JANE SEXES IT UP: True Confessions of Feminist Desire

Merri Lisa Johnson, Editor . Four Walls Eight Windows $16 (232p) ISBN 978-1-56858-180-4

The feminist battles over pornography in the 1970s and '80s left Gen-X third-wave feminists with a complex set of questions, says Johnson. Why do women still settle for unsatisfying sex? What does a thoughtful feminist do about her politically incorrect fantasies? Is heterosexual romance incompatible with female self-determination? While some feminists might tackle these questions without mentioning any body parts, much less their own, the contributors to this racy volume make a great effort to speak honestly about their erotic experiences in intimate, jargon-free essays edited by Johnson, a former stripper with a Ph.D. in English. There are entries from women working as prostitutes and strippers, women into exhibitionism, self-mutilation, muscle-building, girl gang-banging—even women working out the impulse toward heterosexual marriage. While no one claims to have definitive answers to the big questions, certain perspectives do emerge. Among them: desire is "both socially constructed and beyond social construction"; viewing sex as a performance—a deliberate trying on of other roles—can be empowering; anything that defies the traditional heterosexual rules of engagement—be it wanting a spanking or masturbating to rape fantasies—makes space for different sexualities; and, maybe most importantly, contradictions are okay—even feminists don't have to make sense all the time. It's not for the straitlaced, but sex-positive feminists will find this a provocative, important anthology that speaks honestly to the question of pleasure and how to get it. (Mar. 15)

Forecast: Jane should please readers of Nerve.com and forward-thinking Camille Paglia fans. Antipornography feminists may want to steer clear.

Reviewed on: 02/25/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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