THE ANTIPORNOGRAPHY CIVIL RIGHTS ORDINANCE
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
[Andrea Dworkin and Catharine A. MacKinnon coauthored this overview of their antipornography civil rights ordinance in 1992 for the Judiciary Committee of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.]
1. The Statement of Policy summarizes evidence of the harm pornography does to the legal and social status of women and to society as a whole. When assessing constitutionality, courts measure laws against legislative findings.
2. The Definition is a concrete description of the materials the pornography industry makes and sells: graphic sexually explicit materials that subordinate women and others. It is not a description of any ideas pornography expresses. By contrast with the Indianapolis version of the ordinance, this definition is not restricted to violent material. This is because the violence of pornography is not limited to materials that show violence. Women are coerced into materials that show no violence. Rapists use materials showing what appears to be consenting sex to stimulate their rapes and to select their targets. Children are abused to make pornography that shows no violence. Pornography showing no violence is violently forced on women and children.
3. The Coercion provision permits anyone coerced into sex acts so pornography can be made of them to stop the pornography and to get damages for their abuse. It only addresses materials made through aggression that is proven to be done against individual human beings. There is no First Amendment protection for coercion.
4. The ordinance prohibits forcing pornography on others against their will. Already illegal in the workplace under sexual harassment laws, these acts are not protected speech. This provision reaches only those who do the force, not those who publish the materials. The First Amendment protects unwilling viewers, not perpetrators of forced viewing.
5. Legal experts are clear that it will be very difficult to prove that particular assaults are directly caused by specific pornography. It should be difficult. Pornography which contains only words sometimes causes assaults. When it can be proven to do so, the victims should be allowed to sue the pornographers.
6. Being in pornography can destroy a person's reputation. The defamation provision allows recovery for unauthorized use of a person in pornography in ways that take into account the existing laws of libel.
7. The trafficking provision addresses a slave trade, covering only materials made through the sexual use of living or dead humans or animals. Materials must, in addition, be graphic, sexually explicit and subordinate women or others in the place of women. Literature is not covered. Because isolated parts are excluded, most of Playboy and Hollywood movies would not be covered either.
[The Dworkin/MacKinnon antipornography civil rights ordinance was subsequently introduced in the Judiciary Committee of the Commonwealth of Massachussets in 1992. Click here to read the complete text of this bill.]