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Blue Politics

Blue Politics: Pornography and the Law in the Age of Feminism

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 229
  • Book Info
    Blue Politics
    Book Description:

    In 1985 the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution, the Fraser Committee, recommended the criminalization of violent and degrading sexually explicit material on the ground that it harmed women. On two occasions (in 1986 with Bill C-114 and in 1987 with Bill C-54) the Mulroney government proposed a more restrictive approach to the regulation of pornography. Despite the support of various feminist and religious/family-oriented organizations, the government's attempts at law reform failed. Obscenity provisions were neither repealed nor replaced by a law criminalizing pornography. Blue Politics looks at the social and political mechanisms that initiated, shaped, and finally defeated the controversial legal proposals of the Conservative government in the 1980s.

    Dany Lacombe documents the emergence of a feminist definition of pornography, analyses the impact this definition had on the debate between conservative and civil libertarian organizations, and identifies the emergence of groups who strongly resisted the attempt to reform the law: feminists against censorship and sex radicals. Finally, she examines the way in which institutional practices are shaped by and yet shape the power relations between groups. The emphasis is on the way such power relations are embodied in the policy-making process.

    Drawing on Michel Foucault's concept of `power/knowledge,' Lacombe reveals how the process to criminalize pornography inaugurated a controversial politics that produced collective identities and transformed power relations. She shows law reform as a strategy that both constrains and enables action.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7147-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Blue Politicsis about pornography, law reform, and political identities. It explores on the one hand the production of pornography as an object of knowledge and of institutional practices, and on the other the production of new collective identities as they were both deployed in the feminist campaign to reform obscenity legislation in Canada during the 1980s.

    Sparked by the development of a feminist critique of pornography – one that linked pornography with harm to women – a new anti-pornography movement organized to criminalize violent and degrading sexual representations, arguing that such representations undermined women′s efforts to be treated as...

  5. Part 1: Pornography as an Object of Knowledge

    • 2 The Emergence of a Feminist Position on Pornography
      (pp. 19-44)

      From the church′s creation of theIndex Librorum Prohibitoium(1564) to counteract heresy to the conservative attack on sexually explicit material in the 1960s, and from the philanthropic movement to reform literature in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the public campaign to criminalize pornography in the 1980s, attempts to reform obscenity legislation have been motivated by the fear of a moral falling off. This ′fall′ has always been contrasted with a ′golden age,′ an age of order, decency, discipline, self-restraint, tradition, and propriety. One of the difficulties with the idea of the ′golden age′ is, as the historian...

    • 3 Compliance with and Resistance to the Feminist Claim of Harm
      (pp. 45-72)

      The previous chapter showed that the strength of the feminist anti-pornography movement lay in changing the focus of the debate from the immorality of sex to the degradation of women. The move′s attempt to raise consciousness about the sexism and violence allegedly inherent in all pornography succeeded in mobilizing many people to campaign against the porn trade, but it also created a strong resistance towards law reform. In this chapter I will examine how, in the wake of the feminist anti-pornography movement, four distinct, although not necessarily coherent, positions on pornography emerged, positions that have had a profound effect on...

  6. Part 2: Institutional Practices

    • 4 The Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution
      (pp. 75-98)

      In this chapter I will investigate the factors leading to the creation of the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution (the Fraser Committee). An examination of the committee′s Report (Canada, 1985) and its recommendations concerning pornography will follow. Central to this examination will be an exposition of the paradoxical justification for criminalizing pornography: the Report establishes a feminist rationale based on the harmanypornography causes to women′s right to equality, but retains the conventional idea that onlyextremesexually explicit representations are harmful enough to be proscribed.

      The spread of video technology in the late 1970s is one of...

    • 5 Bill C-114: The First Attempt at Pornography Law Reform
      (pp. 99-116)

      The anti-pornography bill, Bill C-l 14, was tabled in June 1986 by the Progressive Conservative government, which had been elected during the Fraser Committee′s hearings in the summer of 1984. The government′s anti-pornography bill was a more draconian approach to the regulation of sexually explicit material than the approach suggested in the Fraser report (Canada, 1985). Under Bill C-114, sexually explicit material that is neither violent nor degrading (third-tier material considered lawful in the structure of the Fraser report) became unlawful. What people found most disconcerting, though, was Bill C-114′s sweeping definition of prohibited pornography:′ ″Pornography″ means any visual matter...

    • 6 Bill C-54: The Impossible Compromise
      (pp. 117-136)

      Minister of Justice Ramon Hnatyshyn wanted the anti-pornography bill rewritten to please both feminist and religious and family organizations. According to a senior general counsel of the Department of Justice who advised Hnatyshyn, ′The effort, then, was to rewrite [the bill] to try to capture that elusive middle ground, to get enough support so that it would retain the support from those back benchers who reflected the family/religious perspective, and so it would be more palatable to the feminist community.′¹ This compromise was difficult because conservative groups rejected sexually explicit material on the grounds that science had proved its danger....

    • 7 The Enabling Quality of Law Reform
      (pp. 137-154)

      My examination of the politics of pornography law reform was intended in part as a critique of the essentialism and determinism of most law reform studies. It attempted to integrate law reform into a conception of the social world that assumed the mutually constitutive nature of social structure and agency, but did not reduce this relationship to a unified, homogeneous, or totalizing process. To perform such an integration, it was imperative not to theorize power as global and systematic, as something that operated simply through rationalization and mystification. Instead, drawing on contemporary social research, particularly that of Foucault and Bourdieu,...

  7. Epilogue: Postmodern Art in the Age of Obscenity
    (pp. 155-162)

    In 1962, at the finale of a widely publicized trial, Mr Justice Judson of the Supreme Court of Canada summarized his reasons for declaring D.H. Lawrence′sLady Chatterley′s Lovernot obscene:

    The use of the word ′undue′ recognizes that some exploitation of the theme is of common occurrence. What I think is aimed at is excessive emphasis on the theme for abase purpose. But I do not think that there is undue exploitation if there is no more emphasis on the theme than is required in theserious treatment of the theme of a novel with honesty and uprightness....

  8. Appendix: List of Sources
    (pp. 163-166)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 167-192)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-220)
  11. Index
    (pp. 221-229)