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So you will find in pornography women penetrating themselves with swords or daggers, and you will see the smile. You will see things that cannot be done to a human being and that are done to men only in political circumstances of torture, and you will see a woman forced to smile.
And this smile will be believed, and the injury to her as a human being, to her body and to her heart and to her soul, will not be believed.
Now, we have been told that we have an argument here about speech, not about women being hurt. And yet the emblem of that argument is a woman bound and gagged and we are supposed to believe that that is speech. Who is that speech for? We have women being tortured and we are told that that is somebody's speech? Whose speech is it? It's the speech of a pimp, it is not the speech of a woman. The only words we hear in pornography from women are that women want to be hurt, ask to be hurt, like to be raped, get sexual pleasure from sexual violence; and even when a woman is covered in filth, we are supposed to believe that her speech is that she likes it and she wants more of it.
The reality for women in this society is that pornography creates silence for women. The pornographers silence women. Our bodies are their language. Their speech is made out of our exploitation, our subservience, our injury and our pain, and they can't say anything without hurting us, and when you protect them, you protect only their right to exploit and hurt us.
Pornography is a civil rights issue for women because pornography sexualizes inequality, because it turns women into subhuman creatures.
Pornography is a civil rights issue for women because it is the systematic exploitation of a group of people because of a condition of birth. Pornography creates bigotry and hostility and aggression towards all women, targets all women, without exception.
Pornography is the suppression of us through sexual exploitation and abuse, so that we have no real means to achieve civil equality; and the issue here is simple, it is not complex. People are being hurt, and you can help them or you can help those who are hurting them. We need civil rights legislation, legislation that recognizes pornography as a violation of the civil rights of women.
We need it because civil rights legislation recognizes the fact that the harm here is to human beings. We need that recognition. We need civil rights legislation because it puts the power to act in the hands of the people who have been forced into pornographized powerlessness, and that's a special kind of powerlessness, that's a powerlessness that is supposed to be a form of sexual pleasure.
We need civil rights legislation because only those to whom it has happened know what has happened. They are the people who are the experts. They have the knowledge. They know what has happened, how it's happened; only they can really articulate, from beginning to end, the reality of pornography as a human rights injury. We need civil rights legislation because it gives us something back after what the pornographers have taken from us.
The motivation to fight back keeps people alive. People need it for their dignity, for their ability to continue to exist as citizens in a country that needs their creativity and needs their presence and needs the existence that has been taken from them by the pornographers. We need civil rights legislation because, as social policy, it says to a population of people that they have human worth, they have human worth, that this society recognizes that they have human worth.
We need it because it's the only legislative remedy thus far that is drawn narrowly enough to confront the human rights issues for people who are being exploited and discriminated against, without becoming an instrument of police power to suppress real expression.
We need the civil rights legislation because the process of civil discovery is a very important one, and it will give us a great deal of information for potential criminal prosecutions, against organized crime, against pornographers, and I ask you to look at the example of the Southern Poverty Law Center and their Klanwatch Project, which has used civil suits to get criminal indictments against the Klan.
Finally, we need civil rights legislation because the only really dirty word in this society is the word "women," and a civil rights approach says that this society repudiates the brutalization of women.
We are against obscenity laws. We don't want them. I want you to understand why, whether you end up agreeing or not.
Number one, the pornographers use obscenity laws as part of their formula for making pornography. All they need to do is to provide some literary, artistic, political or scientific value and they can hang women from the rafters. As long as they manage to meet that formula, it doesn't matter what they do to women.
And in the old days, when obscenity laws were still being enforced, in many places—for instance the most sadomasochistic pornography—the genitals were always covered because if the genitals were always covered, that wouldn't kick off a police prosecution.
Number two, the use of the prurient interest standard—however that standard is construed in this new era, when the Supreme Court has taken two synonyms, "lasciviousness" and "lust," and said that they mean different things, which is mind-boggling in and of itself. Whatever prurient interest is construed to mean, the reaction of jurors to material—whether they are supposed to be aroused or whether they are not allowed to be aroused, whatever the instructions of the court—has nothing to do with the objective reality of what is happening to women in pornography.
The third reason that obscenity law cannot work for us is: what do community standards mean in a society when violence against women is pandemic, when according to the FBI a woman is battered every eighteen seconds and it's the most commonly committed violent crime in the country? What would community standards have meant in the segregated South? What would community standards have meant as we approached the atrocity of Nazi Germany? What are community standards in a society where women are persecuted for being women and pornography is a form of political persecution?
Obscenity laws are also woman-hating in their construction. Their basic presumption is that it's women's bodies that are dirty. The standards of obscenity law don't acknowledge the reality of the technology. They were drawn up in a society where obscenity was construed to be essentially writing and drawing; and now what we have is mass production in a way that real people are being hurt, and the consumption of real people by a real technology, and obscenity laws are not adequate to that reality.
Finally, obscenity laws, at the discretion of police and prosecutors, will keep obscenity out of the public view, but it remains available to men in private. It remains available to individual men, it remains available to all-male groups; and whenever it is used, it still creates bigotry, hostility and aggression towards all women. It's still used in sexual abuse as part of sexual abuse. It's still made through coercion, through blackmail and through exploitation.
I am going to ask you to do several things. The first thing I am going to ask you to do is listen to women who want to talk to you about what has happened to them. Please listen to them. They know, they know how this works. You are asking people to speculate; they know, it has happened to them.
I am going to ask you to make these recommendations. The first recommendation I would like you to make is to have the Justice Department instruct law-enforcement agencies to keep records of the use of pornography in violent crimes, especially in rape and battery, in incest and child abuse, in murder, including sexual assault after death, to take note of those murders that are committed for sexual reasons. They should keep track, for instance, of suicides of teenage boys, and the place of pornography in those suicides. They should keep track of both the use of pornography before and during the commission of a violent crime and the presence of pornography at a violent crime.
I want to say that a lot of the information that we have about this, what we are calling a correlation, doesn't come from law enforcement officials; it comes from the testimony of sex offenders. That's how we know that pornography is meaningful in the commission of sexual offenses. Have the FBI report that information in the Uniform Crime Reports, so that we begin to get some real standard here.
Number two, get pornography out of all prisons. It's like sending dynamite to terrorists. Those people have committed violent crimes against women. They consume pornography. They come back out on the street. The recidivism rate is unbelievable, not to mention that prison is a rape-saturated society. What about the rights of those men who are being raped in prisons, and the relationship of pornography to the rapes of them?
No one should be sentenced to a life of hell being raped in a prison. You can do something about it by getting the pornography out of prisons.
Number three, enforce laws against pimping and pandering against pornographers. Pandering is paying for sex to make pornography of it. A panderer is any person who procures another person for the purposes of prostitution. This law has been enforced against pornographers in California. Prosecute the makers of pornography under pimping and pandering laws.
Number four, make it a Justice Department priority to enforce RICO [the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] against the pornography industry. Racketeering activity means, as you know, any act or even a threat involving murder, kidnapping, extortion, any trafficking in coerced women—which for reasons that are incomprehensible to me is still called white slaving, although the women are Asian, the women are black, all kinds of women are still being trafficked in this way. This is how pornographers do their business, both in relation to women and in relation to distributing their product.
RICO, if it were enforced against the industry, could do a great deal toward breaking the industry up.
Number five, please recommend that federal civil rights legislation recognizing pornography as a virulent and vicious form of sex discrimination be passed, that it be a civil law. It can be a separate act or it can be amended as a separate title under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. We want the equal protection principle of the Fourteenth Amendment to apply to women. This is the way to do it. We want a definition of pornography that is based on the reality of pornography, which is that it is the act of sexual subordination of women. The causes of action need to include trafficking, coercion, forcing pornography on a person, and assault or physical injury due to a specific piece of pornography.
I also want to ask you to consider, to consider, creating a criminal conspiracy provision under the civil rights law, such that conspiring to deprive a person of their civil rights by coercing them into pornography is a crime, and that conspiring to traffic in pornography is conspiring to deprive women of our civil rights.
Finally, I would like to ask you to think about pornography in the context of international law. We have claims to make. Women have claims to make under international law. Pornographers violate the rights of women under internationally recognized principles of law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person, that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, that everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
It also says that no one shall be held in slavery or servitude, that slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms, and in international law the trafficking in women has long been recognized as a form of slave trading.
President Carter signed, and I am asking you to recommend that Congress ratify, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which includes the following article, article 6. "State Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation and prostitution of women." That gives the United States Government an affirmative obligation to act against the traffic in women. This is an international problem and it requires in part an international solution.
I am also asking you to acknowledge the international reality of this—this is a human rights issue—for a very personal reason, which is that my grandparents came here, Jews fleeing from Russia, Jews fleeing from Hungary. Those who did not come to this country were all killed, either in pogroms or by the Nazis. They came here for me. I live here, and I live in a country where women are tortured as a form of public entertainment and for profit, and that torture is upheld as a state-protected right. Now, that is unbearable.
I am here asking the simplest thing. I am saying hurt people need remedies, not platitudes, not laws that you know already don't work; people excluded from constitutional protections need equality. People silenced by exploitation and brutality need real speech, not to be told that when they are hung from meat hooks, that is their speech. Nobody in this country who has been working to do anything about pornography, no woman who has spoken out against it, is going to go backwards, is going to forget what she has learned, is going to forget that she has rights that aren't being acknowledged in this country. And there are lots of people in this country, I am happy to say, who want to live in a kind world, not a cruel world, and they will not accept the hatred of women as good, wholesome, American fun; they won't accept the hatred of women and the rape of women as anybody's idea of freedom. They won't accept the torture of women as a civil liberty.
I am asking you to help the exploited, not the exploiters. You have a tremendous opportunity here. I am asking you as individuals to have the courage, because I think it's what you will need, to actually be willing yourselves to go and cut that woman down and untie her hands and take the gag out of her mouth, and to do something, to risk something, for her freedom.
Thank you very much for listening to me. I am going to submit into evidence a copy of Linda Marchiano's book Ordeal, which I understand you have not seen. She testified before you yesterday. I ask you, when you come to make your recommendations, think of her. The only thing atypical about Linda is that she has had the courage to make a public fight against what has happened to her.
And whatever you come up with, it has to help her or it's not going to help anyone. Thank you very much.
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