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History of the Modern Anti-Pornography Movement
In the mid-to late 1970s, anti-pornography and anti-rape groups began to organize against pornography, arguing that pornography is degrading to women, and complicit in violence against women both in its production (where abuse and exploitation of women is common) and in its consumption (where pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation and coercion of women and reinforces the sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment.) Across the country, feminists formed groups such as Women Against Violence Against Women, Women Against Violence in Pornography, and Media and Women Against Pornography to educate people about the sexist and violent images in media and to demand social responsibility from media institutions. Feminists organized protests, marches, and group tours of pornography districts, picketed and boycotted films and presented slide shows on the pornography industry’s perpetuation of woman-hating and violence. Some groups engaged in direct action and civil disobedience against the industry to dramatically draw attention to pornography and its harms to women.
In 1983, grounded in the accumulated knowledge of pornography’s direct involvement in the subordination of women, feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin proposed an ordinance that would offer women the chance to seek compensation for harm caused by the production and use of pornography. The anti-pornography civil rights ordinance that they drafted was passed twice by the Minneapolis city council in 1983, but vetoed by the mayor on the grounds that the city could not afford the litigation over the law’s constitutionality. In 1984, the ordinance was successfully passed by the Indianapolis city council and signed by the mayor. In 1988, the ordinance was also passed by a voter initiative in Bellingham, Washington. However, in both cases the ordinance was ultimately struck down as unconstitutional by the state and federal courts. In 1986, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts’ rulings in the Indianapolis case without comment.
Despite the defeat of the Dworkin-MacKinnon ordinance, feminists continued to organize against pornography in the 1990s through individual and small group efforts. However, anti-pornography feminists lacked a large-scale, national movement to support and coordinate their efforts.
With the explosion of technology and increased accessibility of pornography via the internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s, feminists from around the country began to organize meetings to discuss the proliferation of pornography and the increased violence associated with its production and consumption. Through these discussions, it became clear that efforts were needed to rebuild a viable, national movement to combat the harms of the pornography industry. Several feminists developed a contemporary version of the slide shows developed in the 1970s to be used as an educational tool and to inspire action against the pornification of our culture. It is out of these efforts that the StopPornCulture was created.