women to be explained.Nor does Althea take the viewing to of pornography be an act of subordinating women. (If she did, she wouldn'tdo it.) Her interpretation, then,fails to supportLangton'ssecondconsideration. Althea Moreover, does not treat pornographers any sort of authority as on sex she thinks shows her nothing all about at pornography what sex should be like. Langton'sthirdconsideration, then, also fails to apply. Finally,when Althea puts a video into her VCR she certainly does not do so withthe intention of women. can say,then, We thatAlthea'sviewings subordinating of pornography definitely acts of subordinating are not women. of course,say the same thing about a similar (We could, man, Alfred.)
18. See, forexample,Califia 1994,Strossen1995.

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But we can also acknowledge that thereare cases where be the use of pornography might said to be clearlyan act of women.Considerthe case of Billy,who hates subordinating and should be women. He thinksthat women are inferior treatedas such. He regardssexual violenceas an especially good way to treat women. One day he decides that it is to important impart theseviewsto his sensitive suggestible yet brother younger Caleb, who has been suspiciously of respectful So a women. he rents bunchofvideosdepicting rapeand shows themto Caleb, explaining that those who made thesevideos about women,and that Caleb will learn the right understand way to treatwomenfromwatching them.Caleb, suggestible soul thathe is, learnshis brother's intended messagewell. He decides that womenhave littleworth,and that rapingthem is a finethingto do. He becomes far more likelyto treat womenas inferior and to engage in acts of violenceagainst them.Moreover,he even thinksthat the point of the films was to teach him this,and to help keep womendown-and he takes it that the filmssucceed in subordinating women. An exceptionally that good case can be made forthe thought filmsto Caleb was an act of Billy's showingpornographic subordinating women,and forjust the reasonsthat Langton takesto be relevant. the Viewing films had the perlocutionary effect subordinating of women, which might be explained act by the viewingbeing an illocutionary of subordinating women(Langton'sfirst Caleb took thefilms to consideration). subordinate women(Langton'ssecondconsideration). Further, he took bothBillyand themakers thefilms be authorities of to on the sexualdomain(Langton'sthird consideration). Finally, Billy evenhad theintention using films helpsubordinate of the to women. Paying attention context to helpsus to see thatthere clear are cases thatfitLangton'sparadigm. an important In way,then, our examination lendsforce whatLangtonhas suggested. to On theother we hand,though, also haveto acknowledge there that are othercases thatdon't fitso well-and that,if I am right, mostcases of pornography willnot be as clear-cut Billy use as and Caleb's. In fact,mostwillfallfarshortof thisparadigm. And this is veryimportant. lets us see thatmanyuses of It do notlook likeLangton's of pornography picture pornography

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women.Those involved theseuses do not in as subordinating that deserve sortof condemnation someonelikeBillydoes, the we feel or thesortof protection might thatsomeonelikeCaleb (priorto Billy'sintervention) needs. Realizingthe extentto whichcontexts vary should make us aware that what we need to be worrying about is the A contextsin whichdamage is being done by pornography. examination whatprevents of effects some in careful damaging in contexts may help us to avoid theseeffects othercontexts. For example,experiments seem to show that if pornography are viewings followed appropriate by debriefings, worrying the attitude can changes be eliminated (Linz and Donnerstein 1989; Saul 2003, pp. 103-4). Carefulattention contexts, to can then, do more thanjust help us to be precisein our claimsabout pornography and speech acts: it can also help us with the of verypractical matter finding waysto combatthe damaging effects pornography that may have. A context-sensitive speech act approachto pornography cannotbe usedtojustify blanket a of condemnation all materials a certain of sort,or evenof any film magazine.It can, however, used to justify or be particular a variety policiesdesignedto affect contexts which of the in is pornography viewed.

IV
TheSpeechActApproach Pornography. whatI haveargued to If is right, of proponents a speechact approachto pornography mustaltertheiraccountsto accommodate role of context. the But once these alterations are made, we get a much more complicatedand nuanced picture of pornography and its uses. It is entirely will possiblethatthismorenuancedpicture not be veryappealingforproponents the speechact approach of to pornography. Recall, afterall, the apparentadvantagesof thisapproach:(1) thatit is difficult defend to pornography if it can be shownto be the subordination women;and (2) of is the that,if pornography itself subordination women,one of can criticize as an infringement women'sequality. it of Witha context-sensitive speechact approach,one can no longer claim

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is of thatpornography thesubordination women.The bestthat are one can do is to claimthat pornographic viewings sometimes of to thesubordination women.And thisis unlikely be enough forthosewho seek a sweeping condemnation pornography. of I take such people to be facedwitha choice:if their strongest commitmentto thespeechact approachto pornography, is then account and the more theyshould adopt a context-sensitive nuancedclaimsthatcome withit. If, however, theirstrongest commitment to condemning is then pornography, theyshould abandonthespeechact approach.19 Department Philosophy of University Sheffield of Sheffield 2TN SJO UK
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