Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right

Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right

by Whitney Strub
     
 

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While America is not alone in its ambivalence toward sex and its depictions, the preferences of the nation swing sharply between toleration and censure. This pattern has grown even more pronounced since the 1960s, with the emergence of the New Right and its attack on the "floodtide of filth" that was supposedly sweeping the nation. Antipornography campaigns became

Overview

While America is not alone in its ambivalence toward sex and its depictions, the preferences of the nation swing sharply between toleration and censure. This pattern has grown even more pronounced since the 1960s, with the emergence of the New Right and its attack on the "floodtide of filth" that was supposedly sweeping the nation. Antipornography campaigns became the New Right's political capital in the 1960s, laying the groundwork for the "family values" agenda that shifted the country to the right.

Perversion for Profit traces the anatomy of this trend and the crucial function of pornography in constructing the New Right agenda, which has emphasized social issues over racial and economic inequality. Conducting his own extensive research, Whitney Strub vividly recreates the debates over obscenity that consumed members of the ACLU in the 1950s and revisits the deployment of obscenity charges against purveyors of gay erotica during the cold war, revealing the differing standards applied to heterosexual and homosexual pornography. He follows the rise of the influential Citizens for Decent Literature during the 1960s and the pivotal events that followed: the sexual revolution, feminist activism, the rise of the gay rights movement, the "porno chic" moment of the early 1970s, and resurgent Christian conservatism, which now shapes public policy far beyond the issue of sexual decency.

Strub also examines the ways in which the left failed to mount a serious or sustained counterattack to the New Right's use of pornography as a political tool. As he demonstrates, this failure put the Democratic Party at the mercy of Republican rhetoric. In placing debates about pornography at the forefront of American postwar history, Strub revolutionizes our understanding of sex and American politics.

Editorial Reviews

H-Histsex
[Strub] conveys how pornography comes into contact with greater narratives of obscenity, permissiveness, sexuality, and gender. It is apparent from [his] accounts how pornography is a vital and rich subject for analyzing a range of social pressures and competing narratives.

Journal of American History
Perversion for Profit situates the pornography battles within the tricky ideological crosscurrents of the culture war.

— David T. Courtwright

Journal of American History - David T. Courtwright
Perversion for Profit situates the pornography battles within the tricky ideological crosscurrents of the culture war.

American Historical Review - David K. Johnson
Strub does a masterful job of making the complicated postwar legal history of the shifting definitions of obscenity clear in a nuanced analysis that is always attentive to issues of gender and sexuality.

Journal of the History of Sexuality - Gillian Frank
Well-researched and wide-ranging.... [Perversion for Profit] deserves accolades for charting conservatism's ongoing affair with pornography and convincingly demonstrating the centrality of sexuality to an understanding of modern political history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231148870
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
09/03/2013
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Andrea Friedman

This is a very impressive book. It is extraordinarily comprehensive, offering excellent discussions of both national political debates and outcomes and local manifestations. Ranging from Los Angeles and Memphis to La Crosse, Wisconsin, and numerous small towns, Whitney Strub has done an admirable job of situating his analysis in the local arenas where obscenity and pornography battles frequently take place. It fills an important gap in the literature and will make an original and significant contribution to the histories of pornography, obscenity, sexuality, postwar politics, and postwar culture.

Andrea Friedman, Washington University in St. Louis, author of Prurient Interests: Gender, Democracy, and Obscenity in New York City, 1909-1945

Rick Perlstein

This study of the politics of pornography in postwar America is marvelous. Paying close attention to both visual and textual sources, Whitney Strub brings them alive for the reader. His genealogy of outrage from comic books to pornography is utterly original. The documentation of the double standard between homosexual and heterosexual pornography is also an exceptionally useful contribution to ongoing gay and lesbian history projects. The book is convincingly and responsibly opinionated and full of life. The chapter on feminism and pornography is a masterpiece. It is a landmark chapter, one of the few historical essays that might achieve that rare accomplishment of actually ending a sterile debate.

Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

Rick Perlstein
This study of the politics of pornography in postwar America is marvelous. Paying close attention to both visual and textual sources, Whitney Strub brings them alive for the reader. His genealogy of outrage from comic books to pornography is utterly original. The documentation of the double standard between homosexual and heterosexual pornography is also an exceptionally useful contribution to ongoing gay and lesbian history projects. The book is convincingly and responsibly opinionated and full of life. The chapter on feminism and pornography is a masterpiece. It is a landmark chapter, one of the few historical essays that might achieve that rare accomplishment of actually ending a sterile debate.

Meet the Author

Whitney Strub is an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University, Newark. His writing has appeared in American Quarterly, Journal of the History of Sexuality, Journal of Social History, PopMatters, and Bad Subjects. He lives in Center City, Philadelphia.

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