What about politics and porn?

In 1964, supreme court justice Potter Stewart famously opined that he couldn’t succeed in defining “hard-core pornography” before famously going on to add, “but I know it when I see it.” The case in question was that of Jacobellis v. Ohio, in which the justices ultimately ruled against the state of Ohio’s attempt to prohibit the screening of a film that it deemed obscene.

Though perhaps among the more famous examples of pornography in politics, it’s far from the only occasion on which these two worlds have collided. In fact, it takes little searching at all to see that states continue to try to legislate sex, pornography, and sex work, normally under the guise of “family values” or preventing “moral decay.”

Interestingly, these same politicos often seem to have complicated (read: contradictory) relationships with that which they so seek to censor or abolish, though that’s surprising to exactly no one.

Lack of surprise or no, the attempts to censor, prohibit, or limit the distribution of pornography have now transformed into what anti-porn advocates are calling a “public health crisis.” If one can’t win on “moral” grounds, it seems, one might as well reframe an argument on scientific or pseudo-scientific grounds—even going so far as to describe their efforts as a “new strategy.” In fact, we’ve already seen this new strategy explored in these posts on men’s and women’s porn consumption, where attempts to re-litigate the issue as one of addiction take the fore.

The same article that overtly describes this “new strategy” also details the history of pornography as a first amendment issue, which is odd in that this seems to undermine the feasibility of their very efforts by providing a long list of occasions on which pornography was protected by courts as a matter of free speech.

Beyond matters of legality, as we’ve seen in a number of posts and as is written about extensively in The Feminist Porn Book, pornography has provided opportunities for some that might not have had the same chances in other fields. It’s also been a gateway to sexual liberation for some, and for others, a window into better understanding one’s own identity, as numerous essays in The Feminist Porn Book will confirm.

These benefits are often overlooked in favor of relying on society’s prevailing narratives about pornography to justify legislation that would limit the possibility of these experiences, which could have serious consequences for both producers and consumers of pornography alike.

In Accounting for it All, for example, the novel’s protagonist, Robin, is a prime example of someone who, as a result of a lack of opportunity and her own boredom, decides to give the adult industry a try. Over the course of her career, she certainly faces what many might consider to be traditional obstacles for those who get involved in the industry, but her experiences in that world also help lead her down a path to self-actualization, a path she might not have found had she not had the opportunity to explore this particular avenue.

Granted, Accounting for it All is but a work of fiction, and one that doesn’t explicitly take on the intersection of politics and porn. As courts have ruled time and time again, however, pornography is a constitutionally protected freedom of expression, and speech surrounding it is protected as free speech.

In this way, might Accounting for it All implicitly be a political statement of its own? This author would argue so, and in November 2018 readers everywhere will be able to decide for themselves.

Until then, keep an eye on our blog, our newsletter, and the author’s Twitter feed for more.


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