8th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Febres

Coromoto Power Febres

Restricting Pornography from an Anti-Pornography Radical Feminist Stance – A Critique of Freedom of Speech Theory

Anti-pornography radical feminists call for restrictions on pornography on grounds of domination and oppression. Such restrictions on speech have been challenged by both liberals and republicans; with the prevailing view being that free speech is imperative for the workings of a democratic state and a right that individuals must be granted. Despite this stance opposing restrictions on speech, though, there remains theoretical room within liberalism and republicanism for the anti-pornography radical feminist restrictions not to be simply dismissed. I hope to demonstrate that although the anti-pornography radical feminist perspective is not illiberal, there are elements within liberal theory which it finds lacking. In particular, anti-pornography radical feminists believe liberalism ignores issues of power and domination when assessing the harms caused by pornography and the legitimacy of placing restrictions upon this form of speech. Republicanism, in contrast to liberalism, has a conception of freedom as non-domination. Thus it seemingly takes into account the elements which the anti-pornography radical feminists find lacking in liberalism. Moreover, there are those within the republican camp that have, in fact, argued for restrictions along very similar lines to those found in radical feminist works, although the rationales differ. The anti-pornography radical feminist conception of harm though, is much denser than that found in republican theory. It includes a much broader range of what should be considered as harms, in particular non-physical harms related to the development and fulfilment of the self. Hence, what I do is align the anti-pornography radical feminist perspective with republican theory, whilst demonstrating that it is not illiberal. The issues concerning liberal theory are included within this paper; the issues regarding republicanism would be elaborated upon in the presentation.