Book Review – Beyond Speech: Pornography and Analytic Feminist Philosophy

review by Martin Fradley, University of Brighton. In their introduction to Beyond Speech, Hilkje Charlotte Hänel and Mari Mikkola state that this new collection of essays has two core aims: firstly, to take stock of extant feminist debates on pornography and, secondly, to ‘examine some newer lines of inquiry and investigate what they can tell us about still-unsettled conceptual and political questions’ (11). The ‘speech’ of the book’s title refers to Catherine MacKinnon’s (1987) famous legal argument that pornography should be understood as a series of violent ‘speech acts’, which ultimately serve to silence, subordinate and harm all women. Tellingly, the writers here almost all begin with the premise that pornography can be ‘harmful’, and Beyond Speech contains a dozen original essays that subsequently defend, challenge and re-evaluate some of the most important feminist interventions in what was once (rather quaintly) referred to as ‘the pornography debate’.

Retrosexual: The Notorious Work of Bettie Page and Irving and Paula Klaw 

by Ellen Wright of De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Model Bettie Page and filmmaker/photographers Irving and Paula Klaw have left a curious cultural legacy. Their work together, between 1952 and 1957, often filmed in a studio above the Klaw’s photo and bookshop, resulted in a catalogue of pin-up and fetish photographs, a clutch of burlesque revue B-movies and a number of short, silent 8mm and 16mm, mail order fetish ‘specialty’ films, intended for home exhibition. In these films Page, clad in lingerie, stockings and vertiginously high heels, would enact requested fetish and BDSM scenarios, either alone or with other young women. 

Book Review – Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure

Review of Lynn Comella’s Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure. Duke University Press. September 2017 (HB £79.00 and PB £20.99). 296 pages. 41 illustrations. review by Caroline West, Dublin City University.

Susie Bright, Good Vibrations and the Politics of Sexual Representation

by Lynn Comella, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US. Susie Bright was not yet the nationally known author and trailblazer Susie Sexpert when she walked through the doors of Good Vibrations for the first time in 1980. She was 22 years old and lived around the corner from the store at Twentieth and Valencia Streets. Bright remembers that initial visit vividly. Honey Lee Cottrell, who would later become Bright’s lover and collaborator, was working behind the counter. Cottrell, a butch lesbian with prematurely greying hair, was opening envelopes that contained a single quarter – the amount that the store’s founder, Joani Blank, was charging at the time for an itemised list of vibrators that doubled as the company’s mail-order catalogue. Bright watched curiously as Cottrell opened the envelopes and stacked the quarters, one on top of the other, next to the cash register. ‘Why don’t you just put them in the register?’ she finally asked. ‘We don’t know how to record it’, Cottrell replied. ‘It’s not a sale and no one can figure out what it is, so we just pile them up on the side and Joani says she will deal with it later’.