Pornography and society

In this workshop, we’ll deal with the philosophical questions which arise from the existence of pornography. Despite being both prevalent and highly contentious, pornography has become a topic of philosophical debate only rather recently (cf. Langton 1999). Yet, pornography is a fruitful topic especially for political philosophy since it confronts us with crucial questions concerning the setting of social priorities. Whereas some writers have claimed that pornography constitutes an example of free speech and hence ought to be tolerated (Dworkin 1985), others have pointed out that banning pornography is a decisive step in achieving a truly equal society. Specifically, it has been argued that pornography silences women for it creates an environment which prevents women from performing illocutionary speech acts: Because of pornography’s limiting effects on social discourse, the speech acts of women fail to achieve uptake, i.e. people (men) don’t take them seriously and therefore don’t act upon them (MacKinnon 1993). Hence, philosophical discussions of pornography can offer important insights for political theory, especially as regards issues of regulation.

Yet, pornography used to be an important means of criticizing the established order of society (cf. Hunt 1993 and Gatrell 2006). This raises the question of whether and under which conditions pornography has subversive potential and whether it might be regarded as something essential for a free society.

As regards the argument that pornography should be banned because it disadvantages or marginalizes women, we should note that as to date, pornography is prohibited only in totalitarian states and/or highly traditionalist societies. These communities heavily discriminate against women regardless of the (non-)accessibility of pornographic images or texts. If the claim that pornography oppresses women is true, what are the specifics of pornography which set it apart from other forms of the suppression of women? And do these feed upon or differ from each other, and in what respects?


Please send your abstract (500 words max.) plus CV to
Submission deadline: June 1st 2015.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *