Catharine A. MacKinnon
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"With this war, pornography emerges as a tool of genocide." --"Turning Rape into Pornography: Postmodern Genocide" by Catharine A. MacKinnon, Ms. Magazine Vol.IV, no. 1 September 1993
"Because I am a pornographer, I am at war with Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. These obsessed, moralistic women, feminism’s oddest odd couple, are Carry Nation reborn. They were coauthors of the Minneapolis and Indianapolis ordinances against pornography that were declared unconstitutional. They have produced, individually and in collaboration, an enormous amount of material ranging from tortured autobiographical confessions to legal case histories and academic Marxist critiques." -- "The Return of Carrie Nation: Feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin" (1992) by Camille Paglia
In 1980, Linda Boreman (who had appeared, under the name Linda Lovelace in the pornographic film Deep Throat) claimed her ex-husband Chuck Traynor had violently coerced her into making Deep Throat and other pornographic films. Boreman made her charges public for the press corps at a press conference, together with MacKinnon, members of Women Against Pornography, and feminist writer Andrea Dworkin offering statements in support. After the press conference, Dworkin, MacKinnon, Boreman, and Gloria Steinem began discussing the possibility of using federal civil rights law to seek damages from Traynor and the makers of Deep Throat. Boreman was interested but backed off after Steinem discovered that the statute of limitations for a possible suit had passed (Brownmiller 337).
MacKinnon and Dworkin continued to discuss civil rights litigation as a possible approach to combating pornography. MacKinnon opposed traditional arguments against pornography based on the idea of morality or sexual innocence, as well as the use of traditional criminal obscenity law to suppress pornography. Instead of condemning pornography for violating "community standards" of sexual decency or modesty, they characterized pornography as a form of sex discrimination and sought to give women the right to seek damages under civil rights law. "Pornography, in the feminist view is a form of forced sex, a practice of sexual politics, an institution of gender inequality" (Mackinnon 197).
In 1983, the Minneapolis city government hired MacKinnon and Dworkin to draft an antipornography civil rights ordinance as an amendment to the Minneapolis city civil rights ordinance. The amendment defined pornography as a civil rights violation against women and allowed women who claimed harm from pornography to sue the producers and distributors for damages in civil court. The law was passed twice by the Minneapolis city council but vetoed by the mayor. Another version of the ordinance passed in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1984, but was ruled unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.MacKinnon wrote in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review in 1985:
And as you think about the assumption of consent that follows women into pornography, look closely some time for the skinned knees, the bruises, the welts from the whippings, the scratches, the gashes. Many of them are not simulated. One relatively soft core pornography model said, "I knew the pose was right when it hurt." It certainly seems important to the audiences that the events in the pornography be real. For this reason, pornography becomes a motive for murder, as in "snuff" films in which someone is tortured to death to make a sex film. They exist."
MacKinnon represented Boreman from 1980 until Boreman's death in 2002. Civil libertarians frequently find MacKinnon's theories objectionable (see "Criticisms" section), arguing there is no evidence that sexually explicit media encourages or promotes violence against, or other measurable harm of women. One laboratory study found that possible temporary effects of pornography may dissipate over time.
- Willis, Clyde E.: „The Phenomenology of Pornography. A Comment on Catharine MacKinnon's Only Words", in: Law and Philosophy 16/2 (1997), 177-199.
- Only Words (book)