I was quite delighted to hear about the recent publication of The Feminist Porn Book, edited by Tristan Taormino, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley and Mireille Miller-Young, and chock full of authors I know and whose work I treasure.
A Letter to The Feminist Porn Book's Editors, by Gayle Rubin
So I was startled to see the headline for an article by Tracy Clark-Flory about the book on Salon titled “The Feminist Pornographer: Tristan Taormino, Editor of a New Book on X-rated Activism, Says It's Time to Find a Middle Ground in the Porn Wars.”
This story consisted of an interview with Tristan Taormino, one of the editors of the book, accompanied by some introductory remarks.
My surprise turned to dismay as I read the following passages from the Clark-Flory’s comments:
Not that feminism— which, like porn, is not a monolithic entity— is entirely resolved on the issue: That’s why this book, which is filled with compelling essays by porn performers, directors and academics, has appeared now, decades after the “porn wars” began.
These are testimonials about attempts to challenge those familiar foes of any Women’s Studies 101 class— from basic gender binaries to every “-ism” out there— but from inside the adult business.
What the book does most beautifully is carve out a middle ground: The unfortunate result of the “porn wars” was “the fixing of an antiporn camp versus a sex-positive/pro-porn camp,” argue the editors, Tristan Taormino, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley and Mireille Miller-Young, in the book’s introduction.
“On one side, a capital P ‘Pornography’ was a visual embodiment of the patriarchy and violence against women. On the other, Porn was defended as ‘speech,’ or as a form that should not be foreclosed because it might someday be transformed into a vehicle for women’s erotic expression.” Meanwhile, they say, the “nuances and complexities of lowercase ‘pornographies’ were lost in the middle” — and this book is an attempt to elevate that reasonable center.
This way of framing the history of debate over pornography within feminism is not uncommon, but it is dead wrong.