Pornography can be defined as material whose primary purpose is to sexually arouse its consumer. It should be distinguished from material that is sexually explicit but does not have as its intention the arousal of the consumer (e.g., a medical textbook on human reproduction) and material that is not sexually explicit but may unintentionally arouse a consumer (e.g., an ad for shoes that appeals to a foot fetishist).

Because the term pornography is almost always used in the pejorative, the term erotica is often employed as an alternative for sexually suggestive material that is not degrading or dehumanizing. For instance, in an attempt to cast pornography in terms of harm rather than content for the purposes of legislation, Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin define pornography specifically ...

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