Home > Philosophy essays > Dworkin's paper 'Is there a right to pornography'

Essay: Dworkin's paper 'Is there a right to pornography'

Essay details and download:

  • Subject area(s): Philosophy essays
  • Reading time: 7 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: 12 September 2015*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 1,961 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 8 (approx)

Text preview of this essay:

This page of the essay has 1,961 words. Download the full version above.

In his paper, ‘Is there a right to pornography’? Ronald Dworkin argues people have the right to consume and produce pornography. In defense of pornography, Dworkin claims all people are entitled to the right of moral interdependence, which entails ‘people have the right not to suffer disadvantage in the distribution of social goods and opportunities, including disadvantages in the liberties permitted to them by the criminal law, just on the ground that their officials or fellow-citizens think that their opinions about the right way for them to lead their own lives are ignoble or wrong.’ In other words, he believes if the majority of people in a society advocate to prohibit pornography because they deem it to be unethical or disgusting ‘ it isn’t a legitimate impetus for intervening with their freedom of speech or for preventing consenting adults from consuming it in private. Furthermore, Dworkin argues that enabling opinions of a majority to determine government policy ‘ contradicts the individual right to moral interdependence of those who produce and consume of pornography. This is because, it would give majorities the right to determine how the minority, ought to live, based upon the majorities opinions about what sort of human beings are most worthy and this violates deeply bestowed democratic principles such as equality, freedom and opportunities for all people.
This paper will review Dworkin’s main arguments, then object to his perspective and conclude by supporting Dworkin’s stance on the right to pornography. Dworkin considers two different strategies to establish his case. The first is a goal-based strategy, which is a policy-oriented argument. And, the second is a rights-based strategy, which is an argument of principle. The goal-based strategy is based on the premise of, even if the consumption of pornography is detrimental to the community as a whole; the effects of restricting pornography in the long-term would lead to consequences that would render humanity worse-off. In other words, this strategy maintains that the policy in question will catalyze circumstances that are beneficial to the general community. However Dworkin argues, the rights-based strategy indicates that even if pornography renders the community to be worse-off in the long-term, it is nonetheless immoral to prohibit pornography because this juxtaposes the individual rights of citizens who oppose such censorship. Nonetheless, Dworkin argues that if we advocate for permitting pornography, we must use an argument that includes the notion of a right, an argument of principle and one that stems from the right to moral interdependence. Unlike the goal-based and rights-based strategies, the right to moral interdependence does not include the long-term benefit of the community. Rather the right to moral interdependence is separate from and it must always be cultivated because it exceeds any argument to promote human flourishing altogether.
To start, Dworkin kicks-off his defense of the right to pornography by opposing the recommendations in, The Williams Committee Report into Obscenity and Film Censorship, which concludes banning the public exhibition of nudity or sexual intercourse. Dworkin argues the William’s Report advocates for prohibiting porn for the sake of satisfying majority beliefs. He reckons the majority of people opt to outlaw pornography because they believe that the pornographer’s perception of pleasure merits less value than others. In accordance with Dworkian philosophy, such external preferences are moralistic because they render the perception of the pornographer and its respective consumers to behave in an immoral or inferior manner in contrast’ to the greater realm of humanity. Thus, Dworkin argues such moralistic preferences are prejudiced. And, henceforth, contradict his notion of moral interdependence. Given, The Williams Report is derived from external moralistic preferences it violates Dworkin’s right to moral interdependence on behalf of the pornographers and proponents of pornography. However, Dworkin does reinstate that offensive nature of pornography could potentially offer some justification for restricting porn. Yet, he points-out this aversion to pornography tends to stem from the individual preferences rather than moral reasons. Due to such mixed preferences against and in favor of permitting pornography, Dworkin proposes that zoning porn may be permissible. Yet, he argues that zoning should be evaluated against the inconvenience, expense and embarrassment, it potentially inflicts upon pornographers. For example, he deems that any regulation would contradict his notion of the right to moral interdependence, if sex shops were prohibited from using discrete packaging to protect customers who preferred anonymity or if the law banned adult specialty retailers from selling goods other than pornography, so that a timid pornographer could not exit the shop with different paraphernalia (e.g. an umbrella) to conceal his pornographic purchase such as a dildo or a blow-up doll. However, Dworkin alternatively considers that if there was reliable proof that pornography inflicted significant harm upon people other than those who voluntarily consume it, it would provide a viable case for outlawing its voluntary private consumption. That’s because, when private activities impair other people’ such actions are no longer considered confidential matters. As a result, the state and public interest would potentially have the power to exercise these circumstances. Thus, for the sake of argument, Dworkin argues that if excessive consumption of pornography legitimately caused absenteeism from work, then the public and the state might have the right to prohibit it. Nonetheless, Dworkin believes that there isn’t any reliable evidence that confirms ‘ that the voluntary private production or consumption of pornography causes any sufficient or significant harm to others. Henceforth, Dworkin argues, pornography solely fulfills harmless personal preferences for sexual gratification and it’s thus irrelevant to the business of policy makers, as they have no right to exercise the moral interdependence of any person. This principle represents a great restriction on banning pornography because it deprives proponents of pornography from the right to appeal to majority preferences.
While Dworkin does show considerable concern for pornographers and the market for regulating pornography, he neglects to consider the feminist perceptions of pornography. In contradiction to Dworkin, feminists argue pornography violates their civil rights because it’s harmful to their well-being and renders women subordinate to their male-counterparts by silencing them. Feminist authors have widely believed that pornography causes violent crimes and subordinates women via turning them into objects for sexual pleasure. In addition, feminists also deem pornography silences women by robbing them of their speech via disabling them of their illocutionary ability. Nevertheless, feminist authors believe that pornography prevents women from being understood. For instance, feminists claim that pornography promotes the perception that women can’t prevent unwarranted sexual contact. On that note, it could be argued that the consumption of pornography propagates an adverse impact in society by making women reluctant to speak about sexual abuse when it does occur and thus preventing it from happening in the future.
Henceforth, the feminist perception on pornography runs in contradiction to Dworkin’s libertarian perception on the freedom to consume pornography. But, unlike the traditional conservative against pornography for its graphic and sexually explicit nature, feminists argue that pornography violates their civil rights, which would indirectly makes’ the consumption of porn an issue of public and political interest in accordance with Dworkin’s argument. This perception of pornography is evident in the Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Ordinance, which coins pornography as the subordination of women via imagery or words that degrade women into sexual tools via coercing them into relishing embarrassment, harm or rape. Furthermore this feminist viewpoint on pornography is a much greater matter of inequality rather than morality, like Dworkin argues. For instance, feminists believe pornography makes women socially unequal in society and that the consumption of pornography is responsible for widening this gap of inequality. But, realistically in contemporary society, women do not only face economic inequality. Yet, it’s also widely acknowledged that they encounter a disproportionate amount of sexual abuse. At the end of the day, feminists claim that sexual crimes against women don’t only represent attacks made mainly by men. Yet, it’s also argued such abuse represents gender disparities. Other feminists argue, pornography doesn’t subordinate women, per se, but it represents the subordination of women. In other words, this implies that pornography doesn’t only depict and market inequality but it’s inequality within itself. With that said, it’s argued the pornography goes above its role as a kind of propaganda by glamorizing acts that are degrading to women such as rape, prostitution, torture and battery. In that light, it’s legitimate to claim that the consumption of pornography erotizes subordination. Moreover pornography according to femininists, promotes objectification, which is considered treating a person as an inferior being to humanity. Therefore this process sanctions the inequality of women by indirectly producing a reality in which the physical and mental suffering imposed upon women is obscured. On top of that, feminists believe that pornography is a detriment of male supremacy, which is difficult for others to notice due to its pervasiveness. Nonetheless, feminists therefore argue that pornography violates their right to equality and should be outlawed. In accordance with these various feminist arguments it’s viable to state that Dworkin’s theory contradicts his conclusion. Because the feminist perspective entails that pornography violates women’s right to equality, liberty and can be seriously harmful to their physical and mental health. And, hence, enabling the consumption of pornography, thereby causes serious disgust and harm to people. Even so, Dworkin still argues that pornographer’s are entitled to produce and sell by virtue of their right to moral independence, which is rooted in equality. Yet, even if Dworkin is granted the right to moral interdependence, his implicit argument fails to address the feminist perspective because pornographers believe equality is a goal rather than a right, unlike the femininists.
Ultimately, there’s no scientific correlation of sexual abuse and violence against women being attributed to the consumption of pornography. And, I doubt men who immorally rape or sexually assault women’ use pornography as a motive for their behavior. In fact, violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon that represents insurmountable barriers to cultivating gender equality and development. In most societies, women remain vulnerable to physical, sexual, and emotional trauma . But this extreme gender apartheid can’t be connected to pornography. Yet, it musy be attributed to norms and traditions indoctrinated centuries ago, which have obstructed humanity from fostering civil rights in contemporary society, especially pertaining to gender equality. While global women’s rights movements have promoted norms, values, institutions and legal standards towards greater equality and less discrimination, historic adversities actually continue to influence women to tolerate violence and discrimination, as a cultural norm in various parts of the world . Thus, it’s non-sense to associate the consumption of pornography to rendering women into sex objects that render them subordinate to men. If this were the case, it would be just to prohibit sexy advertisements from brands like Victoria’s Secret and other companies that portray women in a sexual manner. That’s because, just like in the case of pornography, women are using their bodies as tools to sell products and fantasies that sexually arouse other people, mainly men. And thus in order to end gender inequality it must be accomplished by promoting equality and integrating such initiatives into society, as a whole rather than focusing efforts on banning pornography. In fact, pornography is the byproduct of a much larger problem, which is mainly associated with inequalities pertaining wealth and power. And, therefore people will pay to immerse in such graphic fantasies. Plus, it’s been claimed that there is a connection between the growth in access to pornography and the evolution of women’s rights, which has proven that gender equality has never flourished in a nation with harshly enforced censorship. Nonetheless, the media frequently portrays women in their subordinate roles, which inarguably reinforces unequal gender stereotypes.

...(download the rest of the essay above)

About this essay:

If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay Sauce, Dworkin's paper 'Is there a right to pornography'. Available from:<https://www.essaysauce.com/philosophy-essays/essay-dworkins-paper-is-there-a-right-to-pornography/> [Accessed 14-07-24].

These Philosophy essays have been submitted to us by students in order to help you with your studies.

* This essay may have been previously published on Essay.uk.com at an earlier date.