Be What I Say
Be What I Say
Authority Versus Power in Pornography
Rae Langton holds that speech act theory can explain the “self-verifying” character of pornography. The chapter argues that this faces two problems. First, the account is inconsistent: it requires that pornography be simultaneously an expositive speech act that describes women as inferior, and a verdictive/exercitive speech act that brings it about that women are inferior. But no verdictive/exercitive speech act can describe the very state of affairs it brings about. Second, the account is inaccurate about the conditions necessary for the performance of a verdictive/exercitive speech act: that there must exist accepted background conventions giving the pornographer authority to render verdicts or to take executive action. Langton’s discussion conflates the normative notion of authority with a non-normative notion, namely power. The chapter concludes that speech act theory is inapt for Langton’s purpose, and that the familiar social constructionist notion of a “looping kind” better illuminates pornography’s role in maintaining gender oppression.
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