Altman’s argument that there is a moral right to buy and possess pornography is centered around the idea of autonomy; humans have a right to do as they choose. He begins by describing the history of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and how society has become more liberal and accepting of people’s choices regarding their own person. It doesn’t actually seem like Altman is arguing that pornography is moral, but rather people should have the choice to view it if they want to: “A willingness to sexually degrade oneself before a camera for commercial purposes may constitute a serious deficiency in one’s character. A willingness to view such pornography may also reflect a character flaw. But the men and women who perform in such pornography have a right to make their choices, and consumers have a right to view the commercial product” (Altman 231). This indicates he might even agree pornography is morally wrong, but wants to uphold individual liberties because it doesn’t affect anyone besides yourself. He asserts people of a good character would choose not to produce or view pornography, even though they have a choice to do so if they change their mind.
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Conversely, Brison argues against pornography from a feminist standpoint; she believes the pornography industry is harmful to women. She compares the pornography industry to sex trafficking, saying “pornography – of an increasingly violent sort – has played an important role in the global sex trafficking of girls and women who, lured by promises of employment (for example, as nannies or waitresses), end up trapped in foreign countries, with no money, no (legal) papers, no family or friends, and no ability to speak the local language” (Brison 239). By bringing up these examples of young girls trapped in the industry, Brison is effective in convincing the audience there are harmful side effects of the pornography industry. To convince them this is not just an exception, she brings up the contrast between free speech and harmful speech. While the author does acknowledge the importance of free speech, she believes the instance of the pornography industry is harmful enough to be an exception to free speech, and cites a supreme court opinion that agrees with her.
In my opinion, Altman makes a more compelling case than Brison. It doesn’t seem like he is accepting pornography as moral, but rather is supporting the individual choice to produce or consume it if one so chooses. I don’t believe pornography is moral in itself, but I don’t think the government should be able to limit people’s choices in this way if they are making decision about it for themselves. Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t give you a right to prevent them from living their life how they want. On the other hand, I don’t disagree with Brison’s point about the dangers of the sex-trafficking industry; it is a very real problem facing the world today. However, I disagree with the premise of her argument because it doesn’t address the issue of whether pornography itself is moral, but just looks at possible side-effects. There are many instances of pornography actors and producers who do their job voluntarily, are paid well, and then leave the industry without any ill-effects; sex trafficking is a different issue than voluntary pornography. While people can choose not to engage in it, they don’t have to limit the rights of others to do so
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