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Why We Lost the Sex Wars: Sexual Freedom in the #MeToo Era, Lorna Bracewell

Reviewed by Shauna Shames

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Of the many controversies and contradictions roiling within modern feminism, the so-called sex wars is one of the more crucial yet underexplored. The advent of #MeToo provides a useful lens for Lorna Bracewell's cogent and incisive analysis of this set of battles over the past few decades, which are at the heart of how the larger movement for gender and women's equality understands the actual act of sex and its media depictions, particularly pornography. Legitimate concerns and questions from many sides within this debate were, Bracewell explains in Why We Lost the Sex Wars, locked by the early 1980s into a false “catfight narrative,” pitting “sex-positive” feminists against those who viewed pornography and the conflation of sex with violence as demeaning to women. Bracewell aims explicitly to “explode the catfight narrative, and the narrow and debilitating feminist sexual politics it secretes” (p. 11), in this refreshing and wholly original work that—quite correctly—refuses to accept a classical liberal (libertarian) view of individual rights as a sufficient framework for feminist movement achievement.

This book seeks to answer a critical central question: “Why has the sex-positive feminist left converged with the antifeminist right on a quintessentially liberal defense of individual rights

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