In 1985, a group of women called the Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce ("FACT") filed a brief that was influential in the Seventh Circuit's decision-subsequently summarily affirmed by the United States Supreme Court-to invalidate Indianapolis' antipornography civil rights ordinance. The brief callously discounted the very existence, and the substance, of extensive victim testimony given by women at the public hearings held in support of the proposed ordinance. Apparently, the writers of the brief existed in a fantasy world, far removed from the lives of women who testified publicly that pornography harmed them.
While victim testimony established that women harmed by pornography wanted a civil remedy to empower themselves against makers and users of pornography who had hurt them, FACT's brief stated that the antipornography ordinance was foisted upon women by right-wing men. While victim testimony established that women suffered physical and dignitary harms when they were used to make pornography or coerced to consume pornography, FACT's brief stated that pornography consists of images and fantasies, no more harmful than the bogeyman. While victims testified that their lives were devastated by pornography, FACT's brief argued that a civil ordinance that might raise the cost of pornography by damages paid to victims would deprive consumers by raising prices or putting pornographers out of business. While victims testified of their first-hand experience that pornography hurt them, FACT's brief effectively argued that the only credible opinions were those of male experts who studied pornography's effects in laboratories and concluded that there was no harm. While victimized women testified that they were coerced into "consenting" to make, consume, or reenact pornography, with damage to their civil rights resulting, FACT's brief argued that for a woman to contest the "consent" she gave denies her agency.
The same head-in-the-sand denial that enabled the writers of FACT's brief to ignore victim testimony and maintain a fantasy that pornography does not hurt wo- men runs rampant today in both liberal and conservative views on pornography. The fantasy that pornography hurts no one is a part of feminism's past and of feminism's present. It must give way to an honoring of victims' testimony so that feminism can go forward into its future.
Fact's Fantasies and Feminism's Future: An Analysis of the Fact Brief's Treatment of Pornography Victims,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol75/iss3/8