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Tarrant's primer on porn, The Pornography Industry, addresses some basic and some more complex issues. It's a fairly short book with 10 chapters in about 180 pages, and then notes and suggested readings. The tone is lively and non-judgmental. Tarrant sets out both factual information and also opinions about pornography, and includes her own perspective. She is quick to dispel many myths or widely spread false claims about porn, and works at showing some of the complexities. She does not a strong stance either for or against porn, but she does seem broadly in favor of toleration of the porn industry and acknowledging its shortcomings. Since there are often not many well-researched sources of information about the porn industry, and it is difficult to capture the profusion of different kinds of porn with brief summaries, she does often rely on more impressionistic approaches or anecdotal accounts. But she does make an effort to provide up-to-date information when it is available. Given the swiftly changing face of porn, this is a book that could need to be updated regularly to avoid becoming obsolete.
The book starts off with an overview of the porn industry and then moves to history, the kinds available, the performers and their work conditions, the consumers, the social effects, the health issues for performers, the debate over porn addiction, legal battles, the use of porn by minors, educating children about porn, and the future of porn with its different subgenres, and the possibilities of new technology. It's a helpful survey of the industry which should provide new information to even well-informed readers. It does not go into great detail in any single area, but it provides enough information to allow for further research. The general themes are that the porn industry is always in flux, and while it certainly has problems with exploitation and health, there is no strong evidence that it causes major social problems or that the industry is necessarily bad for those who work in it or that the majority of people who appear in porn are people with major emotional problems. Maybe the most interesting parts of the book are those that address new or progressive developments in porn, with sexual minorities empowering themselves through making their own independent porn. She is especially positive in her description of "queer porn" and moves to make more inclusive porn with people of all body types.
© 2016 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York
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