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Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts: Essays on Sex and Pornography Paperback – April, 1985
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"I think questions of sexuality and pornography which are of so much concern to feminist today can be clarified and demystified. If what matters is men's non-reciprocal access to women's resources, then male lust and even male violence are not the basic issues; they are merely particular examples of the fundamental issue" - From the introduction
This book consists of six essays where Joanna Russ deals with issues such as homophobia, sexuality and pornography.
In the essay "Not for Years but for decades", an autobiographical account of her coming out, she tells us how homophobia shaped her life pressuring her into heterosexuality and to a denial of her lesbianism - "[..] I had -for close to 25 years - no clear sexual identity at all, no confidence in my bodily experience, and no pleasure in lovemaking with any real person."- and how, only with the help of the women's movement, she was able to finally come out. Also, in typical Joanna Russ fashion she analyses the world around her and goes to the root of things. So, she shows by, commenting the Love Comics she read as a teenager, that romance is used by the heterosexual institution, both to maintain the gender system and heterosexuality and to hide homosexuality. "the hearts and flowers and the psychedelic flashing light would sweep all that away". She points that romance can be considered a self-obliterating religion. She also questions what a "real lesbian" is. She complains that world is seen as black and white when it comes to homosexuality and heterosexuality "This idea of what a lesbian is, is a wonderful way of preventing anyone from ever becoming one; and when we adopt it we're simply doing culture's dirty work for it".
On the essay "Power and Helplessness in the Women's Movement", she analyses the Feminine Imperative where "women are supposed to make other people feel good, to feel others' needs without having any of our own". Therefore women exist for others. This leads to women judging success in other women to be the worst sin, and women forcing other women to be unselfish, which has a destructive effect in women's groups.
On "Being against Pornography", she starts by stating that she has problems assessing the differences between erotica and pornography on a single glance. She then goes on analyse why, starting on the moral stances regarding sex. Then she demonstrates that most of the feminist analysis that was being made of pornography was quite superficial and that there was a need for an in-depth study of the politics economics and history of pornography.
On "News from the Front" aka Puritans vs perverts she also analyzes the fights within the women's movement regarding pornography. She starts by identifying the theory behind the "Puritans" stance: (1) culture is the primary cause of sexism, along with personal, (2) sexual relationships and, (3) that sexual behavior and sexual preferences are at the core of the human personality. Particularly interesting in her analysis is the comparison between (3) and what happened on the 19th century with the creation of homosexuality. The German doctors then did not characterized "the lesbian" by having same-sex genital activity but by the personality traits "feminist, refused to marry, wished to go to college, lived independently, smoked, preferred female company, disliked female dress, and so on".
On "Pornography by Women for Women with Love", she analyses Kirk/Spock fanfiction and why it was created by women and read by women, inspite of its male/male sexual content. She argues that this fanfiction is a fantasy of love and sex as women want them whether with a man or with another woman.
Finally in "Pornography and the Doubleness of Sex for Women" she talks about our sexual training as women how that affects women's stance regarding "sexual liberation".
As usual, when it comes to Joanna Russ, the text is clear, witty and provocative. A recommended book.