Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

8 - The New Lay of the Land


At the end of 1979, WAP was the dominant organization in a national movement increasingly focused on pornography. This transition was aided by internal shifts within WAVAW and WAVPM, particularly the loss of charismatic organization leaders, which diminished the capacity of the older groups to participate on the national stage and to influence movement direction. With Julia London stepping down from WAVAW and Laura Lederer leaving WAVPM, leadership of the anti-media violence movement fell to WAP. In the years following the East Coast conference and the March on Times Square, WAP became well known as an influential feminist organization speaking out on behalf of women. “Every feminist in the New York metropolitan area has heard of Women Against Pornography,” the author Paula Webster observed in 1981. Indeed, WAP had attracted attention not only in New York, but also throughout the country for its commitment to fighting pornography. During this period, WAP actively sought media attention and tried to communicate a specifically feminist (as opposed to conservative-moralist) objection to pornography, namely that it was a point on the continuum of male violence and functioned as a key mechanism in the subordination of women. Pornography taught women to accept and even desire domination and objectification, and men to deny women's autonomy and subjectivity. Pornography actively reduced women to sexual objects ripe for humiliation and abuse.

McGirr, Lisa, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001)
Himmelstein, Jerome L., To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990)
Bashevkin, Sylvia, “Facing a Renewed Right: American Feminism and the Reagan/Bush Challenge,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 27, no. 4 (December 1994), 669–698
Klemesrud, Judy, “‘Lolita Syndrome’ is Denounced,” The New York Times, March 3, 1981, B24
Tong, Rosemarie, Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction, 3rd ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2009)
Barnard, Amii Larken, “The Application of Critical Race Feminism to the Anti-Lynching Movement: Black Women's Fight Against Race and Gender Ideology, 1892–1920,” UCLA Women's Law Journal 1, no. 2–3 (1993)
Cott, Nancy, “Passionlessness: An Interpretation of Victorian Sexual Ideology, 1790–1850,” in A Heritage of Her Own: Toward a New Social History of American Women, eds. Nancy F. Cott and E. H. Pleck (New York: Touchstone, 1979)