Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Stacks - The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn


The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn
by Violet Blue
Cleis Press, 2006

It's a sign of the culture we live in that every informational sex book begins with a section where the author, like a skilled bomb squad engineer, slowly and painstakingly defuses the reader's secret shame and guilt about their sexual desires. The existence of this section -- the first fifty pages of your average sex book -- is doubly surprising when you consider the reader had to be interested and open-minded enough to go to go to an independent book store (because good luck finding a decent sex book at Barnes & Noble) and buy the book in the first place!

This fifty page section stands out even more than usual in The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn, which is only 120 pages long. Yes, it is okay for girls to look at porn. No, it's not just for men. Yes, there will be things that turn you off or offend you. No, you should hold that against porn in general.

In writing a book for women about porn Violet Blue knows how much prejudice she has to overcome. Until very recently, porn -- a film genre with endless variety, as Blue points out -- was all painted the same very black color by feminists. Generations of women have learned that porn exploits and disrespects their gender. Violet Blue cops to that. Some porn does, she admits. But other porn doesn't mistreat or exploit its female performers. Some is even produced by women, for women. Don't burn down the barn to get rid of the rats.

For those readers who don't need to be convinced porn isn't always bad, it's best to skip ahead in this book. Most of the information this book has to offer is in Chapter 6, which is about the mainstream porn industry, and Chapter 7, which is about Internet porn (at three years old, the book's web addresses are mostly out of date, but the general information's still good).

Beyond the occasional visit to a free site I've never been a big consumer of porn (I doubt I could name a famous porn star who's still in the business) so I found these chapters very interesting. And occasionally disillusioning -- who knew Paris Hilton had to sign a release before her sex tape could be "leaked"? And then there's the other reason to read books by Violet Blue: that, unlike many sex writers, she has a fresh and witty writing style that makes every subject more interesting.

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