Flesh Trade by
pbk out December 05
`Although tourist guides would never recommend it,' Bruce Barnard
writes, `You can gain a good insight into the culture of a society purely by
watching the pornography it produces.' If he's correct, then most of us
wouldn't want to turn Japanese: he notes that Western tourists are often
refused entry to Japan's Red Light areas as the locals know that they'd be
shocked by the level of female degradation which goes on.
Thankfully this isn't yet another `we made our excuses and left' expose
of the sex industry. Instead, the author looks openly at the business,
interviewing a Soho sex shop owner, watching a gay and a straight porn
shoot and even participating in a 12 step pornography addiction
programme in South-West England in which men were made to feel
guilty about their sexual proclivities.
He found that some sex workers really enjoyed their job, others tolerate it
for the money (which is equally true of most people working in call
centres) and a few were clearly exploited - one girl was regularly hit by
her controlling partner who fitted into the category of Manager Boyfriend
Syndrome. Determined to participate rather than just view, the author
became a telephone sex worker, listening to the fantasies of gay, straight
and married bi-curious men.
This is a fascinating, literate and well-researched look at the UK sexual
underground which is also very funny in places and even made me laugh
out loud. The language and practices described make it suitable for only
the most broadminded of adults - if there was life after death, Mary
Whitehouse would be spinning in her grave.
At the conclusion of the book, Bruce watches porn for twenty four hours
to see if it will deprave and corrupt him, but by the end he's so bored that
he never wants to see another skinflick. In the words of one of the sex-
video sellers he interviews; `booze does more damage but no one gives a
f--- about that.'