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The Harm Principle And The Limitations Of Pornography Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1070 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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J. S. Mill’s harm principle becomes a central debate issue for censorship of pornography. There are two specific groups, the liberals and the feminists, who are in two different positions about the idea. The liberals resist censorship of pornography as a matter of principle, and on the other hand, the feminists strongly suggest it to be censored because they think it actually harms women. (Dyzenhaus, p 534) According to Dyzenhaus’ article, putting him in the feminists’ place, pornography eroticizes the social and physical inequalities for women. However, Skipper supports the liberals based on the main idea of harm principle in his critical article against Dyzenhaus. Since the Mill’s harm principle is based and it is the fact that some others like pornography are not censored, the harm principle cannot be the one which limits pornography.

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No one could exactly define pornography. Its dictionary definition indicates that it is sexual image or material provided for only adults. Then, isn’t it ok if it is privately held by adults? Indeed, the harm principle also shows that one should have his or her freedom unless it prevents harm to others. However, Dyzenhaus mentions that it is hard to establish such a boundary between in public or in private because pornography can be fell into the area of self-regarding action which intervenes in family life. (Dyzenhaus, p 546)

But, pornography is not the only one which intrudes in the family life. There are so many other adult materials, like computer games, movies, which can also bring bad consequences. What if one becomes violent after watching a film including cruel, unimaginable scene? That I mentioned is not even pornography, but it truly affects to the society nowadays. I somewhat agree that some harm has occurred because of pornography. Also, there are two general examples of harm: alcohol and cigarettes. Both of them are generally for the adults, but there is no requirement of censorship for these products. The alcoholic person can be violent irrationally and the smokers actually harms to other non-smokers in the society. Everyone knows this and there is no any other special legitimate regulation except showing your ID. Indeed, there no proof saying that pornography causes people to do things that they normally would not do. Dyzenhaus and the feminists need to convince the liberals or others about this simple fact. I know that pornography shouldn’t be seen in public and there is definitely a distinction between in private and in public. What I meant is, for example, an adult store where sells pornographic materials. The pornographic materials have to be kept separately in a private room, where you must be an adult to enter and purchase materials. I see absolutely no reason why a person should not be allowed to view pornographic material in the privacy of their own home.

Moreover, Dyzenhaus states that the consent of women to be featured in pornography might be entirely manufactured. (Dyzenhaus, p.540) The word “might” is generally used when it is not neither sure nor true. All of the human beings have their own rights to do freely without damaging others. That’s what the harm principle states. Can the consent of women really be manufactured? Pornography is not simple to be produced with such an interview like business or fashion magazine. On demand it eroticizes the harmless men by producing sexual arousal. The women could make their own choice for this unnecessary material unless they don’t have any knowledge about it. They act by their autonomy. Thus, Skipper argues that women retain their autonomy if they refuse to participate. (Skipper, p.727) It is true that women don’t have to be coercive to join in pornographic or any other business. There is no reason to argue in this point of view.

The feminists and Dyzenhaus seem to consider pornography as an oppressive value with the eroticization of inequality. (Dyzenhaus, p.540) They view that women are subordinated to men for only men’s sexual interests, but it looks like that way and in fact, it is totally different. Pornography must be erotic. If it is not, it would never be pornography and have such a debate for it. As aforementioned, pornography is designed to produce sexual arousal. Because people are given the freedom of expression, the sexual arousal wouldn’t be matter unless it expresses false information or something illegitimate. However, still, Dyzenhaus insists that expression for pornography threatens interests which require coercive protection, and it harms people by maintaining inequality. (Dyzenhaus, p.548) But, then, do the people who consider pornography as an art harm others? There are many harmless, famous pornographic artists all over the world. They might deeply think of it and choose their own job. Some others might possibly feel weird about it, but those artists would respect it and work hard for pornographic improvement. For example, even their works like pictures or exhibitions include naked bodies in part of pornography. It cannot be said that all of them cause harm to others or show an inequality.

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In addition, I perfectly agree with the Skipper’s idea that if Dyzenhaus’ revised harm principle is enough to justify censoring pornography, it must also be strong enough to restrict other things as well. (Skipper, p.728) As I mentioned, men are possible to keep their fantasies of domination of women by pornography. However, Dyzenhaus sees pornography only in a stance of women. If he wants censorship to be justifiable, he would also be in a stance of men. If pornography is eradicated or censored by his revised harm principle, there would be huge conflict with the liberals. Nowadays, pornography is somewhat necessary for the people and becomes their interests. Because of one’s false argument out of the basic idea of the Mill’s harm principle, one of people’s interests is not needed to be disappeared.

Pornography beside the harm principle can be rather considered as socially beneficial as a matter of principle that it doesn’t harm others. As aforementioned, it could be improved to the way of artistic view in the society. Many critiques and the society would need to change their views of pornography as only a harmful, sexual material.


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