Pornography is defined by US anti-porn activist Andrea Dworkin as: ‘the graphic depiction of whores’ (Dworkin, 1981). Most pornography does indeed feature women posing in sexually revealing positions for money. However, in the light of the recent influx of gay and lesbian produced pornography, pornography for women—and the dark underside of the industry, pornography featuring children—another definition seems necessary. This has been hard to come by however, with over a decade of feminist, legal and political debate coming no nearer an agreed definition. In legal terms, Britain’s Obscene Publications Act defines pornographic material as that which may be deemed to ‘deprave and corrupt’. That this leaves the definition open to interpretation by a politically conservative state has resulted in some notorious historical cases, such as the banning of lesbian classic The Well of Loneliness in the 1920s and D.H.Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the 1960s. The public face of the anti-porn movement in Britain is the Campaign Against Pornography (CAP), which over the last decade, and following the example of US groups Campaign Against Pornography and Women Against Violence in the Media, has launched a series of offensives against the stars, publishers and readers of mainstream porn. In 1986, Labour MP Clare Short took up the baton with her campaign to ban the Sun newspaper’s page 3 nudes. Her bill failed to get a second reading in parliament, but did much to expose the schoolboy sexism of most male MPs, while Off the Shelf campaigns through the late 1980s demanded the removal of pornography from the top shelf of newsagents such as W.H.Smith (see newsstands and newsagents).
   In the mid-1980s, however, the seemingly uniform face of feminist anti-porn rhetoric began to be addressed by Feminists Against Censorship (FAC), worried about the effect that wide liberal support of CAP policy might have on subcultural artifacts such as the newly burgeoning vogue in lesbian-produced literary and filmic porn. Arguing that lesbian and gay material, often deemed pornographic by definition, is more likely to be the subject of state censorship than the mainstream porn industry with its big business backing, FAC called for, and continues to call for, a readdressing of the law on obscenity and a re-evaluation of the arguments for censorship.
   Further reading
    Dworkin, A. (1981) Pornography: Men Possessing Women, London: The Women’s Press.
    Norden, B. (1990) ‘Campaign Against Pornography’, Feminist Review 35: 1–8.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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