A: First, we have to tell you that a lot of people haven't been asked or haven't been listened to. The women and children who have been hurt through pornography-used to make it or had it used on them in sexual assault-are still a largely unidentified population, in part because the pornographers retaliate. We will give you just one example. In Minneapolis, women went before the City Council to say how they had been hurt in or by pornography. The experiences were horrible. They included rape, gang-rape, battery, torture, rape by animals, and more. Subsequently, one nationally distributed pornography magazine published an article that identified the women by name and used direct quotes from their testimony-quotes highlighted and chosen to emphasize graphic sexual violence. As a result of this article, the women without exception were harassed by obscene phone calls, followed, spied on, tormented by anonymous notes and phone calls, threatened over the phone and by notes and letters. One woman had to move because her tormentor clearly followed all her movements, including inside her own house. Those who have the most to tell have good reason never to speak in public.
Polls tell us that most Americans believe that there is a causal link between pornography and sexual violence. In a Newsweek poll conducted in March 1985, 73 percent of those polled believed that "sexually explicit" material (the euphemism of choice in mainstream media for pornography) leads some people to commit rape or sexual violence; 76 percent said that this same material leads some people to lose respect for women.
Time magazine conducted a similar poll in July 1986. We found the questions more confusing, with more vague or double meanings, than those reported in the Newsweek poll; but still the results are startling: 56 percent of all those polled, and 63 percent of the women polled, believed that "sexually explicit movies, magazines, and books" lead people to commit rape; 54 percent of all those polled, and 64 percent of the women polled, believed that sexually explicit material leads people to commit acts of sexual violence (apparently as distinct from rape). The Time poll found that pornography was much more troubling to women than to men: 50 percent of women were "very concerned"; only 27 percent of men figured in this category of highest concern. A total of 61 percent of the people polled believed pornography encourages people to consider women as sex objects: 50 percent of men thought this was true, 71 percent of women.
A survey conducted by the American Bar Association in September 1984 (in response to the Indianapolis Ordinance) and published in the ABA Journal in March 1985 queried 600 lawyers, half of whom were ABA members, half of whom were not. 66 percent of the total, and 82 percent of the women, thought that some pornography contributes to violent crimes against women; 70 percent of the total, and 89 percent of the women, thought that some pornography is discrimination against women.
The most astonishing and important survey was done by a mainstream women's magazine geared largely to homemakers, Woman's Day, in January 1986. 90 percent of the 6,100 respondents believed that pornography encourages violence against women. 25 percent said that they had been sexually abused by someone they knew as a direct result of his access to pornography. This 25 percent did not represent those who had been sexually abused in ways not involving pornography; nor did it represent those who had been abused, even if pornography were involved, by a stranger. This is a staggering percentage of pornography-caused abuse to come out of this or any other population of women.
80 percent of the Woman's Day respondents wanted all pornography outlawed. Less than 2 percent of this pool of people thought that freedom of speech was more important than the violence against women generated by pornography. In the Time poll, 72 percent wanted the government to crack down harder on pornography (no separate figure is given for women). Asked if magazines with nude pictures should be outlawed in local stores, 59 percent said yes-49 percent of men, 67 percent of women. In the Newsweek poll, 73 percent thought that magazines that show sexual violence should be totally banned (as compared, for instance, with 21 percent who thought that showing nudity should be totally banned). 68 percent wanted a total ban on movies that depict sexual violence. 63 percent thought that the sale or rental of videos featuring sexual violence should be totally banned.
The ABA did not ask lawyers any questions about total bans. Instead, lawyers were asked about the Indianapolis Ordinance. Only 24 percent of those polled thought that the Ordinance constituted any form of censorship. 30 percent thought it was overbroad and 25 percent thought it was too vague. Both overbreadth and vagueness would be legal grounds for finding the Ordinance unconstitutional, but neither has anything to do with the basic principles of the Ordinance itself-so that, for instance, a redrafted version might not elicit these same objections from these same people. (In fact, the Seventh Circuit did not find the Ordinance to be either vague or overbroad.) 26 percent of all the lawyers polled thought the Indianapolis Ordinance was constitutional as drafted. 30 percent said it would be constitutional as drafted if studies proved conclusively that pornography leads to violence against women. (Presumably, then it would not be "overbroad" or "too vague.") 42 percent of the lawyers fifty-five or older were in favor of the Ordinance.
All of these polls and surveys have one element overwhelmingly in common: people, and especially women (whether, for instance, in the sample of women lawyers or readers of Woman's Day) believe, know, understand, that commercially available pornography causes sexual violence against women.
A: The Ordinance puts power in the hands of those who have been hurt by pornography. It recognizes pornography as sex discrimination: as a source of sexual abuse and second-class status, especially for women.
The Ordinance brings the harm of pornography into the light where everyone has to see it and society must deal with it. It allows those hurt by the bigotry, hostility, and aggression caused by pornography to seek legal remedies that are fair. The Ordinance allows people to collect money damages from the pornographers. The Ordinance allows injunctions against pornography that has caused social and sexual harm to women, children, men, and transsexuals. We have to stop the trafficking and the profits in order to stop the whole system of abuse and exploitation called pornography. Injunctions narrowly directed against the material that does the harm (causes second-class status, causes sexual violence, is made from coercion in the first place) and money damages will go a long way toward stopping the pornographers from destroying lives for profit. The industry, we believe, cannot survive the Ordinance. Those who defend pornography and oppose the Ordinance also believe that the pornography industry cannot survive the Ordinance. Pornographers especially understand this, because they know they cannot create pornography without hurting women and they know that the pornography is used to sexually violate women and children. They even know that pornography keeps women's civil status low, because they know how much contempt for women is necessary to view violation as entertainment. If they are held accountable for the harm they do, including the harm to women's civil status, they cannot continue to produce or distribute their product.
Because the pornography industry cannot survive the Ordinance, you will hear the Ordinance called "censorship." People who say this mean that to them a society without pornography is one in which freedom is by definition restricted. In a free society, they maintain, there is pornography. We think that a society without pornography would be one in which women especially would have more freedom, not less. We think that the Ordinance does not take "rights" from anyone; we think it takes the power to hurt women away from pornographers. We think that the freedom to exploit and hurt women is no freedom at all for women. We believe that it is wrong to talk about freedom as if everyone has it when women are being violated for purposes of profit and entertainment. We think we have a right to freedom from second-class status and sexual abuse. We think that the Ordinance will force real social change. We think the Ordinance will help us toward social and sexual equality by stopping an industry built on our pain. We think the Ordinance is a restrained means of achieving this end. It does not expand police power. It expands the rights of actual people: people who want human dignity and civil equality.
The Ordinance challenges the legal system in this country to recognize the human worth of women.
The Ordinance gives women a forum of authority-the courts-in which to make arguments in behalf of equality. The Ordinance gives women a forum of authority-the courts-in which to articulate the injuries of sexual inequality: what they are, how they operate, why they must be disavowed.
Finally, the Ordinance gives women who have been treated like slaves-the women in pornography and the women on whom pornography is used in rape, torture, battery, and other sexual abuse-real rights of citizenship. If one's human rights are violated and one has no recourse, one has no viable rights of citizenship. Pornography violates the human rights of women purposefully and systematically. The Ordinance provides a remedy that gives women the dignity of citizenship.
A: The Ordinance can be passed as an amendment to an already existing civil-rights law. Or the Ordinance can be passed as a freestanding statute. If the Ordinance is amended to a civil-rights law, complaints would initially be made to a civil-rights board. If the Ordinance is freestanding, a person would go directly into court.
There are basically two ways to get the Ordinance passed into law. One is through legislative bodies: city councils, state legislatures, or Congress. The second is by direct initiative of the voters, popularly called a "referendum." In many states and cities, voters can initiate legislation. First, signatures are collected on petitions to put the law on the ballot in the forthcoming election. Once the law is on the ballot, there is a direct popular vote.
Working with legislative bodies, we have found that the power of the pornographers is both massive and secret. In many cities, they own big hunks of important real estate and exercise economic power in municipal governments by manipulating real estate, both buildings and land. Newspapers take their side. They have many legitimate friends with influence, especially lawyers. They also threaten and bribe politicians.
Working with direct popular voting, we have found that the pornographers pour money into defeating the legislation and that newspapers take their side and that they have many legitimate friends with influence, especially lawyers. But they cannot threaten and bribe the whole population. They have less power the more democratic the process itself is.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1985, the Women's Alliance Against Pornography (WAAP) conducted a campaign to pass the Ordinance by the referendum process of placing it on the ballot to be voted on in the next election. These activists collected 5,252 certified signatures of registered voters-over 1,500 more than were needed under Cambridge's laws. Even though every legal requirement for having the Ordinance on the ballot had been met, the Cambridge City Council voted twice to keep it off the ballot. (Two years before, the City Council had similarly refused to place a "Nuclear Free Cambridge" proposal on the ballot.) In trying to fight this illegal act by lawmakers, WAAP contacted virtually every politically active human-rights law firm in the Cambridge-Boston area. Not one would act to protect the rights of women for access to the ballot. Finally, legal representation was found in Springfield, Massachusetts, 90 miles away, by an all-women law firm. A member of WAAP, as a registered voter, sued the members of the Cambridge City Council for an injunction to put the Ordinance on the ballot. She won, and the City was ordered to comply with the law and to honor her rights as a citizen. Unlike the legislative process, the referendum process provides ordinary citizens with some legal protections.
You can pass the Ordinance either by getting your elected officials to vote it into law or by putting it on the ballot so that all the people in your city or state can vote on it.
Because the pornographers fight dirty, many people are afraid to challenge them by initiating this legislation. Politicians are certainly afraid, but so are regular citizens. Many women will find themselves having to talk publicly about pornography-caused sexual abuse they have experienced. Organizers will be threatened and harassed. Money is hard to come by for those who want to stop the pornographers while the pornographers themselves have unlimited funds. Those who defend pornography are verbally abusive in public dialogue. Once the law is passed, it will be challenged immediately in court by the pornographers or those who front for them. This means a protracted legal struggle, again without the legal or economic resources that the pornographers take for granted. Every cent they use to try to defeat the Ordinance from being passed or in court they made off of women's exploited bodies. This makes it especially painful to be poor.
The Ordinance will never be law unless you decide to make it law. If you won't, don't assume that someone else will. If you believe that women have a right to equality and dignity, you will probably find the Ordinance a pretty good idea. Then you have to start working for it. This is not a movement that has top-down leadership; it is a grass-roots movement, a decentralized movement, a movement that depends on everyone's courage and commitment. It is a movement that will succeed or fail depending on you, on what you do or do not do. The Ordinance represents integrity for the women's movement and it is the only source of hope for women hurt by pornography. The Ordinance is a new way of approaching civil and sexual equality. It is rooted in a recognition of the ways in which women are really hurt; it challenges real power. The Ordinance is the real thing, a legal tool with which feminists can redistribute the power and radically alter social policy.
Feminists have been fighting pornography for eighteen years. Pickets, demonstrations, slide shows, debates, leaflets, civil disobedience. all must continue. In fact, political dissent from the world created by the pornographers and their friends must intensify and escalate. In these eighteen years, feminists have confronted pornography in cities and towns and villages and in theaters and grocery stores and adult bookstores everywhere in this country. Passing the Ordinance does not mean stopping direct action; it means more of it. We are not asking women to cool out and calm down and grow up and talk nice to your Congresspeople. On the contrary: we are saying, make demands. Make them loud. Make them strong. Make them persistently. Make the Ordinance one of your demands.
A: The Ordinance was passed twice in Minneapolis by two different city councils (an election occurred between the two votes). Both times, the mayor vetoed it. The Ordinance was passed in Indianapolis and signed into law by the mayor. The city was sued for passing the law within one hour after it was signed by the mayor. The Ordinance was on the ballot for popular vote in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where 42 percent of the voters voted for it. We did not win, but we got a higher percentage of the votes than feminists did on the first referendum ever held on women's suffrage.
The Ordinance has already transformed the way people think about pornography. It is no longer a question of "dirty" books; it is now a question of women's rights. For the first time, the women in the pornography are counted among the women who must have rights.
This is a long struggle for equality and dignity against a very nasty enemy. It is a longterm struggle against sexual exploitation and entrenched inequality. We have to win, because the alternative is to give in to systematic sexual abuse of women as entertainment; we cannot agree to live in a society that enjoys sexual sadism against us. We have a right to live in a world premised on our equality and our human dignity.
This is truth time. Do women's rights really matter? Do they really matter to you? Are you prepared to fight for them? Are you prepared to make this society change so that your integrity and sense of justice are respected in the real world? How much does the life of the woman in the pornography matter to you? How much does the woman who has been abused because of the pornography matter to you? How much does your own life matter to you?
This is truth time. We can win if you care enough. Winning depends on you.