Passions Over Pornography

A bitter debate divides feminism and some of its liberal backers. At issue: free speech vs. the civil rights of abused women.

Is pornography essentially an outlet for sexual fantasy, rightly protected by the First Amendment's free speech provisions? Or is it an instruction manual for violent men that shatters women's civil rights by contributing to their harassment, humiliation and subordination? Those questions are at the heart of an often acrimonious debate that has divided feminists and civil libertarians across the U.S.

The argument is currently raging on three fronts:

-- In Massachusetts, feminist groups can be found on both sides of the debate over a proposed bill that would allow individuals who can prove that they were assaulted as a result of...

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