Kathleen Barry’s The Prostitution of Sexuality was first published in 1995 and grew out of her work and activism following the publication of Female Sexual Slavery in 1979. The first half of the book, which is just theory, is brilliant. The second half felt outdated as it is based almost entirely on the research undertaken for Female Sexual Slavery. I would argue that the situation is actually worse now than it was even 10 years ago, particularly in relation to rape as an accepted tactic of war. I’d be interested to read an epilogue to the book which examines the reality of women’s experiences of sexual exploitation now and whether Barry thinks it is worse for women or if its just that I’ve become more aware of sexual exploitation.
I cannot recommend this book enough though. Barry’s theory on the global exploitation of women is incredibly important. She destroys the idea that prostitution can be consented to within a capitalist-patriarchy. She clearly proves that the sexualisation of human bodies renders women passive objects and men active participants. Barry challenges the heteronormative construction of pornography and prostitution and the hegemonic nature of capitalism which is built on the bodies of women.
I am adding this book to my list of Top Ten Feminist Theory Texts (in no particular order):
1. Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse
2. Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences.
3. Susan Faludi’s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women
4. Kat Banyard’s The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today
5. Susan Maushart’s Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women
6. Sheila Jeffreys’ Beauty and Misogyny
7. Susie Orbach’s Fat is a Feminist Issue
8. Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics
9. Melinda Tankard Reist’s Big Porn Inc
10. Kathleen Barry’s The Prostitution of Sexuality: The Global Exploitation of Women