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Reviewed by:
  • Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography, and: The Politics of Prostitution: Women's Movements, Democratic States and the Globalisation of Sex Commerce, and: What's Love Got to Do with It?: Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic
  • Maurice Hamington (bio)
Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography edited by Christina Stark and Rebecca Whisnant. North Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex Press, 2004, 445 pp., $24.95 paper.
The Politics of Prostitution: Women's Movements, Democratic States and the Globilisation of Sex Commerce edited by Joyce Outshoorn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 329 pp., $80.00 hardcover, $29.00 paper.
What's Love Got to Do with It? Transnational Desires and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic by Denise Brennan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004, 281 pp., $74.95 hardcover, $21.95 paper.

Prostitution may be off the political radar screen in the United States, but it still gets the attention of feminist scholarship. New feminist works reveal the complexity of prostitution and the lives of sex workers as well as the political stakes involved. While each of the books reviewed here is ostensibly about prostitution, each provides a wider ranging analysis that includes reflections about the women's movement's political agency and the future of feminism.

The 28 articles in Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography cover the gamut of the prostitution experience while carefully placing prostitution in the larger context of the sex industry. The editors, Christina Stark and Rebecca Whisnant, explicitly include pornography as a form of prostitution thus immediately widening the scope of analysis and hinting at the important political stance that this book takes. Not For Sale is uncompromisingly feminist in its response to the sex industry. Despite widespread attention given to a split within the woman's movement over the moral legitimacy of prostitution, Stark and Whisnant take a critical stand: "We believe that feminists who defend pornography and prostitution are mistaken in their analysis, and that their political positions and alliances are harmful to women, to feminism, and to the cause of social justice" (xiii). In an era when sensitivity to pluralism (although a justified recognition of diverse positions) has sometimes masked the convictions of progressives, I found the editors' forthrightness refreshing. This position also impacts the character of the collection and its intended audience. While carefully covering the damage to women wrought by prostitution, the book also maintains a secondary theme of criticism for liberals who fail to label prostitution as the pariah that it is. [End Page 218]

The range and quality of the articles make Not for Sale a must read for anyone seeking to understand the opposition to prostitution. Included are some of the important theorists, such as Andrea Dworkin, who offers a speech that places prostitution within a wider context of oppression while advocating a fundamental theory of connection: "Feminism is the politics of anti-abstraction. The men who hurt you have to be seen objectively as well as known intuitively; and in addition every woman standing on a street corner is your problem. When you see a prostituted woman, you have to know that you are not free, whatever your status in the male-over-female hierarchy" (141). One aspect of feminism's anti-abstractionism has been its ability to confront the use of language, and few are better at linguistic analysis than Jane Caputi. In her contribution to the collection, Caputi masterfully reappropriates an invective invoked by a critic of Dworkin's analysis of sexuality: "cuntspeak." Caputi suggests that this usage is reflective of a devaluation of the body perpetuated by porn. "Pornographic thinking of all kinds splits body from mind and deems the lowly genitals, both cunt and penis, as mindless. But this is a profound reversal" (379). For Caputi the denigration of the physical through pornographic objectifications runs to our core beliefs about how the world works, particularly the mind/body division. While many of the authors suggest legal, political, or behavioral resistance, Caputi seeks a metaphysical and linguistic resistance to the sex industry. John Stoltenberg believes that resistance begins with the prime consumers: men. Stoltenberg contributes a conference address where he discusses the apparent...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2151-7371
Print ISSN
2151-7363
Pages
pp. 218-222
Launched on MUSE
2006-06-26
Open Access
No
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