Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography

For Further Reading: Sex and Culture Wars

Pornography: Men Possessing Women, by Andrea Dworkin (1979)

This strongly argued feminist case against pornography stirred tremendous controversy when first published in 1979, and has lost none of its bite during its several years out of print. Dworkin ( Letters from a War Zone ), who lobbies for municipal statutes declaring pornography a violation of women's civil rights, insists that pornography links sex and violence by incorporating violent domination of women as a key element of sexual fantasy: "Force in high-class pornography is romanticized . . . as if it were dance." Dworkin also takes what many consider to be an extreme position; she believes that pornography incites men to sexual violence. To support her thesis, she draws parallels between the life and writings of the Marquis de Sade and provides critical summaries of several contemporary pornographic works. Dworkin's style is intense, vivid and eloquent, infused with a sense of urgency. BUY IT HERE

Intercourse, by Andrea Dworkin (1981)

Dworkin argues that in a society where men oppress women, they will use sex for that purpose as well, and that men's sexual dominion over women underpins the whole system of oppression codified in law. Her most provocative point is that sexual intercourse itself intrinsically creates problems for women's self-esteem. She bases this argument on the premise that human beings need to protect their physical boundaries to feel safe. Since women's boundaries are breached in even the most welcome and humane forms of sexual intercourse, they must therefore experience themselves, as part of their normal existence, as more vulnerable than men experience themselves and less able to assert their humanity. Dworkin's argument is obviously one-sided, disregarding benefits women may derive from these intimate connections. Nor does she spend much time on a solution for the problem of boundaries she has identified. Still, this fascinating book deserves a wide readership.  BUY IT HERE

Only Words, by Catharine A. MacKinnon (1994)

In her most cogent and accessible book to date, feminist legal scholar MacKinnon lashes "absolutists" who maintain that all forms of expression, including pornography and hate propaganda, should be constitutionally protected. MacKinnon counters that pornography and hate messages "do the same thing: enact the abuse." Porn, she argues, subordinates and degrades women and incites sexual harassers, wife beaters, child molesters, rapists and clients of prostitutes. MacKinnon, a University of Michigan law professor, believes that we need to balance First Amendment concerns for free speech with Fourteenth Amendment protection of equality. She advocates "a new model for freedom of expression . . . in which free speech does not most readily protect the activities of Nazis, Klansmen, and pornographers, while doing nothing for their victims." And she hails two recent decisions by Canada's Supreme Court which bolster the rights of persons harmed by pornography or hate propaganda.  BUY IT HERE

Defending Pornography:  Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights, by Nadine Strossen(1995)

University of Michigan law professor and anti-pornography crusader Catharine MacKinnon has avoided debating Strossen, a New York University law professor who heads the American Civil Liberties Union. As this book shows, Strossen has a broad arsenal of vital arguments. Free speech has long been a strong weapon to fight misogyny, she notes, and she catalogues the fuzzy legal theories behind censorship. She ascribes feminist panic over sexual expression to a surge in "cultural feminism," which was a response to 1970s setbacks to more tangible feminist projects like the ERA. The "MacDworkin" (MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin) proposed law to fight "subordinating" porn, Strossen argues, misreads evidence of its effects on men and ignores more influential media images like advertising as well as the complexity of female sexuality. In practice, as recent Canadian cases show ominously, such censorship laws have been used to seize lesbian, gay and feminist material. Strossen writes in professorial prose, with numerous quotes from better writers, and eschews the opportunity to explore murkier issues like the sexism inherent in much pornography. But she forcefully makes her point that scapegoating porn diverts activists from more important fights for women's rights. Author tour. BUY IT HERE

Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture, by Lisa Duggan and Nan D. Hunter (1996)

The political and cultural battles over issues of sexuality that have affected the nation since the mid-1980s are explored in these 15 essays written over the past decade by Duggan (history, NYU), who co-founded the Feminst Anti-Censorship Taskforce (FACT), and Hunter (law, Brooklyn Law Sch.). With refreshing authority, passion, wit, clarity, and outspokenness, these articles, which appear in book form for the first time, seek to encourage dialog about, as they offer cogent feminist analysis of, such complex and provocative issues as the call for regulation/censorship of pornography by Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, the effects of Bowers v. Hardwick (in which the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Georgia's sodomy laws), the distinctions between queer theory and lesbian and gay studies, and the implications of the Sharon Kowalski/Karen Thompson case (Thompson fought Kowalski's parents unsuccessfully for the guardianship of her comatose lover). This historic compilation is an important contribution to the field of sexual politics.?James E. Van Buskirk, San Francisco P.L.  BUY IT HERE

Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America, by Laura Kipnis (1998)

Laura Kipnis (Ecstasy Unlimited) argues in five loosely connected essays that just about everyone-from the religious right to militant feminists-misunderstands and misjudges pornography, which she considers a form of fantasy that is an end in itself and not the cause of something else, such as rape. The individual essays deal with a homosexual sadomasochist who made the mistake of discussing his fantasies on the Internet with an undercover cop and was entrapped and sentenced to 33 years in prison; America's fat phobia and how it is reflected in fat pornography; transvestite pornography, focusing on the revealing photographic self-portraits featured in drag publications; and the rise and fall of Larry Flynt and Hustler, with an emphasis on the magazine's populist political philosophy. The disjointed concluding essay, "How to Look at Pornography," tries, unsuccessfully, to pull all this material together, touching along the way on subjects that range from masturbation to Andrea Dworkin's alleged misreading of pornography as a feminist issue to Jeffrey Masson's legal battles with Janet Malcolm and others. Kipnis's individual essays make a stronger case than does her book as a whole, but she is a lively and engaging writer who argues, often convincingly, that we would be better off simply thinking of pornography as just another form of science fiction. BUY IT HERE

Feminism and Pornography, by Drucilla Cornell (2000)

This vibrant collection expands the parameters of the feminist debate on pornography. In an effort to move away from the divisive frameworks in feminist disputes over pornography, this volume seeks to understand what pornography means to those who consume it, fight against it, and work within it. By opening up a space for divergent points of view to address the complexity of sexual material, this book seeks to forge solidarity among academics, activists, and sex workers from diverse social and political contexts. Feminism and Pornography explores a wide range of contentious issues, including how the meaning of pornography is shaped by changing historical and political realities; the role law should play, if any, in the sex industry; whether union organizing can change the working conditions in the sex industry; and how sexually explicit literature, videos, art, and music can promote sexual freedom. Contributors include such influential writers as Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Catherine MacKinnon, and Andrea Dworkin.  BUY IT HERE

Sexual Revolution, Ed. Jeffrey Escoffier (2003)

What does "sexual revolution" mean? When, how, and why did it begin? What, if anything, did it change? And what hope do we have that its ideals of equality and pleasure can be realized?

From Susan Sontag’s "Pornographic Imagination" to Al Goldstein’s notorious review of Deep Throat, Sexual Revolution explores the cultural, economic, political, and moral consequences of new ways of sexual thinking and behaving—reclaiming the female orgasm and challenging the double standard; celebrating open marriage and homosexuality; and defying taboo and censorship. With Anne Koedt’s classic "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm" and Norman Mailer’s "The Homosexual Villain;" Helen Gurley Brown to Lenny Bruce—to name a few—this book features the voices of those who registered and provoked popular consciousness and transformed how we think about sex. Today, Dr. Phil talks about oral sex among grade-schoolers and pornstar Jenna Jameson gets a six-figure advance for her memoirs. Something has changed, but Sexual Revolution reminds us that our sexuality remains a bitterly contested battleground.

This collection includes selections by Erica Jong, Lawrence Lipton, Masters and Johnson, Betty Dodson, Audre Lorde, Gay Talese, Gayle Rubin, Timothy Leary, Henry Miller, Huey Newton, Sigmund Freud, Simone de Beauvoir, and many others.   BUY IT HERE

How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex, by Cristina Page (2006)

The abortion issue is a cover for a fundamentalist "anti-contraception" and "anti-sex movement," argues this vigorous broadside. In a well-researched and pointed critique of prolife excesses, NARAL official Page (The Smart Girl's Guide to College) details the multifaceted opposition the Christian right has mounted to a broad range of reproductive rights. Prolife groups, she notes, have fraudulently conflated contraceptives with devices or substances that cause abortion, championed pharmacists who refuse to sell contraceptives, and organized to block over-the-counter sale of "Plan B" emergency contraceptive pills. Attacking both feminism and premarital sex, she contends, they vilify working moms and push ineffective abstinence-only sex-ed curricula, and have even opposed a vaccine against the HPV virus, a major cause of cervical cancer, claiming it would promote promiscuity. The irony, she argues, is that prolifers' effort to restrict access to contraception actually increases the number of abortions. Against what she believes is the fundamentalists' dour procreationist ideology and animus toward sexual pleasure itself, Page celebrates the blessings conferred by contraceptives in liberating women, and their families, in our modern "pro-choice world," claiming that "regular sex brings people as much happiness as a $50,000-a-year raise." If sometimes a tad facile, her defense of the sexual revolution in upbeat—even patriotic—terms makes this a spirited, thought-provoking addition to the culture wars.  BUY IT HERE

Sexuality, by Jeffrey Weeks (2009)

For over twenty years Sexuality has provided a cutting edge introduction to debates about sexualities, gender and intimate life. Previous editions included pioneering discussions of the historical shaping of sexuality, identity politics, the rise of fundamentalism, the social impact of AIDS, the influence of the new genetics, global sex, queer theory, sex wars, the debates about values, new patterns of intimacy, and much more. In this new edition, Jeffrey Weeks offers a thorough update of these debates, and introduces new concepts and issues. Globalization is now a key way of understanding the reshaping of sexual life, and is discussed in relation to global flows, neo-liberalism, new forms of opposition, cosmopolitanism and the heated debates around sex trafficking and sex tourism. Debates about the regulation and control of sexuality, and the intersection of various dimensions of power and domination are contextualised by a sustained argument about the importance of agency in remaking sexual and intimate life. In particular, new forms of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer politics, and the high impact of the debates about same-sex marriage are explored. These controversies in turn feed into debates about what is "transgressive," "normal," "ordinary"; into the nature of heter-normativity; and into the meanings of diversity and choice. To conclude, the book turns to questions of values and ethics, recognition, sexual citizenship and human sexual rights.  BUY IT HERE