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38 N. Y. L. Sch. L. Rev. 351 (1993)
Feminism, Moralism, and Pornography

handle is hein.journals/nyls38 and id is 357 raw text is: FEMINISM, MORALISM, AND PORNOGRAPHY'

For women, life is an ongoing good cop-bad cop routine. The good
cops are marriage, motherhood, and that courtly old gentleman, chivalry.
Just cooperate, they say (crossing their fingers), and we'll go easy on you.
You'll never have to earn a living or open a door. We'll even get you
some romantic love. But you'd better not get stubborn, or you'll have to
deal with our friend rape, and he's a real terror; we just can't control him.
Pornography often functions as the bad cop. If rape warns that without
the protection of one man we are fair game for all, the hard-core
pornographic image suggests that the alternative to being a wife is being
a whore. As women become more criminal, the cops call for nastier
reinforcements; the proliferation of lurid, violent porn (symbolic rape) is
a form of backlash. But one can be a solid citizen and still be shocked
(naively or hypocritically) by police brutality. However widely condoned,
rape is illegal. However loudly people proclaim that porn is as wholesome
as granola, the essence of its appeal is that emotionally it remains taboo.
It is from their very contempt for the rules that bad cops derive their
power to terrorize (and the covert approbation of solid citizens who would
love to break the rules themselves). The line between bad cop and outlaw
is tenuous. Both rape and pornography reflect a male outlaw mentality that
rejects the conventions of romance and insists, bluntly, that women are
cunts. The crucial difference between the conservative's moral indignation
at rape, or at Hustler, and the feminist's political outrage is the latter's
understanding that the problem is not bad cops or outlaws but cops and the
Unfortunately, the current women's campaign against pornography
seems determined to blur this difference. Feminist criticism of sexist and
misogynist pornography is nothing new; porn is an obvious target insofar
as it contributes to larger patterns of oppression-the reduction of the
female body to a commodity (the paradigm being prostitution), the sexual
intimidation that makes women regard the public streets as enemy territory
(the paradigm being rape), sexist images and propaganda in general. But
what is happening now is different. By playing games with the English
* 0 Copyright 1992 by Ellen Willis, Wesleyan University Press. This article was
published originally in 1979. Ellen Willis, VILLAGE VOICE, Oct. 15, 1979, at 8, Nov.
12, 1979, at 8, reprinted in ELLEN WILLIS, BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT: SEX, HOPE,
AND ROCK-AND-ROLL 219 (Wesleyan University Press, 2d ed. 1992). Reprinted by
permission of the University Press of New England. Annotating footnotes have been
added by the editors.
** Professor of Journalism, New York University.

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