Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Vol. 15, No. 1, 2008
In the law review literature on pornography, there is sometimes the depressing story that either liberalism is limply unhelpful to combat pornography or, in its role as philosophical handmaiden, liberalism happily does pornography’s bidding. Liberalism as referred to here is not meant as shorthand for the political ideals of the Democratic Party. Rather, it is meant to serve as an emblem for a loose collection of commitments to free speech, legal equality, toleration, and limited government. But the description of liberalism that pervades the law review literature on pornography seems exaggerated and far from inevitable. Liberalism, as a jurisprudential principle, need not be pornography’s indifferent observer or spineless sycophant; liberalism can be used to fight pornography. In this Article, I propose to illuminate what appears to me the most essential aspect of liberalism in its inviolable dedication to peace and safety. By drawing upon the work of the early liberals, I argue that liberalism’s most basic ethos is conceptually incompatible with pornography, as the latter celebrates an unjustified form of violence as its own end.
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