It takes guts to defend pornography publicly. And because of that, the anti-porn activists have an advantage -- many who disagree with them are scared to admit it, fearing that people who dislike porn will stereotype those who like it and look down on them or even treat them badly. However, the Internet has made it both easier to find porn without embarassment and easier to defend porn -- I don't know if I'd be able to say that I like porn in front of, say, members of my family, but I can easily say it on this weblog.
Nadine Strossen's Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights took more guts to put out -- this woman is staking her professional reputation on defending porn. But she does it so well! Her main point is that anti-porn "feminist" crusaders such as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon are really harming the feminist cause by asserting that women need to be protected by law from anything that might possibly be interpreted as sexual (since the "MacDworkinite" position is that anything depicting women's bodies must be objectifying them, anything about sex must be men viewing women as sex objects -- even gay male porn where there aren't any women involved, even lesbian women making porn for a lesbian audence -- and essentially that women are in the position of small children who are unable to give consent to, well, anything sex-related). Strossen shows what has happened when laws based on this position have been passed, both in the past when the assumption of women's "ladylike" natures was used to keep them from an expectation of enjoying sex, and in the present when Canada's laws based on Dworkin and MacKinnon's work, have been used to ban Dworkin's work from importation into that country. (Not surprising to me, since MacKinnon's Only Words was substantially more violent and disturbing when I tried to read it (I couldn't finish) than anything I have ever encountered in porn.)
Laura Kipnis' Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America takes a very different tack to defend porn (and in fact, I think, unjustly denigrates Strossen's book and her method). Kipnis talks about the (largely male) audiences for niche porn and the kind of people they are -- generally not the dangerous creeps that popular stereotype envisions. The most eye-opening section is that on the gay man who was entrapped by government agents into a supposed conspiracy to kidnap, rape, and murder a child, and is serving a prison sentence, though his only crimes are listening to the child-molesting "plans" of agents claiming to be hardened criminals and not risking his safety by refusing them to their faces. Kipnis' exploration of this and other attempts to manufacture crimes where none exist show that most anti-porn activists are merely working to outlaw things they aren't comfortable with, but she views some of these as class differences rather than female/male conflict, an eye-opening approach and refreshing to those who say that the feminist movement has ignored the experience of different socio-economic classes.
Both books make valuable, if very different, points that should not be overlooked when the issue of pornography is being discussed. It's a shame that the anti-porn activists who most need to hear these arguments would probably never pick up either book, but the pro-free-expression who do read these valuable works can at least build up their store of support for their side for future debate with the anti-porn side.