In the history of feminism, censorship has been the main means in keeping women uninformed, unarmed with information, and child-like in a patriarchal society.
Margaret Sanger grew tired of watching women die from constant childbirth and botched abortions. She risked imprisonment for distributing pamphlets on contraceptive information which were judged obscene by the Comstock Law of 1873. She had to flee to England for a period of time when she was indicted and her husband served time in prison for distributing her pamphlets.
So in Nadine Strossen’s book, Defending Pornography – Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights, it’s amazing to read how certain feminists decided that censorship was the answer. Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon led the way for pro-censorship in a hilarious account made by Strossen. “Their proposed censorship regime thus is predicated on a double-standard: that they can withstand the allegedly pernicious influence of exposure to pornography, but others cannot(Strossen, 156).” They also fail to take into account how their own creative works would fair in a censored society. “Dworkin’s works, too, are laced with passages that would violate her own concept of prohibited pornography. In a survey conducted by University of Pennsylvania professor James Lindgren, 63 percent of the respondents found that Dworkin’s 1991 novel Mercy is “pornographic” under the criteria she and MacKinnon advocate(Strossen, 158).”
When minorities lobby for censorship laws protecting their cause for equality, those laws end up being far more often used against them. “The first individuals prosecuted under the British Race Relations Act of 1965, which criminalized the incitement of racial hatred, were black power leaders… Rather than curbing speech offensive to minorities, this British law instead has been used regularly to curb the speech of blacks, trade unionists, and ant-nuclear activists. Perhaps the ultimate irony of this law, intended to restrain the National Front, a neo-Nazi group, is that it instead has barred expression by the Anti-Nazi League(Strossen, 221).”
I was in high school in the nineties and I remember this strange strain of feminism pervading society. At the time it seemed that everything could be quantified as sexual harassment. An image that bothered you, a look interpreted in a certain way, even the mention of sex could be found offensive to some. Of course, my high school was also religious, and all of my thoughts seemed so wrong in a sea of 'rightness.'
“John Money, of Johns Hopkins Medical School, a leading expert on sexual violence, has noted that most people with criminal sexualities were raised with strict, anti-sexual, repressive attitudes(Strossen, 261).”
Every year in college a group of boys would streak through the campus during a public event. One year it was in front of the screening of The Creature From the Black Lagoon of which we were watching in 3-D. Two years later a group of girls decided that it was their turn. As they streaked through the canyon, boys started to chase them. It seems they went crazy at the sight of a naked female. The girls all had to jump into the bushes and hide down a gravel path. There was only one guy who offered his t-shirt to help them. I can only surmise that if they weren’t attempting the near impossible feat of abstinence, this wouldn’t have happened.
“Heinrich Pommeranke, who was a rapist, abuser and mass slayer of women in Germany, was prompted to his series of ghastly deeds by Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments. During the scene of the Jewish women dancing about the Golden Calf: all the doubts of his life became clear: women were the source of the world’s troubles and it was his mission to both punish them for this and to execute them. Leaving the theater, he slew his first victim in a park nearby(Earl Finbar Murphy, Strossen, 257).”
There have been many studies into whether pornography leads to criminal behavior. Maybe there should be a study on the effects of repression. And under censorship laws, even the Bible would be susceptible with its portrayals of violence, abuse, rape, and subjection of women.
Freedom of speech and expression are basic human rights. Unfortunately there are writers all over the world imprisoned for using their voice, such as activist Nasrin Sotoudeh in Iran, journalist Qi Chonghuai in China, and poet Ayat Al-Gormezi who was just released in Bahrain.
“Recent history teaches us that most tyrannies have a puritanical nature. The sexual restrictions of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Germany and Mao’s China would have gladdened the hearts of those Americans who fear sexual images and literature. Their iron-fisted Puritanism wasn’t motivated by a need to erase inequality. They wanted to smother the personal chaos that can accompany sexual freedom and subordinate it to the granite face of state. Every tyrant knows that if he can control human sexuality, he can control life(Pete Hamill, Strossen, 219).”