Essay on Altman’s Argument on Autonomy and the Right To Get Turned On Analysis

Published: 2021/11/03
Number of words: 708

Altman argues that people have the right to sexual autonomy and to be turned on which allows them to produce and access pornographic materials without restrained by the state. This essay seeks to support the right to autonomy by citizens and at the same time the right to be turned on but oppose the view that pornography should be legalized.

Autonomy is a concept that has been debated severally by scholars in different fields. The need to be free to access any material that we want is the right of every individual. But since we live in a capitalistic world and people will seek to exploit others, then anti-pornographic feminists argue that it is used to violate and exploit the rights of men and women (Altman, 2014). In the society, what does autonomy specifically mean, what happens when one accesses pornographic materials that they did not intend to watch. This means that autonomy needs to be defined by the right to access any content or information that we are willing to view rather than by coincidence (Gibson, 2004). Therefore, pornography access should be allowed in the society but limitations need to be put in place to ensure that the right people access it. The role of the law is to restrain people thus leading to law and order. Kantian ethical view suggests that people have the right to do anything so long as it does not ham others. If pornography causes harm to others, then it should not be made free.

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Several positions have been taken on pornography based on the definitions given to it and the effects that it is seen to lead to the society. However, the way we understand pornography is based on the framing and the communication that we get from the legal protection that defines how such materials can be accessed (Schmitz, 2016). I agree with the liberal view of pornography which suggests that people need to be free to access material that they want. This means that such materials should be made available in places where people can easily access them any time they want. Altman compares such access to contraceptives where people can openly buy them over the counter. Pornography as an element in human life plays a bigger role of identity used to help people discover themselves.

However, opposing views have suggested that pornography has significant harm to others like children and women in the society. This is based on the fact that consumers of the content are more likely to engage in such harms due to the influence that they get. Since the content is framed in a way that is supposed to lure and increase sexual urge as Altman terms it the right to get turned on, then the society needs to be protected in one way or the other. White (2006) adds that since we cannot control the consequences of autonomy and the freedom to get turned on, then it means that the best way is to regulate pornography viewing in the society.

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In conclusion, I agree with Altman’s view of autonomy and the right to be turned on but I totally disagree with the view that this should be the basis of making pornography free. Human beings can only be controlled when there is a law that constrains them and puts them in check. Contraceptives are freely accessible but they are limited and available only to women of a certain age. The fact that people access and view pornography means that it is readily accessible to them but under certain limitations. Thus only those who meet the limitations can access it. The law is used to protect choices thus pornography may have both good and bad choices which may have different effects on the society. This leads to the need to limit autonomy and thus control the right of access.


Altman, A. (2014). The Right to Get Turned On: Pornography, Autonomy, Equality. Wiley-Blackwell.

Gibson, P. (2004). More Dirty Looks: Gender, Pornography and Power. London: British Films.

Schmitz, M. (2016, May 24). The case for banning pornography. The Washington Post.

White, A. (2006). Virtually Obscene: The Case for an Uncensored Internet. Jefferson: McFarland & Company.

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