In 1994, a male University of Michigan student posted a sexually explicit short story to alt.sex.stories, a widely-read USENET newsgroup. (While USENET hosts are technically neither a subset nor a superset of the Internet, it, like the Internet, is a decentralized computer network, and the vast majority of its traffic passes over the Internet.) It is unclear whether anything would have happened to Jake Baker, who posted the story, had he not used the name and physical description of a female student who attended a class with him and either lived in the same dorm or nearby. The government tried to prosecute him on the basis that he had made a threat of violence against her, but eventually failed to achieve any remedy in the courts. An activist named Catharine MacKinnon contributed an amicus curiae brief to the proceedings, and has since stated that the government neglected to raise all the relevant issues in the case. She has also campaigned for laws to stop pornography.
MacKinnon claims, in general, that pornography is violence. In this particular case, she argued to the court that the Baker pornography was the threat of violence. To back up her argument about his intentions, she used excerpts from his E-mail correspondence with a like-minded young man in Canada. E-mail is normally personal communication, and so it is harder to classify as a "threat" in the traditional sense of something communicated to the target, but her own argument is that the story itself was a threat and an instance of violence. (The appeals court dismissed the case on technical grounds mostly relating to the specificity of the threat.) It is clear that this story and others that Mr. Baker had been composin...
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...d by someone who was probably just following scripts that had been taken from pornography, either directly or through the medium of society as a whole. Unlike this case, there are numerous instances where men actually use pornography as a means of control over women, or gain control over women by involving them in the production of pornography. Such social cost is high. The fact that U. S. citizens spend between eight and ten billion dollars on pornography each year(4) should be the final straw compelling us to be more careful individually and take appropriate measures collectively to stop this deadly plague.
1. 48 Hours, 18 Nov 1992
3. Legal brief by MacKinnon. www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/Porn/Baker/sc.html, 26 Jul 2001
4. Thomas S. Monson. Liahona, Nov 2001, p.4. Salt Lake City: La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días.
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