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Pornography, Feminist Debates on

Gail Dines and Robert Jensen


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The feminist pornography debates, known as the “porn wars” or the “sex wars,” began in the US, the UK, and many other countries around the world in the early 1980s. These struggles have raised questions about the nature and effects of not only pornography but also prostitution and stripping, highlighting crucial debates about women's agency and the role of structural forms of inequality in shaping women's lives in patriarchy. There have been three major philosophical/political positions within feminism during these debates: (1) anti-pornography feminists, typically identified as “radical feminists”; (2) anti-censorship feminists who are critical of misogynistic pornography but reject the legal approach radical feminists proposed; and (3) a pro-pornography group valorizing pornography as a discourse that subverts traditional gender norms and has liberatory potential for women's sexuality. The growing strength of the postmodernism (→  Postmodernism and Communication ) underlying this third position is representative of a larger trend away from the activist-oriented second wave of feminism toward a more academic-based theorizing. Since the 1980s, these debates have caused major divisions in the global feminist movement and continue to split feminists into anti- and pro-pornography camps (→  Women's Movement and the Media ). The second wave of western feminism, beginning in the 1960s, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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