Research Handbook on Gender, Sexuality and the Law
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Research Handbook on Gender, Sexuality and the Law

Edited by Chris Ashford and Alexander Maine

This innovative and thought-provoking Research Handbook explores not only current debates in the area of gender, sexuality and the law but also points the way for future socio-legal research and scholarship. It presents wide-ranging insights and debates from across the globe, including Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Australia, with contributions from leading scholars and activists alongside exciting emergent voices.
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Chapter 34: Defending pornography: the case against strategic essentialism

Alex Dymock


This chapter offers a critical reading of the discourses employed in the context of defending the distribution of obscene publications through two recent legal developments in England and Wales: first, the recent case of R v Peacock, in which a defendant was charged under indictment with six counts of distributing obscene material under Section 2(1) of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA); second, the recent Audio-Visual Media Services Directive 2014 (AVMSD) and its apparent targeting of ‘perverse’ sexual practices. However, rather than focusing on the discourses employed in arguing for regulation, I will concentrate here on those used to defend pornography against the law. I argue that while in previous cases, classical liberalism tended to be the framing device used to defend pornography on ‘freedom of speech’ grounds, these two recent developments demonstrate that defence advocates and activists alike are utilising a strategic essentialism approach, affixing pornographic representation to sexual orientation or identity. While this approach is certainly strategic, this chapter will reflect on some of the drawbacks of this perspective.

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