Document Type



Washington Law Review




The legal branch of the women's movement, although of one mind on some subjects, is divided on the proper approach to pornography. Some feminists oppose the imposition of any legal burdens on pornography because they fear that feminist speech will be caught in the general suppression, and others believe that any such burdens must violate the first amendment. Professor Wesson suggests that pornography should be defined to include only those materials that equate sexual pleasure with the infliction of violence or pain, and imply approval of conduct that generates the actor's arousal or satisfaction through this infliction. So defined, pornography should be treated like other dangerous consumer products--its creators and disseminators ought to be held liable for the foreseeable harm that flows from its creation, distribution and use. Professor Wesson argues that this proposal does not violate the first amendment, properly construed, and that it also makes good feminist political sense. In particular, she points to the empirical link between pornography and harm to women, to the lies about women embodied in pornography, and to the silencing effect of pornography on women's voices. She suggests that these consequences make pornography resemble other forms of speech that may, under the first amendment, be regulated.


"Copyright © 1991 by Washington Law Review Association."