TIME: A Look Back at the Battle Against Porn – Where Has Porn Taken America Since??

Feminists take to the streets with a new battle cry.

The scene: a seedy storefront in New York City’s Times Square district. Inside a tawdry slide show is under way. The brutal image of a woman being raped flashes onto the screen, then another of a woman in the throes of masochistic ecstasy as she is strangled by her lover. Still other pictures show women being mutilated and even killed.

This is standard pornographic fare, but for the horrified spectators, most of them women, last week’s show was a shocker. After they saw the slides, they headed into the street to inspect for themselves the district’s lurid attractions that include hookers (male and female), porn shops, topless bars and X-rated movies.

Organized by a group called Women Against Pornography, this unlikely female sortie is only one tactic in a new feminist cause: an all-out war against pornography. The rationale is that pornography is a significant factor in the nation’s disturbing rate of sexual violence against women and children. One of the movement’s organizers and a leader of the weekly Manhattan tours is Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will, which contends that rape is a social and political instrument to oppress women. Adds Psychologist Phyllis Chesler: “For years women have been reluctant to speak out against pornography for fear of being called prudes or bluestockings or evoking the ridicule of men.”

No longer. Feminist organizations across the country have been waging local antiporn skirmishes of their own. In Seattle the chapter of Women Against Violence Against Women campaigned successfully to get Paramount Pictures to remove objectionable ads for its sexploitation film Bloodline. In Minneapolis earlier this month, some 4,500 women from several states marched through the city’s red-light district behind a banner that read: WOMEN UNITE, TAKE BACK THE NIGHT. In Cambridge, Mass., a porn fighter fired a rifle shot in the middle of the night into a Harvard Square bookshop that she said carried pornographic literature. With obvious hyperbole, Cleveland Antiporn Campaigner Sandra Coster says of the crusade: “It’s the one thing women can unite on [because] we all get raped and we all get beaten.”

As commendable as the feminists’ objectives may seem, critics worry about their methods, explaining that they could undermine free speech, encourage the suppression of ideas and possibly lead to book burnings. Says Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz: “Women who would have the government ban sexist material are the new McCarthyites. It’s the same old censorship in radical garb.” But feminists, who plan to take their fight to state legislatures, insist that the issue is violence against women, not free speech. Says Brownmiller: “It’s a myth that obscenity and pornography are protected by the First Amendment.”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,920580,00.html#ixzz1XW2CCDNj

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