Over the past twenty years debates about pornography have raged within feminism and beyond. Throughout the 1970s feminists increasingly addressed the problem of men's sexual violence against women, and many women reduced the politics of men's power over women to questions about sexuality. By the 1980s these questions had become more and more focused on the issue of pornography––now a metaphor for the menace of male power. Collapsing feminist politics into sexuality and sexuality into pornography has not only caused some of the deepest splits between feminists, but made it harder to think clearly about either sexuality or pornography––indeed, about feminist politics more generally.
This provocative collection, by well-known feminists on both sides of the Atlantic, surveys these arguments, and in particular asks why recent feminist debates about sexuality keep reducing to questions of pornography. The authors open up the debate by looking at such topics as the improbable alliance between the right and pro-censorship feminists, the displacement of heterosexual desire and its discontents onto pornography, Andrea Dworkin's novel Mercy, psychoanalytic reflections on fantasy, censorship in relation to AIDS work, the new lesbian and bisexual pornography, the controversy over Robert Mapplethorpe's supposed racism in his photos of black nudes, Mae West as sexual icon and her brushes with the law, and the female nude in "high" art.
In addition to the editors, the contributors are Elizabeth Cowie, Harriett Gilbert, Robin Gorna, Marybeth Hamilton, Loretta Loach, Anne McClintock, Kobena Mercer, Jane Mills, Mandy Merck, Lynda Nead, Gillian Rodgerson, Carol Smart, Carole S. Vance, Linda Williams, and Elizabeth Wilson.