Violent Pornography and the First Amendment: A Dialogue


The issues explored in our colloquium on pornography and the first amendment lend themselves to extreme positions and strongly held opinions. Because of the polarization in views concerning pornography and its regulation, we have chosen to discuss these issues in the form of a dialogue between two imaginary individuals, a feminist and an attorney. Ms. Anthony is a feminist looking for ways to limit the sale and distribution of violent pornography. Ms. Darrow is an attorney, sympathetic to the feminist cause but cognizant of the first amendment problems that arise when either government or private regulation impinges on any individual’s right to free expression.

Ms. Anthony will discuss the harms stemming from the exhibition and sale of pornography, harms that many feminists feel warrant limiting or restricting the sale of such materials. Ms. Darrow, after a brief discussion of the Supreme Court’s attempts to define obscenity, will propose alternative means of regulation and possible remedies available to those seeking to limit the sale and distribution of pornography. She will present possible judicial causes of action under present obscenity law and tort law, and will canvass legislative solutions. Finally, Ms. Darrow will suggest the problems inherent in any of the proposed solutions, and the inevitable conflict between these solutions and the guarantees of the first amendment.

Suggested Reading

Panel I: Defund Means Defund Andrea Ritchie (she/her) is a Black lesbian immigrant whose writing, litigation, and advocacy has focused on policing of women and LGBT people of color for the past two decades. She is currently a researcher with