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XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography - Wendy McElroy

It is difficult for me to decide on a rating for this book. There were so many things I liked about it but also so many things I hated.

I really liked how McElroy distinguished various types of feminism (radical, liberal, individualist). Such distinctions are important to understand regarding any issue of gender/sexuality. Most of the critiques I have been met with in regards to feminism have opposed radical feminism, which is not representative of all types.

As many have already pointed out, this book is much outdated, having been published in the 90s. However many of the points made are still valid (stigma against sex work, morality laws, etc.) even with the rise of access to pornography through the Internet.

Within the book, I think there were a few flawed understandings of psychological research. In Chapter 4, McElroy offers a critique of radical feminist research on pornography. Many of the drawbacks she sees in the studies (researcher bias, validity of simulated results in a lab, etc.) are true of most research on social issues. Most likely such problems were addressed in the discussion section of the research article. While McElroy points out these issues, she offers no suggestions on how to improve research in order to find more comprehensive results.

At one point McElroy states that while a causal link cannot accurately be made between the rise of pornography and the rise of feminism, "such a connection seems reasonable to assume." (141). McElroy seems to ignore the differences causation and correlation and while she does state that cause and effect cannot be proven, her assumption shows her own bias.

Another time McElroy's arguments made me a little uncomfortable was when she suggested that sexual objectification is not a bad thing. She argued her point well, but I think she took her conclusion way too far.

My favorite part of the book was the focus on actual people in sex work. McElroy included interviews and surveys, which really helped humanized the women that were discussed. At one point she notes that criminalizing pornography would create an even more hostile environment for the real people involved in it. I enjoyed how human-focused some of the arguments were.

Overall, I think McElroy did a good job and on most points I agree with her.