Catharine MacKinnon - Criticisms


During the "Feminist Sex Wars" in the 1980s, feminists opposing anti-pornography stances, such as Ellen Willis and Carole Vance, began referring to themselves as "pro-sex" or "sex-positive feminists". Sex positive feminists and anti-pornography feminists have debated over the implicit and explicit meanings of these labels. Sex-positive feminists claimed that anti-pornography ordinances contrived by MacKinnon and Dworkin called for the removal, censorship, or control over sexually explicit material. The "sex wars" resulted in the feminist movement being split into two opposing camps over questions about pornography, consent, sexual freedom, and the relationship of free speech to equality.

Anti-pornography ordinances authored by MacKinnon and Dworkin in the United States sought for harm against victims, in relation to pornography, to be made actionable. Soon afterwards, obscenity laws passed in Canada (1985), and books and materials that fell under the new definition of pornography were removed. The Canadian Supreme Court decision R. v. Butler (1992), which upheld these laws, drew heavily on MacKinnon's arguments that pornography is a form of sex discrimination. MacKinnon has written in support of this trend in Canadian anti-pornography law, though at the same time, holding that Canada should abandon traditional obscenity law entirely in favor of a civil rights approach. She has also distanced herself from the selective enforcement of Canadian obscenity law against gays and lesbians, holding that anti-pornography laws should make no distinction between gay and heterosexual pornography. See above, "International Work," for controversy surrounding MacKinnon's role in helping serial-killer Karla Homolka escape the full weight of justice.

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