I have been struggling this week with the lines between free speech and hate speech; art and pornography and/or gratuitous violence. It is a line that has been challenging me on social media, in my writing life and unfolding in demonstrations and counter demonstrations all over the United States this week.  I fiercely defend first amendment rights and am a passionate advocate of divergent literature but I have found my personal boundaries pushed over and over again this week. White supremacists, artistic provocateurs and writers whose motivations are opaque have exposed me to viewpoints, to written words, that are targeted, violent, unsettling and often inhumane.  As a person who cares deeply about social justice, I have struggled with how directly to confront it—I do not generally choose silence but nor do I want to provide fuel to someone who will use my words for their own physical or mental masturbation.  As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, this is even more complex. Sometimes when a stimuli is especially triggering, the best self-care is to remove myself from the situation, at least until the dust settles emotionally.

I am sure that I will continue to mull this over in the coming days and weeks. I am not sure that we have cultural agreement on what is first amendment protected speech and what is harassment and terroristic threats any more than I am sure that there is a clear culturally accepted line between what is erotica versus pornography, realistic violence versus a snuff poem. I only know that this week I discovered some of my limits as a reader, as a human being, and that I need to sit with that for a while.


© 2017 Christine Elizabeth Ray – All rights Reserved


  1. This was a great post on the internal and real world struggle with freedom and it’s limits. Even the Supreme Court cannot give a precise definition of pornography – “We know it when we see it”! Kind of murky?? Not all speech is protected speech – you can’t yell fire in a theater? You have delved into one of the great issues and debates in a free society. We all have to decide what is right for ourselves but it is a different issue when it is what is right and allowed or restricted and prohibited for society! I tend to err on the side of freedom up to a point! Thanks for this. It was great and I hope you come to some resolutions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand exactly how you feel. Free speech is all fine, but when that speech turns into violence and hatred, that is when it starts to become a big problem. I’m no dealing very well with all of this either.


  3. Nicely said. I keep hearing people say on tv “This is easy.” Its not. Charlotteville raised lots of sensitive issues, asking where is the line? Between crime and terror? Between free speech and provocation? Between artistic expression and propaganda? Between peaceable assembly and riot? Taking a break to process it all is not a bad thing.


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