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Book Review: XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography by Wendy McElroy


After reading a barrage of feminist anti-porn books and articles this title: “XXX: A Woman’s Right to Pornography” was refreshing to see. The author Wendy McElroy also identifies as a feminist, but specifically calls out anti-porn feminists who actively attempt to make laws against the consumption, distribution, and production of pornography.

The focus is mainly on preserving and promoting individual rights. I thought perhaps this book might take on reasons why porn improves women’s sex drive or relationships, but that’s a bit more of a Cosmo article than a scholarly book. McElroy asserts that when anti-porn groups try to limit porn and criminalize the people that work in the industry or consume the product, women will be the worse for it, for many reasons. Some include that if porn is criminalized or labeled “obscene” it gives reason for publications on controversial ideas like birth control or feminist writings to be targeted as well. If women in porn are criminalized or deemed “psychologically damaged,” women’s rights regarding sexuality could very well be marginalized in other areas. And if the feminist voice only proclaims that no women choose to use porn, it belittles or ignores many choices women make.

I gave this book four out of five stars. Overall I was engaged and interested. My favorite chapter was chapter four: A Critique of Anti-Porn Feminism. The arguments presented really illustrate how anti-porn feminists do a lot of damage and limit many choices and rights of women, just to keep people from looking at porn. I also enjoyed reading about individualist feminism and the need to protect individual choices.

That being said there were a few weak places. First off the book is outdated. With a copyright of 1995 a lot has changed and I’d love to have an updated version. Still, I learned a lot of important events that took place in the 80’s and 90’s that aren’t discussed in more recent writings, so this was also helpful.

The author comes off as rather leery of S&M play/porn. While she does include quotes defending BDSM, she remains truthful that she doesn’t truly “get it.” Witnessing one scene even made her feel sad and somewhat disturbed. While I appreciate the author’s honesty and I’m sure it struck a chord with many readers, I was a little bummed out by the squickiness.

Second, the author was invited to go to the set of a porn shoot and she declined. She admitted this, at the time, might make her uncomfortable. As a person interested in sex, writing this humble blog, I would jump at the chance to be on set at a porn shoot. I’m glad she didn’t do anything uncomfortable, but as an author writing a whole manifesto defending porn, why not go to a shoot? This puzzled me and I think the manuscript may have suffered.

Finally, her foray into the industry, or rather, her fieldwork with women in the industry, felt rushed. I’m sure the author spent a lot of time researching. She does indeed include findings from a survey she cast out to sex workers and includes interviews with women who have performed in porn, including Candida Royalle. Still, it was a little too calculated for me. Probably because I’m used to reading books that are written by people who participate in the sexcapades they write about.

Despite these weaknesses, this book was well worth the read and has a permanent home on my book shelf. I have quite a few tabs stuck in and it provided a great support for my views on pornography.



Comments

  1. you might find this piece interesting http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/11/porn-survey-have-more-sex_n_4746416.html

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    Replies
    1. Quite interesting! Still sad about the 90% of men vs. 60% of women viewing porn, as I feel this is still quite a gap. I wonder if the number for women would go up if print erotica was counted as visual sexual material. While I do believe, as the article states, porn is not "just" consumed by men, there is an obvious difference in the stats for who regularly consumes porn. This could be because less women want to report their porn use, and more men might want to inflate theirs, but either way I do believe men and women have different ways of relating to porn and I haven't read a good book that addresses that specifically.

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