The Pornography Wars: The Past, Present, and Future of America's Obscene Obsession

Among the strangest bedfellows of politics were the feminists and the Christian evangelicals who spent part of the 1980s championing ordinances to regulate pornography, albeit for different reasons. Sociologist Kelsy Burke (Christians Under Covers) tells these activists' stories, as well as those of many in the pro-pornography camp, in the eye-opening, fair-minded and largely evenhanded The Pornography Wars: The Past, Present, and Future of America's Obscene Obsession.

Following a brief but fascinating history of smut in the United States, Burke shares highlights of her interviews with 90 people who have a dog in the pornography fight, among them sex workers, a male sex educator raised by a porn star dad, and a nonreligious former firefighter committed to helping men overcome their dependence on porn. Readers tag along as Burke watches a feminist porn shoot and observes at a retreat for Christian women whose lives have been adversely affected by porn.

The Pornography Wars examines its subject from many angles--political, sociological, psychological, scientific, legal--and asks questions along the way: Is porn addiction a real thing? Is porn that is centered on women necessarily bad for women? Can porn ever empower women? (Here it's probably worth mentioning that Burke doesn't always achieve neutrality on her subject.) In her concluding chapter, one that takes an aerial view, Burke offers a clarifying insight that's applicable to many fiery clashes of opinion: "If we push aside the dividing line, we can see the broader goal for which both sides strive: to make ethical decisions for ourselves, recognizing the constraints that surround us." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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