The Pornography Wars: The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Obscene Obsession (Hardcover)
For readers of Peggy Orenstein and Rebecca Traister, an authoritative, big think look at pornography in all its facets - historical, religious, and cultural.
In the 1960s, sex researchers Masters and Johnson declared the end of the fake orgasm. Nearly two decades later, in 1982, evangelical activist Tim LaHaye foretold that the entire pornography industry would soon be driven out of business. Neither prediction proved true. Instead, with the rise of the internet, pornography saturates the American conscience more than ever and has reshaped our understanding of sexuality, relationships, media, and even the nature of addiction.
Dr. Kelsy Burke has spent the last five years researching and interviewing internet pornography's opponents and its sympathizers. In The Pornography Wars, Burke does a deep dive into the long history of pornography in America and then turns her gaze on our present society to examine the ways this industry touches on the most intimate parts of American lives. She offers a complete understanding of the major players in the debates around porn's place in society: everyone from sex workers, activists, therapists, religious leaders, and consumers. In doing so, she addresses and debunks the myths that surround porn and porn usage while showing how everything from the way we teach children about sex to the legal protections for what can be published is tied up in the deeply complicated battles over pornography.
Sweeping, savvy, and deeply researched, The Pornography Wars is a necessary and comprehensive new look at pornography and American life.
About the Author
Kelsy Burke is an award-winning sociologist and author of Christians under Covers. She has spent the last decade studying how people talk about sex in America and is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her work has been supported by multiple grants and fellowships, including an award from the National Science Foundation, and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post The Huffington Post, Newsweek, Salon, and Slate.
“Compelling . . . No other book has covered American battles over porn quite so extensively . . . Burke establishes herself as a reliable guide with firsthand knowledge of the allure emanating from countervailing social forces . . . I learned a great deal from The Pornography Wars and recommend it to experts and beginners alike.” —Whitney Strub, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A mature, thoughtful book about a complex and divisive topic. No matter their personal opinions, readers will likely find observations here to inform their thoughts about pornography's creation and consumption.” —Library Journal, Starred Review
“Compassionate and well-balanced … refreshingly unbiased … an astute and forthright presentation of a hotly contested issue.” —Publishers Weekly
“A thought-provoking examination of pornography in America … well balanced and rigorously researched, featuring dozens of opinions from across the spectrum of debate … An intellectually stimulating read for porn fans and critics alike.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Thoroughly researched and refreshingly readable … this volume does a remarkable job of conveying points of view from all sides of the issues, resulting in a much more complex understanding of a lightning-rod subject.” —Booklist
“A great overview . . . informative . . . And it has a fresh angle: rather than portray porn performers, producers, and pro-sex feminists as polar opposites of the people crusading against pornography, Burke suggests 'this dividing line of anti- or pro-porn is a false dichotomy.'” —Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason
“The Pornography Wars is a tour de force! Weaving together history, politics, science, and technology, Burke meticulously documents all sides of the pornography debates... always staying above the fray. If you want to be truly informed, this is where you start!” —Lisa Wade, author of AMERICAN HOOKUP
“Whether you believe pornography exploits or empowers those who engage in it, you'll enjoy how Kelsy Burke deftly blends storytelling and rigorous social science research to enlighten us on this complex and often taboo subject. The Pornography Wars is relevant to anyone who is concerned about the influence that pornography has on our culture and our lives, including parents, clinicians, educators, and researchers alike. A fascinating read!” —Ina Park MD, MS, Professor, UCSF School of Medicine and Author of STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
“In The Pornography Wars, Kelsy Burke offers a timely and insightful perspective on one of the world's most contentious topics. She uses careful research and details from numerous interviews to convey realities about anti-pornography and pro-pornography advocacy positions, all while remaining transparent and clear about her own position and analytic frame. The writing is rich, highly accessible, and often personal. This is a provocative, extraordinary, must-read.” —Emily Rothman, author of PORNOGRAPHY AND PUBLIC HEALTH
“A clear-eyed, engaging, and deeply-researched study of an industry and an argument we cannot afford to ignore.” —Amy Werbel, author of LUST ON TRIAL
“Bold and ambitious, this book argues neither for or against pornography, instead championing the importance of knowing the sociohistorical context of narratives about pornography. With a sociological lens, Burke illuminates people's messy relationships to sexual images-the anxiety and the joy, the judgment and the pleasure-all in a radical attempt to humanize people on all sides of the porn wars.” —Jane Ward, Professor and Chair of the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies at University of California Riverside, and author of NOT GAY
“Kelsy Burke may have done the impossible. At a time when debates over pornography's production and consumption have never been more heated, Dr. Burke has written a book that combatants on either side of that fight would find accurate, fair, and enlightening. And that's because Dr. Burke invites both sides to explain their case. She interviews the activists, the experts, and the producers. She traces the history and crunches the numbers. Meticulously researched, yet sweeping in scope, The Pornography Wars is required reading for anyone interested in America's love-hate obsession with porn.” —Samuel L. Perry, co-author of THE FLAG AND THE CROSS and ADDICTED TO LUST
“Social conflicts over pornography are as ubiquitous as porn itself. Moving from Comstock to OnlyFans, armed with rigorous research and smarts, Kelsy Burke jumps into the fray with empathetic curiosity, complexity, fair-mindedness and nuance. A definitive and important study.” —Joshua Gamson, University of San Francisco
“[A] fascinating social history … an excellent snapshot of the various players involved in the porn wars, and why it still puts us at ideological loggerheads … Burke's work makes it clear that the controversies over porn are far from over.” —The Critic
“Burke has the gift of being supremely unruffled about even the most incendiary of subjects . . . The anti-porn and porn-positive camps she's been chronicling actually care about the same things, she concludes: 'human rights, sexual consent, and living a fulfilling life.' Everyone wants to achieve 'a real and authentic sexuality' and break away from the 'fake sex that surrounds us.'” —Laura Kipnis, The Atlantic