It is no coincidence that both Playboy and Disneyland, magic kingdoms of phallic fantasy and consumption, came into being within a few years of each other in the 1950s. For while seemingly opposite, they are actually twins. Each is devoted to promoting the fantasies of the ruling class; each depends on the other for existence. Just as the social construction of the “good girl” depends on the social construction of the “bad girl,” so does pornography utterly depend on its alleged opposite: family values, patriarchal morality. That is, it depends on religiously legitimated disgust and hatred for the body and sexuality, particularly female sexuality, which is identified with dirt, filth, “whoredom,” evil, and monstrosity. For it is only when, consciously or not, we buy into this patriarchal religious ideology that sex and sexual depiction become “dirty” and taboo but, at the same time, deeply desired. Only under such a religious ideology can pornography be conceptualized and taboo breaking itself sexualized – a structure absolutely necessary to the maintenance of patriarchal power.
I fully understand and applaud the female desire to be “bad,” that is, to be transgressive in a culture that constructs active female sexuality as either sinful or criminal. Yet, to do this in a truly subversive way would be to claim, articulate, and express sexualities with allegiances to no patriarchal values – puritanical or pornographic – and to foreground what John Stoltenberg speaks of as “sexual justice” […]. Sexual justice requires equality, not the power relations masked behind what male-supremacist, privileged individualist, and hierarchical culture has promoted as “sexual freedom” (the freedom to have power, the freedom to objectify, the freedom to consume, and the freedom to possess socially devalued and oppressed others).
Reviewed work(s): Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography, Power by Pamela Church Gibson; Roma Gibson
The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800 by Lynne Hunt
Making Violence Sexy: Feminist Views on Pornography by Diana E. H. Russell
Only Words by Catharine A. MacKinnon
NWSA Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer, 1994), pp. 315-323