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Watching Sex: How Men Really Respond to Pornography
Synopses & Reviews
The gulf between critics of pornography and those who use it seems unbridgeable. Not only do the two sides disagree about its effect on society and individual men and women, they cannot even agree on what it is. Where one finds objectification, subordination, degradation, and violence against women, the other sees beauty, fun, pleasure, female power and assertiveness, and fantasy. Freud never asked, "What do men want?" but Katherine MacKinnon asserts, "Pornography provides an answer. Pornography permits men to have whatever they want sexually. It is their truth about sex'." Is this true? Dozens of books have been published on pornography, yet almost none feature the voices of the men who use it. Indeed, most of our ideas about men and pornography are theoretical, and most are entirely derived from women. Watching Sex explores pornography through the eyes of men who use it. The interviews with nearly 150 men—between the ages of 19 and 67, single, married, divorced and widowed, of straight, gay, and bisexual—are telling and provocative accounts of what they think, feel, and do in response to pornography. Their answers confound the now conventional wisdom promulgated by anti-pornography feminists, who would have us believe, in the words of Robin Morgan, "Pornography is the theory; rape the practice." Watching Sex provides a window on the true nature of men's sexuality that will prove of enduring importance.
"Pornography is a landmine issue most often debated with explosive heat and very little light. Women argue that it debases them, uses them, and violently threatens them. Often the assertions are not backed with statistical or other evidence.
"What do men say? Researchers have rarely bothered to ask. David Loftus, in his ground-breaking book, sought out some one hundred fifty men. On the promise of absolute anonymity, they talked with a candor that can be sensed in their replies. What they like about pornography is quite contrary to the charges leveled against porn.
"What seems clear is that in the light of Loftus's book, easy presumptions about men and pornography will hereafter need to be challenged and reexamined." Charles Champlin, film critic and author of Hollywood's Revolutionary Decade, Back There Where the Past Was, and George Lucas: The Creative Impulse
"As a longtime advocate of the right to read or see anything one chooses, I found Loftus's study of men who look at pornography refreshing and reassuring. Contrary to the anti-female, pro-violence messages that anti-porn crusaders ascribe to it, many of its fans in fact see something totally different.
"It was long past time we heard from them, and Loftus is to be applauded for his unique contribution to the public debate." Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, professor of law at New York Law School, and author of Defending Pornography: free speech, sex, and the fight for women's rights
"A breath of fresh air in the pornography debates. David Loftus has had the exceedingly original idea of asking men, lots of them, what they think about, and how they use, pornography. Their answers are both surprising and diverse.
"Neither a sociological inquiry nor a critical analysis, neither a condemnation nor a defense, Loftus's book nevertheless tells us much that we need to know about the everyday uses of pornography." Linda Williams, director of the program in Film Studies, University of California at Berkeley, and author of Hard Core: power, pleasure, and the "frenzy of the visible"
"In this 'politically correct' age when Orwell's repressive Anti-Sex League has materialized insidiously on the left and the right, it's heartening to read an honest, intelligent appraisal of the mercurial virtues of smut." Tom Robbins, author of Another Roadside Attraction, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, Skinny Legs and All, and Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates
"When Loftus is at his most effective, he debunks issue by issue, line by line, the words of legendary Women's Studies 101 theorists . . . such as Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. His arguments are tight and fiery, such as his unpacking and reanalysis of Dworkin's assertion that three out of four women working in the porn industry have suffered sexual abuse." Karen Solomon, The San Francisco Chronicle, February 2, 2003
Providing a window on the true nature of men's sexuality, this provocative counter-polemic to anti-pornography theory explores pornography through the eyes of men who use it.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 313-336).
About the Author
David Loftus was born in Eugene, Oregon and came of age in Coos Bay, on the Oregon coast. He received his bachelor's in English and American Literature with high honors from Harvard. His other books include Boston College High School 1863-1983 and The Unofficial Book of Harvard Trivia. A distance runner, performing folk dancer (Scandinavian and English Morris), and free-lance journalist, Loftus has also sung in chamber and symphonic choirs as well as read literature aloud before live audiences, and for recordings and radio broadcasts for the blind. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, a dog and cat.
Table of Contents
1 Unveilings: men's first exposures to pornography; age, content, how it happened, initial reactions
2 Growing Up: the social context; parents' attitudes, social messages about porn
3 I Know What Boys Like: men's tastes, what they want to see more of
4 The Appeal of "Lesbian" Pornography: why are "lesbian" scenarios so popular?
5 The Image of Men in Pornography: reactions to the men in porn; comparisons, the issue of penis size
6 How Men Use Pornography: how often, correlation to mood and masturbation, feelings after use, concerns about use
7 Sharing Porn With Others: use and discussion with other men; attitudes of, use by, and discussion with significant others
8 Off the Beaten Track: men who like special kinds of pornography
9 The "Slippery Slope" and the Question of Addiction: periods of lesser or greater use, the issue of porn addiction
10 Reality vs. Fantasy: whether porn fans confuse characters in porn with real people, or import sex practices from porn
11 Pornography as Hell, Pornography as Therapy: stories of men who found either a curse or a savior in porn
12 Public Policy: possible harms of pornography, the distinction between porn and erotica, social and legal controls
13 Pornography & Violence: to what extent does porn depict, encourage, or increase violence?
14 The 75% Problem: the possible link between child sex abuse and the porn industry
15 The Public Debate: What Did Everyone Get Wrong About Men Who Use Pornography?
16 The Public Debate: What Did Everyone Get Wrong About Pornography? — objectification, subordination, degradation, and hatred of women
17 Toward a New Theory of Men and Pornography
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