Monday, 2 May 2011


Writers: Gordon Hawkins & Franklin E. Zimring
Title: Pornography in a Free Society
Language: English
Place of Publication: Cambridge, New Rochelle, Melbourne, Sydney
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year of Publication: 1988
Format: 154x234mm
Pages:xiii+236; References, 227; Index, 233
Tables and Figures: 18 single colour
Binding: Cloth in duotone dust jacket
Jacket design: Dennis Arnold
Weight: 495gr.
Entry No.: 2011011
Entry Date: 2nd May 2011


Pornography in A Free Society addresses an issue about which citizens of Western nations are sharply divided, one regarded as sufficiently important to justify the establishment of four nationally chartered commissions within twenty years: in the United States in 1968, in Great Britain in 1977, in Canada in 1985, and in the United States again in 1985. The reports of the two American commissions were met with storms of protest and denunciation. That of the first, appointed by President Johnson, was denounced as legitimizing pornography and rejected as “morally bankrupt” by President Nixon when it appeared in 1970. That of the second, appointed by Attorney General William French Smith at the specific request of President Ronald Reagan, was criticized for its “glaring and persistent biases” and condemned as “the signal for a gigantic national crusade… against demon porn” when it appeared in 1986.

The immediate stimulus for this book was the publication of the 1986 report. Gordon Hawkins and Franklin Zimring attempt to look at the problem of pornography in a wider perspective than that of partisan political debate. To that end, they compare the two American reports with the report of the British Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship, which appeared during the years between the American reports. Then they consider a number of particular problems that have become significant with the increased availability of sexually explicit material since the 1960s: pornography and the status of women; pornography and child protection; and the social control of pornography without censorship.

Pornography has been described as a problem “freighted with all the anxieties and hypocrisies of society’s attitude toward sex.” The authors argue that the furor over pornography and the commissions themselves are part of a “ceremony of adjustment” to widespread availability of sexually explicit material, and that we can expect less social concern about pornography as time passes.

Whatever their own views, readers will find the authors’ analysis of the conceptual basis of the controversy over pornography interesting and compelling.

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