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A Look Into The Censorship Of Pornography

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Mark Wicclair argues that we should be very wary about the censorship of pornography,

even if pornography, as Helen Longino defines it, exists. In order to fully understand

Wicclair's reason for being wary of the censorship of pornography it is important that we

use Helen Longino's definition of pornography. Helen Longino defines pornography as

"[the] verbal or pictoral explicit representations of sexual behavior that...have as a

distinguishing characteristic Ð''the degrading and demeaning portrayal of the role

and status of the human female...as a mere sexual object to be exploited and

manipulated sexually (p.43)."

Helen Longino's definition can be used as the basis of numerous arguments dealing with

pornography. In this paper, I will deal with only one controversial aspect of

pornography. That aspect is the censorship of pornography. Although Wicclair raises

several reasons for being wary of the censorship of pornography, I will discuss only two

of those objections in this paper.

The first reason Wicclair gives for his claim that we should be wary about the

censorship of pornography is that negative side effects are likely to occur if pornography

is censored. Wicclair focuses his argument on the slippery slope effect, which he claims

is a negative effect of the censoring of pornography. In this context, the slippery slope

effect is defined by Wicclair as "...a serious risk that once any censorship is allowed, the

power to censor will, over time, expand in unintended and undesirable directions

(p.382)." This definition along with "...the fact that it is extremely difficult, if not

impossible, to formulate unequivocal and unambiguous criteria for censorship (Wicclair

p. 382)," Wicclair makes the conclusion that "[t]he slippery slope effect will

eventually...suppress the rights, interests, and values of others (p.382)."

I agree with Wicclair's first reason for his argument against the censorship of

pornography. I also believe that the censorship of pornography will cause the slippery

slope effect. Because the slippery slope effect is extremely difficult to stop once it has

been started, I believe the censorship of pornography will lead to the suppression of many

freedoms of expression. When many freedoms of expression are suppressed then

censorship no longer effects just pornography in Longino's sense. Therefore, I believe

that by censoring pornography citizens of American will most likely have less expressive

liberty.

I also believe that once Longino's definition of pornography is censored, the

slippery slope effect will continually occur, as its name implies. Thus, the argument of

censoring pornography as Longino defines it would cease to exist and the argument of

censoring pornography as a less explicit definition than Longino's would then take

precedence. I believe that the redefining of pornography would continue to occur

allowing new censorship arguments to rise. This snowball effect (the slippery slope

effect) will eventually impact numerous aspects of American life that were not intended

to be effected by the original argument for censoring pornography.

Though I could give several examples that redefining pornography eventually

effects American life, I will give only two examples: education and economy. First,

continually redefining pornography will eventually lead to the censorship of education

because pornographic material, even as Longino defines it, is discussed and visually

presented in most higher educational institutions. Many college courses could not be

taught if it were not for the liberty to openly discuss and watch pornography and all its

aspects. If we begin to censor pornography, then the some aspects of the educational

system will eventually disappear, such as certain health courses, and students in higher

education will be slighted. Second, if pornography continues to be redefined the

economy will be impacted. With the slippery slope effect, the definition of pornography

will become so strict that many advertisements, movies, and art could not be displayed.

The censorship of pornography in the television industry alone could lead to the loss of

billions of dollars. More importantly, many artists and photographers who depict certain

sexual scenes may be put out of work. So, that is why I believe the slippery slope effect

will keep redefining pornography and allowing for the argument of censorship to

encroach on many aspects of American life.

A second reason Wicclair gives for his argument that we should be wary of

censoring pornography is "that exposure to pornography has a cathartic effect and that it

therefore produces a net reduction in harm to women (Wicclair p.383)." Wicclair further

explains

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