Search Diemer.ca

Samplings

Luxemburg was the leading exponent of a Marxism in the spirit of Marx. One indication of this, paradoxical at first glance, is that she was one of the very few leading Marxists who did not treat Marx's writings as holy writ.
On Rosa Luxemburg

We need only look at activities of the thousands of people working in grassroots groups across this country, and around the world, to see that people do join with others to block what they see as harmful and to fight for what they consider to be desirable and just. When they do, that which seemed impossible to achieve starts to become possible.
What Do We Do Now?

Blogs

Words of Wisdom

  • The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.
  • – Karl Marx

Favourite Links

In a Direct Line - Photo by Ulli Diemer

Opposing Censorship

By Ulli Diemer

Letter to the Editor, The Body Politic

The May issue of The Body Politic contained a letter from Mariana Valverde on feminism and pornography which really needs to be answered because of it supports a most dangerous idea: the idea that liberation — in this case, sexual liberation — can be promoted by repressive legislation and censorship.

Button - The Worst Thing About Censorship is ###

When people on the right, the Anita Bryants and Simma Holds, advocate authoritarian means of this kind “for the good of society” one knows how to evaluate their demands. They are the enemies of any kind of liberation, and can be dealt with accordingly. But when people who identify with a liberation movement, such as women's liberation or gay liberation, promote repressive legislation as a means of achieving their ends — our ends — there is a dangerous of a different kind: the danger that the movement will sabotage its own goal by choosing the wrong means to achieve them.

The fundamental fallacy of which people like Valverde are guilty is the belief that because something is bad, or appears to some to be bad, it ought to be banned.

As a result, Valverde has completely missed the point of the two articles in TBP's April issue, as I understood them. The articles opposed anti-pornography legislation because (1) it would be used for repressive purposes — e.g., against gays — by those whose enforce it and (2) it doesn't work. Valverde some how construes this as a defense of the pornography industry and its products.

This is a complete misunderstanding of the issue. Certainly most pornography is terrible stuff: unimaginative, exploitative of women, etc.

There is no dispute that it is necessary to criticize, boycott, and oppose exploitative pornography. Despite what Valverde claims, I do not hear anyone attempting “a whole-hearted defense of any and all pornography”. What is at issue is the question of whether people who support sexual liberation should join the right, the puritans and reactionaries, in supporting the idea that the state should impose a certain view of what should be allowed and what shouldn't. What is at issue is not that there are “good” movies and “bad” movies, “good” books and “bad” books, but the idea that the state — or any powerful group: church, media, “the revolution” — should have the power to decide what may be read and seen and what may not be read and seen (or more accurately, what may be read and seen legally and what will be read and seen illegally.)

It is a fact that sexuality is an important subject in literature and art. There can also be — and this where those interested in liberation must stand in opposition to the repressive right — good pornography, literature or art whose purpose is to arouse the reader or viewer in a way that promotes healthy sexual feelings and activity. Sexually arousal, after all, tends to be a good thing, so art that is sexually exciting can be a good thing also.

The question is: who is to decide a particular piece of art is good or bad, whether it is exploitative or non-exploitative, whether it should be banned or not? Surely the answer must be that no one should have the power to make such decisions for other people.

To defend obscenity laws at the present time is to give such authority to those whose now have power and influence: the lawmakers, the crown prosecutors, the Toronto Sun's, the police. They would interpret the laws, and they would use them to suppress what they consider obscene.

Yes, the pornography industry and its products must be opposed, but they must not be opposed by measures that are worse than the problem. They must not be opposed at the price of giving our enemies more weapons to use against us.

Three other things should also be considered:
1. The market for unhealthy pornography has been created by sexual repression. More repression will worsen the problem, not to solve it.
2. The exploitative portrayal of women in pornography is a reflection of social attitudes. It is primarily an effect, not a cause. (Surely no one believe that pornography has caused sexism?)
3. Despite the many things wrong with it, it is clear from numerous studies that the free availability of pornography reduces sex crimes.

Finally, one comment on a remark of Valverde's. She refers to Gerald Hannon's criticism of Lorenne Clark and Debra Lewis (“thoughtful, intelligent, articulate, impassioned — and wrong”) as “an insult to women”. Surely there is a difference between an insult and a criticism. Surely to state the opinion that two women are wrong on a particular issue is not an insult to all women. Remarks like that contribute nothing to an atmosphere of positive discussion.

Ulli Diemer
1978


Ulli Diemer
Contact


Against Banning