Homoerotica & homophobia : hatred, pornography, and the politics of speech regulation


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




This thesis analyses the question of the regulation, motivated by egalitarian concerns, of homophobic hate speech and homosexual pornography. I attempt to . critically evaluate what both liberal humanism and postmodernism can tell us about these types of speech, and how we should best treat them, in a framework that takes lesbians' and gays' equality as the underlying organising principle. Although homosexual pornography cannot be convincingly exempted from regulation by affirming that it is not, contrary to heterosexual pornography, implicated in gender oppression, the importance of free speech and the complexity of all pornography messages suggest that the state is not justified in suppressing sex expression relying on the reification of a single viewpoint about its harmfulness. The Law, in limiting pornography on the basis of the radical feminist rationale that assimilates it to hate speech, ends up making strong and arbitrary claims to truth, that are premised on doubtful assumptions, silence alternative knowledges, subjugate outsiders' experiences, and contribute to the creation of oppressive social identities. I advise against censoring pornography out of egalitarian concerns, and argue that, under certain conditions, engagement with court litigation and the deployment of the rights discourse can be promising strategies for lesbians and gay men challenging such obscenity laws. Hate speech seems more evidently linked to discrimination than pornography, and speech act theory suggests that it enacts a specific kind of subordination. However, the role played by homophobic hate speech in perpetuating inequality for queers is limited when compared to other social/discursive practices: thus hate speech laws are the easiest but also, taken on their own, a largely ineffective way of responding to homophobia. As such, these laws bear a presumption of being an unnecessary burden on freedom of expression, a liberty that minorities have a vested interest in keeping as intact as possible. Against homophobia a radical measure is required that, focusing on education, will actively promote equality values. This remedy will be consistent with free speech doctrine to the extent that hate speech will, setting apart some specific cases, escape regulation, and that the State will assume an attitude directed to reaching understanding.


Freedom of speech; Hate speech

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of