Date of Award

5-22-2016

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Kathleen Marchetti

Language

English

Abstract

This project originated with what I perceived to be a great inconsistency in American law today: why is it illegal to perform sex acts for money in 49 of the 50 states unless one records the sex act and distributes it as pornography? The literal answer is a very short one: pornography is speech, and the right to free speech occupies a privileged position in American law and politics. Pornography has inspired intense debates spanning the disciplines of feminist theory, constitutional law, and political science, and the First Amendment enters into all of them at some point or another. This paper will challenge the central role that the First Amendment plays in the discussions of pornography in America. I argue that pornography is not necessarily or even easily defined as speech, but rather has become linked with speech in the American political, legal, and social consciousness through a particular set of historical and social circumstances, which have caused our courts, politicians, and theorists to largely ignore the role that sex plays in pornography.