Visiting Speakers

Prof. Mary Kate McGowan, Wellesley College

Friday, April 20, 2012, 3:30 p.m., Dale Hall 107. Everyone is welcome!

On Silencing and Sincerity

Catharine MacKinnon claims that pornography silences women in a way that violates the right to free speech. This claim is, of course, controversial but, if it is correct, then the very free speech reasons for protecting pornography appear to also afford reason to restrict it. For this reason, it has gained considerable attention.

The claim that pornography silences women by violating women’s right to free speech is quite complex. In order to evaluate this silencing claim, several components of the claim must be distinguished and further clarified. First, the phenomenon of silencing must be defined. Second, the alleged connection between silencing and the free speech right requires both clarification and defense. Third, the alleged connection between silencing and pornography (or types of pornography) must be identified.

This paper contributes to each of these three components. First, a new type of silencing, sincerity silencing, is here identified. Second, it is shown that sincerity silencing is plausibly regarded as a free speech violation. Third, several different ways that pornography (or its consumption) might plausibly bring about silencing are identified.