Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Regulating Violent Pornography


Deanna Pollard


In recent years the regulation of pornography has received much attention. Traditionally, conservatives have scorned pornography of all types on the basis that pornography is immoral. More recently, some feminists have attacked pornography from a civil rights perspective,claiming that pornography is the sexually explicit subordination of women that leads to discrimination against women in all aspects of life.Nonetheless, the first amendment currently protects all forms of pornography from regulation unless the material is deemed "obscene."

Researchers, however, have shown that certain types of pornography, such as violent, sexually explicit materials, specifically harm women. The proven relationship between violent pornography and aggression of men toward women evidences a need for regulation, but constitutional barriers to censorship under first amendment analysis are great. In spite of the evidence that violent pornography harms women,courts have held unconstitutional the most recently proposed anti-pornography ordinances.

The problem with the prototype of these proposed ordinances,drafted by feminists Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, is the ordinance's broad attack on all forms of pornography on the basis that pornography subordinates women. The Seventh Circuit premised the constitutional failure of the ordinance on the ordinance's viewpoint basis for prohibiting pornography. Specifically, the Seventh Circuit held that viewpoint discrimination is constitutionally intolerable, and female inferiority is a protected viewpoint. Additionally, although the Seventh Circuit did not decide these issues, the ordinance is alarmingly over broad and vague.'In order for an antipornography statute to survive first amendment scrutiny, it must be drafted in view of the constitutional obstacles that have caused previous proposals to fail.