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Pornography, Pragmatism and Proscription

McGlynn, Clare; Ward, Ian

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Ian Ward


The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 criminalizes the possession of extreme pornography, namely, images of bestiality, necrophilia, and life-threatening or serious violence, and is the immediate context for this article which seeks to present a pragmatic liberal humanist critique of pornography regulation. Such a critique, derived in particular from the writings of Nussbaum and Rorty, presents an alternative case for regulation, eschewing the visceral competing fundamentalisms which characterized the ‘porn wars’ of the 1980s and 1990s. Whilst moral and epistemological philosophers squabble with radical feminists and radical libertarians, extreme pornography can nurture real injustice and ruin real lives. A pragmatic liberal humanism demands a pragmatic response to extreme pornography. The first part of this article will revisit the longer history of the ‘porn wars’; the second describes the parameters of a pragmatic liberal humanist critique; the third examines the shorter history of pornography regulation written into the provisions now enacted in the 2008 Act.


McGlynn, C., & Ward, I. (2009). Pornography, Pragmatism and Proscription. Journal of Law and Society, 36(3), 327-351.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 1, 2009
Deposit Date Mar 24, 2011
Publicly Available Date Apr 15, 2011
Journal Journal of Law and Society
Print ISSN 0263-323X
Electronic ISSN 1467-6478
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 3
Pages 327-351


Accepted Journal Article (420 Kb)

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