Violent Pornography: Degradation of Women versus Right of Free Speech: Introduction


This is a tenth anniversary celebration of the Review of Law and Social Change at New York University School of Law. In the late 1960’s, there was a growing desire among students to participate in a law review experience. That, combined with the consciousness-raising that was going on among students at law schools and universities throughout the country in the 1960’s, led to the feeling that there ought to be a law review dealing with issues of social change. These forces led to the creation, nearly ten years ago, of the publication which is sponsoring today’s colloquium. The Review of Law and Social Change during that time has made a very significant contribution to the academic life of this school, to legal literature, and to the issues that it has addressed. I am very pleased that the Review of Law and Social Change is sponsoring this particular colloquium for it is so much in line with the Review’s original mission.

This colloquium has a particularly interesting history. Its genesis was in a Constitutional Law class that I taught just about one year ago. A student in my class, Teresa Hommel, who is on the panel this morning, had been making her views known throughout the semester on a wide range of issues and in a very cogent and intelligent manner. As we reached the subject of obscenity, I suggested to Teresa that I was aware of, but was not familiar with, a body of literature dealing with the reaction of feminists to the subject of obscenity. Having taught the subject of obscenity for nearly twenty years, I find that the usual reaction of law students to that subject is quite predictable. Namely, they tend to think that all laws regulating obscenity are a silly waste of time, and that the first amendment should be interpreted very broadly. Because I realized that there was another viewpoint growing out of the women’s movement, I asked Teresa if she could prepare something for our next class.

Before the next class, Teresa had done a lot of work. She asked for twenty minutes to present her position. It was one of the most stirring and interesting classes that I have ever taught. She presented a viewpoint that students had never really been exposed to before. From that came conversations with the editors of the Review of Law and Social Change, and this colloquium has emerged. I am sure that this issue will open our minds to positions that we may not previously have encountered and heighten our awareness of ways in which law can be used to address a social problem.

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