email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAlways Forever MaybeAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting OffGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot My ShameNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePhilosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An IntroductionPin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Dangerous Art of Blending InThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Evolution of BeautyThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe PervertThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebUntrue VirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
Sobles Pornography, Sex, and
Feminism is written in a brash, trash-talking mode the mirrors the text of
pornography. It certainly constitutes a
descent from the Olympian standards of traditional academic writing. Nonetheless, the book is pit-bull like in
its desire to consider wide swaths of academic assessments of pornography, no
matter how poor the arguments encountered within this discourse turn out to
be. And Soble convincingly makes clear
that a great many such arguments turn out to be pretty poor indeed.
Soble is to be thanked for having
taken the time to read though all the trash he evidently needed to write his
book, and for offering some of the most politically incorrect, masculinist
arguments in favor of pornography that have ever made their way from the pen of
a philosopher to a published work. If
it is argued that pornography dehumanizes, Soble will argue that the human is
overrated anyways. If a feminist critic
claims that men will have negative reactions to viewing pornography, Soble will
claim that most women writing on these subjects havent the foggiest idea of
what is going on inside mens minds when it comes to sex. If the case is made that older women are
punished by a lack of sexual attention from their spouses, Soble argues that
this is obviously not reason enough to keep these spouses from playing the
field with younger women. If Martha
Nussbaum argues that valuable sex requires the context of a normative
history, Soble imagines gazing at her body during an APA conference; and then goes on to dismiss Nussbaum as
being akin to a sexually protected young girl.
I think it is fairly clear that
Sobles book is a prime example of how not to write if you are working
within academia. Particularly when it
comes to Nussbaum, he goes well over the top.
Nonetheless, his brash, ultra-masculine voice is a much needed, fascinating
alternative to the feminist and conservative humdrum over which he
pores. Moreover, he is also able give
philosophical voice to the average views of the many countless male consumers
of pornography. Soble makes the case,
in clear terms, that pornography is good because it is exciting, pleasurable,
and useful in setting ones sexual horizons.
Sobles utilitarian case for pornography that is highly credible, but it
is nonetheless quite marred by a lack of philosophical sophistication. It appears that Soble just does not
understand Kant, and even admits as much.
In his defense, it must be noted that Soble puts the blame on Kant. However, his upfront approach on Kantian
ignorance fails to keep his broad, un-reasoned swipes at Kantian respect for
the subject from sounding extremely insipid.
Moreover, his attacks on Kantian feminists are bizarre in being
un-willing to accept that Kantian feminists do not have to re-establish the
grounds of the moral law every time they reply upon Kants arguments. Beyond such lacunas, and quite separate from
them, is Sobles apparent view that Kants false assumptions about sex somehow
invalidate any use of his theory in this area.
Kant felt that sex reduces us to the level of animals, therefore the
moral law is a joke would seem to be Sobles point of view here: and I am not particularly exaggerating. Sobles work could have been immeasurable
strengthen if Soble could have offered us a Kantian argument in favor of pornography,
along with the utilitarian one Soble uses, in order to balance the Kantian
criticism. Soble could have shown that
Kants system is able to embrace the position that, since pornography is
exciting, pleasurable, and useful in setting ones sexual horizons, it is a
good worth having within culture. The
only specifically Kantian grounds for rejecting pornography would require
conclusively showing that pornography involves treating its objects merely
as objects (i.e., means), and not also as subjects (who are paid, occasionally
titillated, granted rights, etc.).
Soble is un-willing to consider this case, preferring to wallow in
Related to this un-willingness to consider Kant as a potential
legitimator of sexual freedom is Sobles un-willingness to take seriously the
idea of narrative history being attached to sex an ideal. Just as Soble does not want to consider the
niceties of going over what counts as treating someone merely as an end,
he also does not want to consider that criticism of pornography might be made
from the position that sexual relationships involving mutual recognition and
narrative history might both have a great deal more to offer than the cold
fucks Soble is incessantly considering;
and also be extremely fragile affairs whose integrity can be corrupted
by a Soble-style de-emphasis on non-hedonic standards in the selection of sex
partners. Soble does not seem to
understand that Nussbaums restrained description of sexual relations is one
made in order to form into being a contemporary sexual culture that gives
Platonic eros and other forms of sublimation its place, rather than
being, as Soble argues, the product of some sort of evident inexperience in
The book is a kind of volcanic
eruption: it never was going to involve
itself into the subtleties, as the point was to burst through the sick web of
constraints our academic cultured has allowedand, more recently, even
furtheredwhen it comes to free expression on sex, and free sexual
expression. Soble is clearly keen to
set alight both sides of this web, and there are limits to how much we can
blame him when he stumbles in his rampages.
For it is, again, a deeply instructive rampage.
To give one example: the
section, Chestlers Complaint, provides a kind of slam-dunk criticism of
complaints that men are often interested in women much younger than them, and
that pornography is often the source of this desire, in that it offers images
of teen-aged girls and women in their early 20s. In responding to such complaints, Soble demonstrates the
absurdities involved in trying to give equality-mad glosses to the existence
of genetically-rooted male drives for women who are at ages of maximum
fertility. Soble helps along
philosophical discourse on sex by pointing out the foolishness of trying to
cover over serious theoretical consideration of such drives with banalities
about Playboy causing father-daughter incest, or the like. Again, Soble is to be thanked for having
taken the time to consider a lot of trash, most of it the product of
word-processors, not digital cameras.
For it does seem to me at least remotely possible that paternalist and
feminist minded thinkers who might be tempted to deal out the sort of trash
Soble took it upon himself to troll through may respond well to the treatment
Soble prescribes, and think againassuming, of course, that they dont simply
toss his book across the room a chapter in, which seems a distinct possibility.
such as Chestler seem to want to point to the sexual consequences that follow
from the lack of complementary, age-sensitive female drives about male
fertility as consequences that an enlightened culture can address by throwing
men and women into unisex jacket of the relationship of equality. Soble is clear that power equality is often neither particularly
sexy nor particularly useful. In making
this case, Soble does more than inoculate us to anti-pornography dribble. Soble touches a deep nerve in our
contemporary culture, one which curls into quite different issues of
gender: e.g., the status of housewives
v. working women, female participation in political structures, etc. Thus, however down and dirty his manner of
presentation may be, the fact remains that Soble has done quite useful work.
© 2002 Marcus Verhaegh
is a graduate student in the Philosophy PhD program at Emory University.