When legislatures pass a law, they often tell courts what they have learned and decided and why they are concerned about the subject. Hearings, constituent letters, and documents usually substantiate these conclusions of fact and statements of intent, called "findings." Findings provide the factual basis for a law; they show the need and grounds for it. They also communicate to the courts that will apply it what the legislature saw and wanted, and the spirit in which the law is to be interpreted. Courts, as a result, often look at findings to see what the legislature was trying to accomplish, taking findings as authoritative evidence of legislative intent. Here are findings similar to those passed by the Minneapolis and Indianapolis city councils: *
Pornography is a systematic practice of exploitation and subordination based on sex that differentially harms women. The harm of pornography includes dehumanization, sexual exploitation, forced sex, forced prostitution, physical injury, and social and sexual terrorism and inferiority presented as entertainment. The bigotry and contempt pornography promotes, with the acts of aggression it fosters, diminish opportunities for equality of rights in employment, education, property, public accommodations, and public services; create public and private harassment, persecution, and denigration; expose individuals who appear in pornography against their will to contempt, ridicule, hatred, humiliation, and embarrassment and target such women in particular for abuse and physical aggression; demean the reputations and diminish the occupational opportunities of individuals and groups on the basis of sex; promote injury and degradation such as rape, battery, child sexual abuse, and prostitution and inhibit just enforcement of laws against these acts; contribute significantly to restricting women in particular from full exercise of citizenship and participation in public life, including in neighborhoods; damage relations between the sexes; and undermine women's equal exercise of rights to speech and action guaranteed to all citizens under the Constitutions and laws of the United States and [place].
In Minneapolis, where the Ordinance was first introduced in late 1983, the City Council held public hearings to inquire into the effects of pornography and to provide the basis for a civil-rights law against it. Based on these hearings, and expanded and reconfirmed through the efforts of people in many communities, the Ordinance's findings outline a range of harms from the individual and intimate to the social and anonymous. In the hearings, women and men spoke in public for the first time in the history of the world about the devastating impact pornography has had on their lives. They spoke of being coerced into sex so that pornography could be made of it. They spoke of pornography being forced on them in ways that gave them no choice about seeing the pornography or later performing the sex. They spoke of rapes patterned on specific pornography that was read to them during the rape, repeated like a mantra throughout the rape; they spoke of being turned over as the pages were turned over. They spoke of the sexual harassment of living or working in neighborhoods or job sites saturated with pornography. A young man spoke of growing up gay, learning from heterosexual pornography that to be loved by a man meant to accept his violence, and as a result accepting the destructive brutality of his first male lover. Another young man spoke of his struggle to reject the thrill of sexual dominance he learned from pornography and to find a way of loving a woman that was not part of it. A young woman spoke of her father using pornography on her mother, and using it to keep her quiet about her mother's screams at night, threatening to enact the scenes on the daughter as well if she told anyone. Another young woman spoke of the escalating use of pornography in her marriage, unraveling her self-respect, her belief in her future, the possibility of intimacy, and her physical integrity-and of finding the strength to leave. Another young woman spoke of being gang-raped by hunters who looked up from their pornography at her and said it all: "There's a live one." Many spoke of self-revulsion, of the erosion of intimacy, of unbearable indignity, of shattered self, of shame, and also of anger and anguish and outrage and despair at living in a country in which their torture is enjoyed and their screams are only heard as the "speech" of their abusers.
Therapists spoke of battered women tied in front of video sets and forced to watch, then participate in, acts of sexual brutality. Former prostitutes spoke of being made to watch pornography and then duplicate the acts exactly, often starting as children. Psychologists who worked with survivors of incest spoke of sexual tortures with dogs and electric shocks involving the consumption of pornography. One study documented more rapes in which pornography was specifically implicated than the total number of rapes that were reported at the time in the city in which the study was done. Correlations showed increases in the rate of reported rape with increases in the consumption figures of major men's entertainment magazines. Laboratory studies showed that pornography portraying sexual aggression as pleasurable for the victim (as so much pornography does) increases the acceptance of the use of coercion in sexual relations; that acceptance of coercive sexuality appears related to sexual aggression; that exposure to violent pornography increases men's punishing behavior toward women in the laboratory. It increases men's perceptions that women want rape and are uninjured by rape. It increases their view that women are worthless, trivial, non-human, objectlike, and unequal to men.
No one claimed that these things never happen without pornography. They said that sometimes it was because of pornography that these things happened. No one claimed that these are the only things that happen because of pornography. They said only that no matter what else happens, this does. The Ordinance was written, as the pornography and it's defenses have been, in the blood and the tears of these women and men, in the language of their violated childhoods and stolen possibilities. The Ordinance, unlike the pornography and it's defenses, was written in the speech of what has been their silence.