‘The Sexualized Body and the Medical Authority of Pornography’, Edited by Heather Brunskell-Evans (Cambridge Scholars), is an incredibly incisive analysis of how the porn industry shapes our culture, our bodies and our brains.
Liberals like myself have been wont to defend the porn industry and its participants, seeing their art as a constitutionally protected form of expression, one that needs defending precisely because it cuts against the grain of mainstream (and historically conservative) ideas about moral decency or ‘public health’. I have defended the porn business not only on legal grounds, but also on principle. I have always taken the standard liberal line that pornography represents liberation from traditional cultural taboos or religious mores around sex, believing that porn allows human sexuality to be appreciated in its raw and uncensored state.
If propagandists of porn claimed that it couldn’t be about the degradation of women because porn is not ‘one thing’ I nodded my little head in agreement. My basic attitude was that anyone who went against porn was probably some kind of sex-negative Victorian-era prude. To my mind porn was liberating because it subverted conventionally sanitized depictions of sexuality as inherently ‘romantic’, heterosexual or marital. Since sexual fantasies have no intrinsic ethical (or unethical) value, any effort to clamp down on them was, in my view, tantamount to ‘thought policing’.
All of these beliefs came tumbling down as I plowed through Heather Brunskell-Evans’s richly rewarding book on the subject.
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