Linguistic authority and convention in a speech act analysis of pornography

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (3):435 – 456 (2007)
Authors
Nellie Wieland
California State University, Long Beach
Abstract
Recently, several philosophers have recast feminist arguments against pornography in terms of Speech Act Theory. In particular, they have considered the ways in which the illocutionary force of pornographic speech serves to set the conventions of sexual discourse while simultaneously silencing the speech of women, especially during unwanted sexual encounters. Yet, this raises serious questions as to how pornographers could (i) be authorities in the language game of sex, and (ii) set the conventions for sexual discourse - questions which these speech act-theoretic arguments against pornography have thus far failed to adequately answer. I fill in this gap of the argumentation by demonstrating that there are fairly weak standards for who counts as an authority or convention-setter in sexual discourse. With this analysis of the underpinnings of a speech act analysis of pornography in mind, I discuss a range of possible objections. I conclude that (i) the endorsement of censorship by a speech act analysis of pornography competes with its commitment to the conventionality of speech acts, and, more damningly, that (ii), recasting anti-pornography arguments in terms of linguistic conventions risks an unwitting defence of a rapist's lack of mens rea - an intolerable result; and yet resisting this conclusion requires that one back away from the original claim to women's voices being 'silenced'.
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DOI 10.1080/00048400701572196
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References found in this work BETA

Meaning.Stephen Schiffer - 1972 - Oxford, Clarendon Press.
Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts.Rae Langton - 1993 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (4):293-330.
Free Speech and Illocution.Rae Langton & Jennifer Hornsby - 1998 - Legal Theory 4 (1):21-37.

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Citations of this work BETA

Saying and Doing: Speech Actions, Speech Acts and Related Events.Gruenberg Angela - 2014 - European Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):173-199.
Epistemic Injustice in Social Cognition.Wesley Buckwalter - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-15.
On Silencing, Rape, and Responsibility.Ishani Maitra & Mary Kate McGowan - 2010 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (1):167 – 172.

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