Title: MacKinnon law stops friend’s book
Subtitle: Censor censored
Date: 1994
Source: Retrieved on 15th November 2021 from struggle.ws
Notes: Published in Workers Solidarity No. 41 — Spring 1994.

A CENSORSHIP LAW praised by feminists has been used to ban books by a leading anti-porn feminist. In February of 1992 the Supreme Court of Canada accepted the legal definition of pornography popularised by the US law professor and feminist anti-porn theorist Catherine MacKinnon. This outlaws material deemed degrading to women.

Anti-censorship feminists have long argued that MacKinnon’s legal definition, like any expansion of censorship of speech about sexuality, will likely harm rather than help womens’ liberation. This has clearly come true in Canada in the past year and a half. The first prosecution was of the gay Glad Day Bookstore for selling Bad Attitude, a magazine of lesbian erotica. An estimated quarter of Canada’s feminist bookstores have had material seized. Last spring large book shipments were stopped by Canadian customs.

Among the titles seized were The Story of O, John Rechy’s City of Night, the feminist anthology Herotica, The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, and — ironically but predictably — two titles by MacKinnon ally Andrea Dworkin. Another seizure involved the satirical book Weeni Toons. The justification raised censorship to new heights when one official explained that the book could be construed as “degrading to the male penis”. Meanwhile, the judge in a related case upheld Canadian customs’ seizure of gay erotica on the grounds that casual gay sex was “incompatible with the proper function of society” and “completely degrading”, thus fitting within the obscenity definition.