The way a legal definition works is that someone who wants to use the law must prove that each part of it applies to their case. For example, anyone who wants to use the antipornography civil-rights law would have to prove first that whatever materials they want to attack are pornography, by proving that they fit this definition.
Pornography is the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words that also includes one or more of the following: (i) women are presented dehumanized as sexual objects, things or commodities; or (ii) women are presented as sexual objects who enjoy pain or humiliation; or (iii) women are presented as sexual objects who experience sexual pleasure in being raped; or (iv) women are presented as sexual objects tied up or cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt; or (v)women are presented in postures or positions of sexual submission, servility,or display; or (vi)women's body parts----including but not limited to vaginas, breasts, or buttocks----are exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts; or (vii) women are presented as whores by nature; or (viii) women are presented being penetrated by objects or animals; or (ix) woman are presented in scenarios of degradation, injury, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual.
The use of men, children, or transsexuals in the place of women in [the paragraph] above is also pornography.
Pornography is an industry. It exists in the world. No pornographer has any trouble knowing what to make. No distributor has any trouble knowing what to carry. No retailer has any trouble knowing what to order. No consumer has any trouble knowing what to buy. But before the Ordinance, the indefinability of pornography had become the key to its definition. Men had decided that the bottom line of pornography was that it was sexually arousing. Therefore, they were unwilling to have other men define it, or even to admit it could be defined, because that would be a step toward giving up what they like, which they were unwilling to do. Once the pornographic is synonymous with the sexually arousing, anything that is sexually arousing might be pornographic. But so many things produce that definite stirring between the legs, including the violence against women and violation of women and objectification of women in R-rated movies or Vogue magazine or Calvin Klein commercials or Yeats' "Leda and the Swan." So a definition of pornography with a core of meaning-far less one with limits that do not depend on whether the viewer is turned on or not-was pronounced intrinsically impossible.
The Ordinance adopts a simple if novel strategy for definition. It looks at the existing universe of the pornography industry and simply describes what is there, including what must be there for it to work in the way that it, and only it, works. It is true that pornography exists on a larger social continuum with other materials that objectify and demean women and set the stage for and reflect women's social devaluation. It is true that many materials (such as some religious works and sociobiology texts) express the same message as pornography and are vehicles for the same values. This does not mean either that pornography cannot be defined or that it does not operate in a distinctive way.
Pornography is not what pornography says. If it were, the Ordinance's definition of pornography would be itself pornography, because it says exactly what pornography is. In other words, the Ordinance does not restrict pornography on the basis of its message. The same message of sexualized misogyny pervades the culture-indeed, it does so more and more because pornography exists. But that does not make "Dallas" and "Dynasty" into pornography, however close they come. Indicators of the difference are that no one is coerced into performing for Calvin Klein commercials; no one is tied up in front of "The Secret Storm" and forced to enact its scenes later; no rapist or john we have heard of has read Masters and Johnson or Ulysses aloud to his victim and demanded she perform its contents. Nor are these materials peddled on New York City's 42nd Street by organized crime. These indicators are no substitute for a definition. But they do show that, in the world, a lot of people know the difference between pornography on the one hand and art, literature, mainstream media, advertisements, and sex education on the other. This remains the case even though all these materials are definitely part of a world that one might call pornographic in the political sense: a world in which women are visual objects for sexual use. Such materials are not pornography-and, frankly, everyone knows they are not. The definitional task is merely to capture in words something that is commonly known and acted upon but not already totally defined in the world. This is hardly a unique problem in legal definitions.
Basically, for pornography to work sexually with its major market, which is heterosexual men, it must excite the penis. From the evidence of the material itself, its common denominator is the use or abuse of a woman in an expressly sexual way. To accomplish its end, it must show sex and subordinate a woman at the same time. Other people are sometimes used in similar ways, sometimes in exactly the ways women are, but always exploiting their gender. This is the reason that the definition covers everyone regardless of sex, yet covers each person as a member of their sex: that is the way the pornographers use them.
Under the Ordinance, pornography is what pornography does. What it does is subordinate women, usually, through sexually explicit pictures and words. Of all pictures and words, only sexually explicit pictures and words enter into sexual experience to become part of sexual reality on the deep and formative level where rapes are subliminally fantasized, planned, and executed; where violence is made into a form of sex; where women are reduced to subhuman dimension to the point where they cannot be perceived as fully human. But not all sexually explicit pictures and words do this in the same way. For this reason, the Ordinance restricts it's definition only to those sexually explicit pictures and words that actually can be proven to subordinate women in their making or use. Too, many materials show women being subordinated, sometimes violently, including much mainstream media and feminist critique of violence against women. Some of this is sexually explicit, some is not. Not even all sexually explicit material that shows women being subordinated is itself a vehicle for the subordination of women; some of it, like the transcript of the Minneapolis hearings on pornography, expressly counters that subordination.
Subordination is an active practice of placing someone in an unequal position or in a position of loss of power. To be a subordinate is the opposite of being an equal. Prisoner/guard, teacher/student, boss/worker define subordinate relations. The simple notion on which the Ordinance is based, on account of which it has taken much criticism, is that man/woman not be such a relation, even though many people apparently cannot imagine sex any other way. Subordination is at the core of every systematic social inequality. It includes the practices that enforce second-class status. Subordination includes objectification, hierarchy, forced submission, and violence. Anyone who brought a case under the Ordinance would have to prove that the challenged materials actually subordinated women in their making or use in order to show that the materials were pornography. In other words, the fact that a legislature finds that pornography subordinates women enough to pass a law does not mean that all materials that someone might think are pornography are automatically illegal. It only gives women a chance to try to prove in court that specific materials are pornography because they actively subordinate women (and meet the other requirements), therefore fit the definition.
The definition is closed, concrete, and descriptive, not open-ended, conceptual, or moral. It takes the risk that all damaging materials might not be covered in order to try to avoid misuse of the law as much as possible. Some of the enumerated subparts specify presentations of women that show express violence; some focus on acts of submission, degradation, humiliation, and objectification that have been more difficult to see as violation because these acts are most distinctively done to women and called sex. Most of the public debate on the enumerated subparts revolves around defenses of materials that individuals enjoy and feel they can get away with defending in public. Few are willing to defend violent pornography in public, even though the nonviolent materials are also known to be harmful, if in different ways-for instance, in their use by rapists and child molesters, in increasing the acceptability of forced sex, and in diminishing men's vision of the desirability and possibility of sex equality. Ignoring these similarities, some would limit the definition of pornography to violent materials, saying pornography is violence but not sex. This is unrealistic because pornography practices violence as sex. It would be unrealistic to limit a definition of pornography to conventional coital sex, since the pornographers do not, and just as impractical to exonerate everything in pornography that someone feels to be sex. Everything in pornography is sex to someone, or it would not be there.
The Ordinance makes the society have to choose whether some woman-usually poor and without options and formerly abused if not overtly coerced or tricked into being there-must be used or abused in these ways and bought and sold by pimps so that some segment of the buying audience can have its sex life the way it wants it. This is essentially what is at stake in debates over which specific presentations of women should be included on the list. What is not at stake is which sexual acts one enjoys or practices or prefers or morally approves. Whatever one's moral judgments, the presentations in the definition are there because there is material evidence that they do harm, and the decision has been made that the harm they do to some people is not worth the sexual pleasure they give to other people-not because the people making the laws do not like these acts sexually or disapprove of them morally.
The Indianapolis definition is restricted to sexual violence. If violence occurs in the making or use of the material, the material itself need not show violence. But violence must be shown in the material itself for a trafficking claim to be made. The Indianapolis definition allows a victim of coercion or assault to sue if the materials-in addition to being graphic, sexually explicit, and subordinating to women-present women "as sexual objects for domination, conquest, violation, exploitation, possession, or use, or through postures or positions of submission, servility, or display." Often, individuals are coerced through violence into sexually explicit and subordinating performances, but the coercion itself is not shown in the film. Often the gun at the head is off stage. When it comes to the trafficking provision, however, this subpart of the definition provides the so-called "Playboy defense," meaning that the Indianapolis legislature wished to exempt from trafficking actions materials that, in its view, did not actually show violence. So, in this version of the Ordinance, materials that show women as sexual objects for domination, conquest, violation, exploitation, possession, or use, or through postures or positions of servility, submission, or display could be reached only by those who are coerced into them or assaulted because of them, but not by women generally.