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The Ideological Obstacle: Charging Pornographers for Sexual Exploitation

Max Waltman

Stockholm University - Department of Political Science


Midwest Political Science Association Conference, Chicago IL, April 11-15, 2012

© Max Waltman 2012
Prostitution is a social practice where money is paid for sex. Social science research and other evidence suggest that the sex in pornography is generally supplied by persons who share similar unequal, exploitative, and coercive life circumstances as those who are prostituted generally share. Given that these conditions are similar, there appears to be little reason why the pornography industry should not be subjected to the same legal scrutiny as prostitution per se, as it could have extremely important implications for the population who are exploited in the sex industry. Thus, this paper inquires into the legal, political, and ideological obstacles to address the harmful exploitation of persons in the pornography industry by applying prostitution laws against pimps and other third parties to its production, finding that the obstacles to application are not legal but ideological and political.

The paper takes a political science approach to constitutional issues, laws, legislative and judicial politics, drawing from political theory by authors such as Kimberle Crenshaw (intersectionality), Iris Marion Young (groups and inequality), Jane Mansbridge (representation), Ian Shapiro (constitutional politics), Laurel Weldon and Mala Htun (social movements and inequality). Sweden is selected as a case study, having been the first jurisdiction (1999) in the world that identified prostitution as a form of sex inequality related to gender-based violence, with pimps and johns as central in the cycle of exploitation and abuse - a legal approach more consistent with empirical evidence than conventional approaches viewing prostitution per se as either a moral crime of indecency, or a non-exploitative and tolerable work. Some comparative discussions are entertained throughout, with references to Canada, the United States, and international law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 64

Keywords: pornography, prostitution, trafficking, gender-based violence, intersectionality, freedom of speech, democracy, equality, democratic theory, feminism, judicial politics, legislative politics, freedom of expression, violence against women

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Date posted: May 3, 2012 ; Last revised: July 20, 2012

Suggested Citation

Waltman, Max, The Ideological Obstacle: Charging Pornographers for Sexual Exploitation (2012). Midwest Political Science Association Conference, Chicago IL, April 11-15, 2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2050290 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2050290

Contact Information

Max Waltman (Contact Author)
Stockholm University - Department of Political Science ( email )
Stockholm, 106 91
+46 8 16 20 00 (Phone)
+46 8 15 25 29 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.statsvet.su.se/waltman
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