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On the discourse between Catharine MacKinnon's SEXUALITY,

PORNOGRAPHY AND METHOD: "Pleasure Under Patriarchy", and


– Amalia Ziv's
‫ המחלוקת הפמיניסטת על פורנוגרפיה‬:‫בין סחורות מיניות לסובייקטים מיניים‬

In these two articles the feminist debate on pornography is surveyed. While both recognize
the traditional definition of pornography as material that is sexually arousing; feminists that
align themselves with the anti-pornography agenda, as elaborated upon by Catharine
MacKinnon in her article, recognize the critical feature of all pornography as the victimization
of women and violence, humiliation, degradation and other explicit forms of abuse. Feminists
siding with Amalia Ziv's anti anti-pornography theory put their emphasis first on female
.sexual subjectivity and on women as sexual objects in the making

The objection that much of pornography is demeaning to women surfaced early in the
contemporary feminist movement, particularly in Kate Millett's 1970 book Sexual Politics. The
anti pornography movement that flourished in this climate reached its most stringent form
when feminist activists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon drafted the Indianapolis
.Anti-Pornography Ordinance in 1984

This ordinance defined pornography as anything that presents women as sexual objects, as
enjoying pain, humiliation or rape, or as being physically harmed. It also identified as
pornography material that depicts women in "scenarios of degradation, injury, abasement, or
torture" and as "filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these
conditions sexual." Underlying the ordinance is the assumption that pornography plays an
important role in causing rape and domestic violence, and therefore is not only demeaning
but constitutes an overt physical threat to women. The ordinance would have permitted any
woman who felt degraded or victimized by pornographic literature or film, to have a court
injunction issued against the booksellers, theater owners, publishers and distributors to
.prevent the marketing of the offending material

The efforts of MacKinnon and Dworkin have helped us recognize the inadequacy of the
misogyny in pornography, and revealed how extensive pornographic images are in our
culture. They also revealed the harsh truths regarding the abused participants in
pornography, their continuous manipulation for the purpose of enormous cash revenue, which
made this "business" more than just a commercial commoditization, but rather a modern
.aspect of human trafficking

However, because the ordinance called for a form of censorship, some feminists feared that
the censoring of sexually explicit materials would violate the constitutional guarantee of
freedom of speech. Some lesbians have objected to the ordinance out of fear that it would
serve to permit certain expressions of sexuality and discourage others. Another argument
was that such ordinance would give the impression that women cannot make choices about
.sexual matters for themselves but need the paternalistic protection of the law

Amalia Ziv contends that history shows that censorship and suppression work directly against
feminist goals and are often used to limit women's rights in the name of protections.
Censorship and suppression of any kind are in direct conflict with feminist principles of
freedom and tolerance. Of all people, feminists should be the most outspoken and stanch
defenders of the First Amendment – because feminism and civil liberties are, by definition,
totally inextricable. Feminists claim to possess the exclusive ability to distinguish
'dehumanizing, objectifying, degrading' materials from 'erotica'. In making these judgments
for everyone, in vigorously promoting ordinances, the feminist movement has taken a sexist,
moralistic, censorial, and anti sex stance. It is the assertion of a natural moral superiority of
women over men, an ideology that is just as a harmful and counterproductive to women and
.the goals of feminism as it is painful and unjust to men

In her article, additional and different types of claims about the harm caused to women by
pornography are sorted out and scrutinized. Some of the major theoretical arguments of the
anti porn position are criticized. Her anti-anti-porn position includes a positive claim about
the potential value of sexual representations for feminism in pornography. This position
consists of two strands: sexual radicalism and libertarian discourse on the one hand, and a
more theoretically oriented strand rooted in Foucault's work on sexuality and female sexual
.subjectivity on the other

Thus, a number of key differences in the two works are developed in Amalia Ziv's article.
MacKinnon's anti porn stand emphasizes the harm to women caused by pornography while
Ziv highlights the danger in women's exclusion from the realm of sexuality and regards
pornography as a resource for constructing women as sexual subjects. Mackinnon focuses on
mainstream pornography industry while Ziv focuses on marginal representations. Each side
maintains its own model of representation and its own conception of the relations between
discourse and power. Each side also maintains its own model of representation as action
versus representation as fantasy. Mackinnon sees pornography as monolithic with static
discourse bound to male power, while Ziv holds that the relations between discourse and
power are contingent and changing and consequently believes in the possibility of alternative
.pornographic discourses

To my understanding, MacKinnon and Dworkin's efforts spurred national reflection


about the implications of pornography for sex equality, and their crusade means
that we now discuss pornography not only in terms of abstract principle of sexual
morality or free speech but also in terms of the tangible harms inflicted by the porn
industry. The law, if not struck down, would have given cause of action to anyone
"subordinated as a member of a sex-based group through traffic in pornography as
legally defined". The law then, reflected MacKinnon's belief that pornography
harms all women – including those who don't make it, partake of it, or feel
victimized by it – by objectifying them, sexualizing their subordination to men, and,
at its most extreme, turning violence into sex. In my opinion, this argument is
powerful. For most visual pornographic images that exist, she reminds readers, a
woman was actually the victim of the act depicted. Ultimately it seems,
MacKinnon meant to empower female victims of violence and discrimination, by
making the law accessible and responsive to them. I think it a shame it didn't go
.through, and more so that feminists took the stand against the ordinances