Millian Liberalism and Extreme Pornography

My article, just published online by the American Journal of Political Science, argues that the ‘extreme pornography’ ban violates liberal tenets of free expression and privacy. I draw a parallel between what we might call a ‘traditional’ Millian defence of liberal rights and contemporary queer accounts of the value of transgressive sexually explicit expression:

A Millian anticensorship position stands not on affirming rights in the abstract, but on critical observations of what happens when governments censor. In the case of pornography, regulation addressing “cultural harm” leads authorities to punish arbitrarily members of sexual minority groups for the crimes and social problems of the rest of the community. Moreover, far from being valueless, queer feminist accounts of pornography, even extreme pornography, acknowledge its role in education and self-development, including the affirmation of alternative sexual identities. These accounts suggest that Millian defenses of free expression are applicable to sexually explicit expression. The anticensorship position does not affirm unlimited rights to free expression, but proposes boundaries that rule out certain kinds of state intervention, including the ban on extreme pornography as presently constituted.

The article discusses a key case – that of Simon Walsh who was successfully defended by Backlash’s legal adviser, Myles Jackman.

The full article is available here.