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The newest attacks on the First Amendment and on free expression have come from a vocal and influential segment of the feminist movement that has launched a successful - and puritanical - crusade against "pornography" as the root of discrimination and violence against women. But, as Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, forcefully argues, this view of sexuality as inherently dangerous does profound damage to human rights in general, and to women's rights in particular. In Defending Pornography, Strossen shows that, since the late 1970s, a new and startling alliance has been fused between "procensorship" feminists, most notably Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, and conservatives, many of whom oppose women's rights causes. Together they are campaigning against a wide range of sexually oriented expression, including not only art and literature, but also materials concerning abortion, contraception, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, sexism, and sexual orientation. One of America's most visible and articulate advocates of both feminism and free speech, Strossen is in the vanguard of an increasingly vocal group of feminist women who adamantly oppose any effort to censor sexual expression. Women's rights, Strossen demonstrates, are far more endangered by censorship than by sexual words or images. Strossen eloquently argues that women do not have to choose between speech and equality, between dignity and sexuality, between safety and "our freedoms to read, think, speak, sing, write, paint, dance, dream, photograph, film, and fantasize as we wish". Offering a feminist's unique perspective on the history of obscenity laws, she shows that censorship has long been - and continues to be - used as a tool to repress information vital to women's equality, health, and reproductive autonomy. As Defending Pornography makes devastatingly clear, those who would restrict freedom of expression ultimately restrict women's rights.
First Amendment, censorship, free speech, women's rights
First Amendment | Law and Gender | Sexuality and the Law
Strossen, Nadine, "Defending Pornography: Free Speech & the Fight for Women’s Rights" (1995). Books. 42.