The group that eventually became Women Against Pornography emerged from the efforts of New York radical activists in fall 1976, after the public controversy and pickets organized by Andrea Dworkin and other radical feminists over the public debut of Snuff.

It was part of a larger wave of radical feminist organizing around the issue of pornography, which included protests by the Los Angeles group Women Against Violence Against Women against The Rolling Stones' sadomasochistic advertisements for their album Black and Blue (see below).

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WAP became known because of their anti-pornography informational tours of sex shops and pornographic theaters held in Times Square.

In the 1980s, WAP began to focus more on lobbying and legislative efforts against pornography, particularly in support of civil-rights-oriented antipornography legislation.

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The original organizers of Women Against Pornography came primarily from the New York radical feminist groups that had developed during the 1970s, but once their organization began they found unexpected sources of membership and support from across New York.

According to Susan Brownmiller, The group that became Women Against Pornography was livelier and more diverse than any I'd ever worked with in the movement.Civil liberties advocates opposed WAP and similar groups, holding that the legislative approaches WAP advocated amounted to censorship.Sex-positive feminists held that feminist campaigns against pornography were misdirected and ultimately threatened sexual freedoms and free speech rights in a way that would be detrimental toward women and sexual minorities.WAP quickly drew widespread support for its anti-pornography campaign, and in late 1979 held a March on Times Square that included over 5000 supporters.Through their march as well as other means of activism, WAP was able to bring in unexpected financial support from the Mayor's office, theater owners, and other parties with an interest in the gentrification of Times Square.They were also active in testifying before the Meese Commission and some of their advocacy of a civil-rights based anti-pornography model found its way into the final recommendations of the commission.