Obscenity and Pornography

Christopher Hurtado —  March 11, 2010
Obscenity and Pornography | Christopher Hurtado
(1) According to Mackinnon, what is the difference between obscenity and pornography?

According to MacKinnon, obscenity is a moral issue, whereas pornography is political issue. MacKinnon claims that obscenity is “ideational and abstract” and “probably does little harm,” whereas pornography is “concrete and substantive” and “integral to attitudes and behaviors of violence and discrimination” against women. According to MacKinnon, obscenity deals with the legality of the depiction or portrayal of sex, whereas pornography deals with the representation of women as sex objects as natural.

(2) Who has the most persuasive argument: Dworkin or Mackinnon? Explain.

Dworkin has the most persuasive argument. As loathsome as the majority may find pornography, and as virulent as its production and consumption may be, this does not justify the violation of the right of the minority to the freedom of speech and of the press guaranteed by the Constitution. While I include myself in the majority who find pornography loathsome, I am nevertheless bound to defend the freedom of the minority who do not. I contend, along with with Ayn Rand, that “in the transition to statism, every infringement of human rights has begun with the suppression of a given right’s least attractive practitioners. In this case, the disgusting nature of the offenders makes it a good test of one’s loyalty to a principle” (“Censorship” 173).

However, I also agree with Rand (“The Ayn Rand Letter” III, 2, 2) in upholding the right of minors and the unconsenting adults to be free from the sight or sound of pornography. It is completely legitimate under the law to circumscribe the freedom of speech and of the press of the purveyors of pornography in the public sphere, i.e., to prohibit pornography in public spaces. Furthermore, it is also legitimate under the law to require private places where pornography is purveyed that are open to the public to warn those who might enter of what is therein purveyed so as to protect minors and unconsenting adults from exposure to it. This does not entail censorship or the denial of the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and of the press; it protects rights.

Works Cited

Rand, Ayn. “Censorship: Local and Express,” Philosophy: Who Needs It.
Rand, Ayn. “Thought Control,” The Ayn Rand Letter, III, 2, 2.

Christopher Hurtado

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Christopher Hurtado is President and CEO of Linguistic Solutions and Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy and Political Science at Utah Valley University. He holds a BA in Middle East Studies/Arabic and Philosophy and an MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. He coauthored Vacation Spanish: A Survival Guide for Mexico, the Caribbean, Central & South America. He is married to children's book author and homeschool mom, Alysia Gonzalez. Together they have nine children. They are active in their church and in their community.