What can philosophy contribute to ‘education to address pornography's influence’?

Aidan McGlynn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Responses to the pernicious influences of mainstream pornography on its viewers fall into two main sorts: regulation and education. Pornography has long been a core topic in analytic feminist philosophy, but it has largely focused on issues around regulation, in particular with trying to undermine arguments against regulation on the grounds that pornography should count as protected speech. Here I instead look at some ways that philosophy can contribute to an education-based approach, in particular to what has been called an ‘education to address pornography's influence’. I first argue that philosophical considerations can help to motivate this kind of overall approach to countering pornography's influence, but the main contribution of the paper is to contend that such considerations can also contribute to shaping the kind of content and messaging that such an education should have. I discuss two related issues, focusing on pornographic films. The first concerns the status of pornographic films as fiction; it is misleading and unhelpful to tell teenagers and young adults that pornography is ‘just fiction’, as is sometimes proposed, but it is not clear what more effective and accurate message might be offered instead. The second concerns the ways that pornographic films often present the people (and in particular the women) who perform in them as ideals or archetypes when it comes to what kinds of sexual acts people typically choose and enjoy, which I argue is a neglected form of objectification. I briefly evaluate some suggestive examples of proposed messaging, targeted at teens and young adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)774-786
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Issue number5
Early online date17 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • fiction
  • objectification
  • porn literacy
  • pornography
  • sex education


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