Causes of Action

Causes of Action

People hurt other people in many ways that are not against the law. To have a "cause of action" means that there is a law against what happened, so one can sue. The victims do not have to first fight about whether they are permitted to sue or not, the way women now, without the Ordinance, have to fight when they want to stop being hurt by pornography. With a cause of action, one only has to prove that what the law provides for has happened to you. The Ordinance provides five such possibilities for suit: for coercion into pornography, for having pornography forced on you, for being assaulted because of particular pornography, for defamation through pornography, and for trafficking in pornography.


Coercion into pornography: It shall be sex discrimination to coerce, intimidate, or fraudulently induce (hereafter, "coerce") any person, including transsexual, into performing for pornography, which injury may date from any appearance or sale of any product(s) of such performance(s). The maker(s), seller(s), exhibitor(s), and/or distributor(s) of said pornography may be sued for damages and for an injunction, including to eliminate the product(s) of the performance(s) from the public view.

None of the following facts shall, without more, negate a finding of coercion: (i) the person is a woman; or (ii) the person is or has been a prostitute; or (iii) the person has attained the age of majority; or (iv) the person is connected by blood or marriage to anyone involved in or related to the making of the pornography; or (v) the person has previously had, or been thought to have had, sexual relations with anyone, including anyone involved in or related to the making of the pornography; or (vi) the person has previously posed for sexually explicit pictures with or for anyone, including anyone involved in or related to the pornography at issue; or (vii) anyone else, including a spouse or other relative, has given or purported to give permission on the person's behalf; or (viii) the person actually consented to a use of a performance that is later changed into pornography; or (ix) the person knew that the purpose of the acts or events in question was to make pornography; or (x) the person showed no resistance or appeared to cooperate actively in the photographic sessions or in the events that produced the pornography; or (xi) the person signed a contract, or made statements affirming a willingness to cooperate in the production of pornography; or (xii) no physical force, threats, or weapons were used in the making of the pornography; or (xiii) the person was paid or otherwise compensated.

The first victims of pornography are those in it. Pornography indelibly makes those it uses into its presentation of them, so that no matter who they are or what they say about how they really felt, to those who have seen them in pornography, they are pornography for life. Pornography is not like other forms of acting or modeling. The viewers have a sexual stake in believing that the women in pornography are not models or actors but truly feel and want what the script calls for. That they are having a wonderful time seems essential to the sexual pleasure of the largest segment of the audience, although for many it is pleasurable to believe that the woman is being forced. Either way, the consumer believes that the woman in the material belongs there, that she is fulfilled in her nature by the acts performed on her. This is the bedrock to the scepticism that women are coerced into pornography.

Pornographers promote an image of free consent because it is good for business. But most women in pornography are poor, were sexually abused as children, and have reached the end of this society's options for them, options that were biased against them as women in the first place. This alone does not make them coerced for purposes of the Ordinance; but the fact that some women may "choose" pornography from a stacked deck of life pursuits (if you call a loaded choice a choice, like the "choice" of those with brown skin to pick cabbages or the "choice" of those with black skin to clean toilets) and the fact that some women in pornography say they made a free choice do not mean that women who are coerced into pornography are not coerced. Pimps roam bus stations to entrap young girls who left incestuous homes thinking nothing could be worse. Pornographers advertise for lingerie or art or acting models they then bind, assault, and photograph, demanding a smile as the price for sparing their life. Men roam the highways with penises and cameras in hand, raping women with both at once. Husbands force their wives to pose as part of coerced sex, often enforced by threats to the lives of their children. Women are abducted by pimps from shopping centers and streets at random, sometimes never to return. Young women are tricked or pressured into posing for boyfriends and told that the pictures are just "for us," only to find themselves in this month's Hustler.

Girls are enticed into posing for the photographer next door, confused at their feelings of uncomfortableness, shame, and affirmation. He makes them feel beautiful, with his approval, admiration, solicitude, presents, molestation. Fathers sell pictures of sex acts with their own children to international pornography rings. Aspiring actresses and models are fraudulently induced into posing for nude or seminude shots, told the genitals will not show or it will be a silhouette or they will not be recognized-until they see themselves fully exposed and fully identified in Penthouse. Or they are told it will be their ticket to the top, only to find that most legitimate avenues are then closed to them because they appeared nude, so it is their ticket to the bottom. Until women are socially equal to men, it will be impossible to know whether any women are in pornography freely. And until women can bring an effective action for coercion into pornography, and get the product of their abuse off the market, it will be impossible even to begin to know how many of them are coerced.

Law has an elaborate tradition of reasons for believing that women lie about sexual force, reasons that duplicate pornography's view of women. The Ordinance's list of conditions that do not alone mean a woman is not coerced is a summary of these reasons. One or several of these facts-for example, that the woman signed a contract-may, with other circumstances, lead a trier of fact (a judge or a jury) to believe that she was not coerced. But the simple fact that a contract was signed may not mean that the woman was not coerced. If a woman can be coerced into having sex with a dog, she can be coerced into signing a contract. The point of this provision in the Ordinance is to prevent the mere fact of, say, a contract existing from being used to preclude inquiry into the coercion that may have produced it. This list is also intended to sensitize courts to the kinds of facts routinely used to undermine women's credibility.


Trafficking in pornography: It shall be sex discrimination to produce, sell, exhibit, or distribute pornography, including through private clubs.

(i) City, state, and federally funded public libraries or private and public university and college libraries in which pornography is available for study, including on open shelves but excluding special display presentations, shall not be construed to be trafficking in pornography.

(ii) Isolated passages or isolated parts shall not be actionable under this section.

(iii) Any woman may file a complaint hereunder as a woman acting against the subordination of women.

Any man, child, or transsexual who alleges injury by pornography in the way women are injured by it may also file a complaint.

The trafficking provision makes it possible for any woman to bring a complaint against pornographers for subordinating women. It is not necessary for an individual woman to show that she has been harmed more than all other women have by pornography. It is definitely necessary for her to prove that the materials meet the definition of pornography, for which it is necessary to prove that they do the harm of subordinating women. A trafficking complaint would provide the opportunity for women to attempt to prove to the satisfaction of a trier of fact that there is a direct connection between the pornography and harm to women as a class. Such harm could include being targeted for rape, sexual harassment, battery, sexual abuse as children, and forced prostitution. It would include the harm of being seen and treated as a sexual thing rather than as a human being-the harm of second-class citizenship on the basis of gender. Sources of proof would be the same as those used as the factual basis for passing the Ordinance: the testimony of direct victims and other authorities and the materials themselves. The argument would be that pornography demonstrably makes women's lives dangerous and second class, that pornography sets the standard for the way any woman can be treated, that so long as it is protected women will not be. So long as it can be done, it will continue to be done-to a woman. Which woman is only a matter of roulette.

Women in pornography are bound, battered, tortured, harassed, raped, and sometimes killed. Or, in the glossy men's entertainment magazines, they are "merely" humiliated, molested, objectified, and used. In all pornography, they are prostituted. This is done because it means sexual pleasure to pornography's consumers and profits to its providers. But to the women and children who are exploited through its making or use, it means being bound, battered, tortured, harassed, raped, and sometimes killed, or merely humiliated, molested, objectified, and used, because someone who has more power than they do, someone who matters, someone with rights, a full human being and a full citizen, gets pleasure from seeing it, or doing it, or seeing it as a form of doing it. In a case under the Ordinance, it could be shown at trial that in the hundreds and hundreds of magazines and pictures and films and videocassettes and so-called books now available in outlets from adult stores to corner groceries, women's legs are splayed in postures of sexual submission, display, and access. We are named after men's insults to parts of our bodies and mated with animals. We are hung like meat. Children are presented as adult women; adult women are presented as children, fusing the vulnerability of a child with the sluttish eagerness to be fucked said to be natural to the female of every age. Racial hatred is sexualized by making every racial stereotype into a sexual fetish. Asian women are presented so passive they cannot be said to be alive, bound so they are not recognizably human, hanging from trees and light fixtures and clothes hooks in closets. Black women are presented as animalistic bitches, bruised and bleeding, struggling against their bonds. Jewish women orgasm in re-enactments of death-camp tortures. In so-called lesbian pornography, women do what men imagine women do when men are not around, so men can watch. Pregnant women and nursing mothers, amputees and other disabled or ill women and retarded girls are used for sexual excitement. In some pornography called "snuff," women or children are tortured to death, murdered, to make a sex film.

Through its production, pornography is a traffic in female sexual slavery. Through its consumption, pornography further institutionalizes a subhuman, victimized, second-class status for women by conditioning orgasm to sex inequality. When men use pornography, they experience in their bodies that one-sided sex-sex between a person and a thing-is sex, that sexual use is sex, sexual abuse is sex, sexual domination is sex. This is the sexuality they then demand, practice, and purchase. Pornography makes sexism sexy. It is a major way that gender hierarchy is enjoyed and practiced. Pornography is a sacred, secret codebook that has both obscured and determined women's lives. There laid bare is misogyny's cold heart: sexual violation enjoyed, power and powerlessness as sex. Pornography links sexual use and abuse with gender inequality by equating them: the inequality between women and men is both what is sexy about pornography and what is sex discriminatory about it.

In the hearings in Minneapolis, the harm of pornography was extensively documented in proceedings one observer, a member of the city's Civil Rights Commission, likened to the Nuremberg trials. Researchers and clinicians documented what women know from life: pornography increases attitudes and behaviors of aggression and other discrimination by men against women. Women testified that pornography was used to break their self-esteem, to train them to sexual submission, to season them to forced sex, to intimidate them out of job opportunities, to blackmail them into prostitution and keep them there, to terrorize and humiliate them into sexual compliance, and to silence their dissent. They told how it takes coercion to make pornography, how pornography is forced on women and children in ways that give them no choice about viewing the pornography or performing the sex. They told how pornography stimulates and condones rape, battery, sexual harassment, sexual abuse of children, and forced prostitution. We learned from the testimony that the more pornography men see, the more abusive and violent they want it to be; the more abusive and violent it becomes, the more they enjoy it, the more abusive and violent they become, and the less harm they see in it. In other words, pornography's consumers become unable to see its harm because they are enjoying it sexually. Men often think that they use pornography but do not do these things. But the evidence makes clear that pornography makes it impossible for them to tell when sex is forced, that women are human, and that rape is rape. Evidence of a direct correlation between the rate of reported rape and consumption figures of major men's-entertainment magazines supports this. Pornography makes men hostile and aggressive toward women, and it makes women silent. Anyone who does not believe this should speak out against pornography in public some time.

Pornography also engenders sex discrimination. By making a public spectacle and a public celebration of the worthlessness of women, by valuing women as sluts, by defining women according to our availability for sexual use, pornography makes all women's social worthlessness into a public standard. Do you think such a being is likely to become Chairman of the Board? Vice President of the United States? Would you hire a "cunt" to represent you? Perform surgery on you? Run your university? Edit your broadcast? Would you promote one above a man? Pornography's consumers make decisions every day over women's employment and educational opportunities. They decide how women will be hired, advanced, what we are worth being paid, what our grades are, whether to give us credit, whether to publish our work. They also decide whether or not to sexually harass us, and whether other pornography consumers have sexually harassed us when we say they have. They raise and teach our children and man our police forces and speak from our pulpits and write our news and our songs and our laws, telling us what women are and what girls can be. Pornography is their Dr. Spock, their Bible, their Constitution. It is so basic it is a habit, their standard for what they "know" without knowing they know it. It simply makes up how they see the world, a world in which women, in order to be treated as equals, must try to convince them that we are exceptions among women, that is, that we, although female, are just as human as they are. In creating pervasive and invisible bigotry, in addition to constituting sex discrimination in itself, pornography is utterly inconsistent with any real progress toward sex equality for women.

Although the social position of men, children, and transsexuals is not absolutely defined by pornography in the way women's is, they are often used in pornography in ways similar to the ways women are used. The Ordinance makes it possible for them to sue. The Ordinance also permits civil suits against the use of children in pornography. Specific subgroups of men, particularly gay men and Black men, would also have strong potential cases. For both, their civil status is made lower by their sexualization in pornography and in society. For both, one can see a direct relation between their use in pornography and their low social status. Gay men are often used literally in the same ways women are in pornography; their status being lowered to that of a woman is part of the sex. Abuse of gay men is also eroticized in pornography, promoting self-hatred of an oppressed group as its pleasure and identity. Black men in heterosexual pornography are presented through the same sexual stereotypes that have pervaded the racist use of the rape charge and that have arguably increased the likelihood that Blacks will receive the death penalty when they commit a crime against a white. Pornography sexualizes racism against them. Black men are reduced to the racist view of their sex: the outsized rapist penis, the color of the colonized and the chain gang. They are animalized, huge and promiscuous and amoral and out of control. Black men are also shown in chains, in sexualized slavery. The connection between violence against such men in pornography and violence against them in the world has not yet been fully documented, but would be possible to attempt under the Ordinance.


Forcing pornography on a person: It shall be sex discrimination to force pornography on a person, including child or transsexual, in any place of employment, education, home, or public place. Only the perpetrator of the force or institution responsible for the force may be sued.

Pornography conditions the working environment of countless offices, construction sites, shipyards, hospitals, and homes. It pervades hierarchical arrangements. Doctors use it on patients in therapy or in gynecologists' offices; men use it on wives and children in homes; teachers use it on students in schools; males use it on females in factories, nursing homes, day-care centers, everywhere. Sometimes the pornography is "just there," but escape is impossible short of being deprived of a job or a class. As is sometimes recognized in cases of sexual harassment, being deprived of a setting you have a right to be in can be a form of force in itself. Other times pornography is overtly forced on victims by physical or psychological terrorism. The Ordinance is designed to make possible suits against those who force pornography on others, but not against the pornographers themselves.


Assault or physical attack due to pornography: It shall be sex discrimination to assault, physically attack, or injure any person, child or transsexual, in away that is directly caused by specific pornography. Complaint(s)may be made against the perpetrator of the assault or attack and/or against the maker(s), distributor(s), seller(s), and/or exhibitor(s) of the specific pornography.

The debate over the relationship between pornography and violence against women has been haunted by a specter of absurdity: the man who rapes with a pornographic book in his back pocket. As it turns out, these specters are real. The assault section of the Ordinance does not resolve the debate on the relationship between pornography and rape. It does make it possible for an individual woman to sue a man who rapes her with a pornographic book in his back pocket-- and it's maker, distributor, and seller too. It gives her a chance to try to prove that there is a direct casual relationship between an act violence against her and a specific piece of pornography.

Sometimes men rape or maim women sexually while telling them they know they like it because they saw women like them in pornography like it. Sometimes they bring the pornography and force women to open their legs, position their arms, adjust their facial expressions, and say the exact words from the pornography. Sometimes they use specific pornography to decide what "type"of woman to rape, to get themselves ready for rape, to reduce their inhibitions to rape. Sometimes young boys murder themselves accidentally by strangulation because they are engaging in sexual play promoted in pornography. Under this provision, no one could sue pornographers for the general contribution pornography makes to a rape culture, a culture that equates sex with death. Specific pornographers could, however, be sued in an attempt to prove causal contribution of specific pornography to the specific physical injury. Claims under this section would be very difficult to prove, but anyone who could prove causality by the standard should be able to keep the same pornography from causing other injuries, as well as receive damages.


Defamation through pornography: It shall be sex discrimination to defame any person through the unauthorized use in pornography of their proper name, image, or recognizable personal likeness. For purposes of this section, public figures shall be treated as private persons. Authorization once given can be revoked in writing at any time prior to any publication.

Some pornography simply turns individual women into pornography against their will, sexualizes them. A favorite tactic of the pornographers is to reduce specific women who are in the public eye to "cunt." Whatever else a woman may have accomplished, whoever else she may be, particularly if she is successful, self-respecting, and/or feminist, she can be sold to any man for his personal sexual access and use for the price of a monthly magazine. This practice is particularly common in the case of prominent movie stars, many of whom had to do nude modeling for some part of their life, and prominent feminists, especially those who oppose pornography, whose heads are cut and spliced onto other women's bodies and genitals, or who are viciously caricatured in pornographic cartoons.

All pornography defames women as a class by devaluing them in the eyes of those who consume the material. It links women's reputation and women's sexuality by degrading both, and thus limits the possibilities for individual women. But some pornography goes further against specific individuals by undermining their individual reputations and destroying their standing in the community and their work possibilities. Defamation through pornography is a form of public rape that multiplies humiliation as it broadcasts it, takes away a woman's integrity, violates her personal boundaries, shatters her own self-respect in the mirror of the world around her, making an image of her that she walks into irrevocably whenever she walks down the street, suffocating her in her own bed at night. It undermines her authority. By lowering the floor for acceptable treatment of her, it makes possible virtually anything to be said about her and targets her for physical abuse as well. Those who are singled out for this exemplary form of public hanging are selected because they are women who are visibly self-possessed, effective, articulate, successful, feminist, or beautiful in a way the pornographers must defile, use, own, steal, sell.

* This provision was not proposed or included in either the Minneapolis or the Indianapolis Ordinance.RETURN