email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAlways Forever MaybeAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys & SexBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting OffGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot My ShameNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePhilosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An IntroductionPhilosophy of Sex and LovePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in AntiquitySex in CrisisSex in the World of MythSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Dangerous Art of Blending InThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Evolution of BeautyThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incurable RomanticThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe PervertThe Phenomenology of Sex, Love, and IntimacyThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThings We Didn't Talk About When I Was a GirlThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebUntrue VirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
The feminist anti-pornography movement perhaps reached its peak in the 1980s when an anti-pornography civil rights ordinance, written by Andrea Dworkin and Catherine Mackinnon, became law in a few cities across the United States. This anti pornography approach differed from previous lines of attack, and particularly those made by conservatives and the religious right, by focusing on civil rights and not on obscenity and the criminal law. This new approach would allow women harmed by pornography to sue pornographers through civil courts. Although the ordinances were eventually struck down by the courts as an unconstitutional infringement upon the U.S. First Amendment right of freedom of speech, the approach to treat pornography as speech that harms women has continued to be a strong voice within the feminist anti-pornography position. Rae Langton has been one of the strongest proponents of this position by framing the anti-pornography argument in terms of J.L. Austin's speech act theory. According to Langton, pornography doesn't just say things about women, it actually does things to them: it subordinates, objectifies, and silences them. Hence pornography does not merely cause harm to women, pornography itself constitutes harm.
Langton in fact begins the discussion in Beyond Speech by examining an issue that some of her critics have made regarding the way in which she has alleged that pornography subordinates women. According to many radical feminists it does so in the same way that the law does. But, critics have said, how is this possible given that pornography has no formal structure? Nor does it have any institutional standing and thus seems radically different than the law. Here Langton responds by claiming that the analogy between the law and pornography holds in the relevant way because both exert authority. "This explains how," she says, "it can have verdictive force ("degrading and sexist toward women"), exercitive force (setting "that standard"), and directive force ("how to do stuff") (35).
The rest of the chapters in Part I take up Langton's position in one way or another. In Chapter 3, McGowan focuses on the way(s) in which pornography silences women. For example, a common pornographic trope is to have a woman's initial refusal of sexual advances turn into the opposite. By doing so, pornography makes the woman's "No!" meaningless (and hence silences women). In contrast to the positions advanced by Langton and McGowan, Antony argues in Ch. 4 that analyzing pornography in terms of speech act theory is problematic in a variety of ways, and argues that feminists opposed to pornography would be much better served by employing a social constructionist account of pornography and the effects it has on woman. Antony concludes: "Perhaps part of the problem of pornography, then, is the consonance between what men and women are both taught about the structure of female desire. Perhaps if woman were empowered to seek sexual pleasure for its own sake, this consonance could be disrupted. Maybe the development of good 'pornography for women' can be an important part of the struggle to end gender injustice" (87).
Part II begins the process of moving "beyond speech" – and speech act theory -- to consider other avenues to explore regarding analytic feminism and pornography. In Ch. 5, Jenkins draws upon John Searle's account of social ontology and argues that the subordination of women and the false ways in which women are portrayed in pornography "can profitably be understood in terms of the collective intentional imposition of a status function that defines 'females' as subpersons for male use" (109).
Also employing a social ontology framework, Mikkola moves the discussion of pornography from a concern with "what pornography is about" to consider instead "what makes something a pornographic artifact" (114). She uses a "maker's intention" model of pornography to answer her question. She hopes that this approach will allow her to provide a description of pornography that avoids accounts, such as the speech act theory of pornography, where discussions get "bogged down by worries about whether pornography is or is not speech in the sense relevant for speech act theory" which in turn leads to interlocutors about pornography talking past each other (115). My concern here, however, is that figuring out a producer's intentions, even within a broad social setting, can be very slippery, and even if one doesn't think that the "intentional fallacy," as described by Wimsatt and Beardsley, is actually a fallacy, one should still be leery of moving directly from intentions to meaning.
Part III considers objectification as the harm of pornography. Papadacki begins by considering the oft made feminist anti-pornography claim that "there exists a causal connection between personifying pornography and objectifying women" (138). While she rejects this claim, she goes on to maintain that it "is possible … that there indeed exists a causal connection between the knowledge generated by pornography about women's inferior and object-like status and women's objectification" (138). In Ch. 8, Bettcher provides what she calls a "preliminary trans feminist analysis of pornography" (157) by first noting the ways in which racist, sexist, and transphobic oppressions converge in pornography and then suggesting, with respect to trans people in particular, that pornography presents them in a "sex-representational system by 'misaligning' public gender presentation with the gendered form of intimate appearance and are punished accordingly" (175). In the concluding chapter of Part III, Zheng looks specifically at race and pornography and focuses on what she calls the "dilemma of (un)desirability" (177) where people of color are presented both as sexy and desirable but does so in such a way as to risk reinforcing damaging stereotypes.
The last part of Beyond Speech considers whether a true feminist pornography can exist, which Rae Langton and those following her speech act analysis of pornography maintain is impossible. The three papers in Part IV, however, consider pornography in aesthetic rather than speech act theory terms. The three authors then suggest that if feminist pornography is possible, it must be egalitarian (Maes), queer (van Brabant), and/or transformative with respect to our erotic tastes (Eaton).
At its best, analytic philosophy is clear and precise. At its worst, however, analytic philosophy can be jargon filled, and get so lost in abstract, often hypothetical discussions that one finds it hard to see what the point of the discussion is. I think both sides of analytic philosophy are on display in Beyond Speech. Potential readers ought to be aware of this and also aware that this book is aimed at an academic audience with considerable knowledge of the extant discussions in analytic feminist philosophy on the subject of pornography.
© 2017 Robert Scott Stewart
Robert Scott Stewart, Ph.D., is a Professor of Philosophy at Cape Breton University (Canada). His most recent work has mostly been in the area of the philosophy of sex including two books: R.S. Stewart, ed., Talk About Sex: A Multidisciplinary Discussion (CBU Press, 2013) and Laurie Shrage & R.S. Stewart, Philosophizing About Sex (Broadview Press, 2015).