This collection of studies and essays by Diana E. H. Russell is polemical and extremely didactic, but worth reading, especially if you want to know wh...moreThis collection of studies and essays by Diana E. H. Russell is polemical and extremely didactic, but worth reading, especially if you want to know why radical feminists oppose pornography. My main problem with the book is that too much of the material is by Russell herself, even though she is probably the least interesting writer featured in it. Her chapters on causation, which form the centerpiece of the collection, are based on surveys she performed of studies that attempted to link pornography to rape. These sections are presented as incontrovertible evidence that the consumption of pornography is a major contributing factor to rape, but they rely too heavily on cherry-picked data and anecdotal evidence. Maybe it's just because I distrust sociology and find most of its applications to real-world problems misguided and utopian, but I find Andrea Dworkin's polemics much more compelling and convincing than Russell's soft pseudoscience, even though Dworkin relies on no "data" but her own fiery opinions.
Proof of causation and media's relationship to violence and sexual assault is always going to be a contentious and sticky subject, so I can understand why Russell devoted so much space to attempting to prove her points. I still think, however, that she wasted an opportunity to include more writers in the collection. Some of the more interesting essays, like one about the depiction of black women's bodies in pornography by Patricia Hill Collins, are only a few pages long, and could have been greatly expanded.
One thing I think this volume does very well, however, is poke holes in the theory that pornography is merely "cathartic." There's little question in my mind after reading this book that violent and misogynistic pornography degrades both the people involved in it and those who view it. The notion that it is a "harmless outlet for male aggression" is ludicrous. After all, does the idea of men watching videos of women being abused instead of doing it in real life really seem like the best possible solution to the problem of sexual violence?
On the other hand, I found many of the conclusions drawn in the book depressingly literal. Two chapters by two different authors are devoted to Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, which both writers regard as misogynistic snuff pornography. While this may, on some level, be true, it never seems to occur to either of them that the novel may also be a critique and satire of materialism and male privilege.
What I was ultimately reminded of while reading this book was the Women's Christian Temperance Union's opposition to alcohol, both in terms of its vehemence and its quixotic doggedness.(less)
This is an excellent introduction to J.G. Ballard's fiction, life, and worldview. If you've never read any of his books, this might actually be the be...moreThis is an excellent introduction to J.G. Ballard's fiction, life, and worldview. If you've never read any of his books, this might actually be the best place to start. His novels are often cold, clinical, and bizarre, so it's nice to come to them with some idea of his obsessions and general outlook on life. Also, he's a surprisingly warm and verbose interview subject.(less)