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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Sex Myth: Why Everything We're Told is Wrong[mass market]
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2013
This book is a vigorous and heartfelt liberal defence of pornography and sex work against those who want to ban or severely limit them. I felt rather frustrated reading the book and at first I couldn't put my finger on why (beyond the fact that it is written in a very slangy tabloid press style, which I don't appreciate - the book seems to have been written very quickly).

On reflection, I think my problem is that most of the book is attacking very easy targets (shoddy and unprofessional research, and deliberate misuse of such research by politicians with their own agenda). Magnanti takes the standard liberal line that anybody wanting to ban or restrict something has a burden of proof to show beyond doubt that it is harmful and that there is no other way to remove the harm other than banning it. Most of the claims that porn and sex work stimulate crime and other negative effects depend on anecdotal evidence or studies with tiny samples, sometimes with misrepresented results. So, she doesn't feel obliged to show that pornography sex work etc have any benefits, she feels she only needs to show that their opponents have failed to prove any negative effects. The closest she comes to showing benefits is the correlation between the increased prevalence of porn and a fall in sex crime rates (though she correctly warns us to avoid the correlation=causation fallacy, it does seem to show that porn does not stimulate crime).

The book left me frustrated because it didn't even set out to prove anything one way or the other ; it just set out to show that the existing evidence does not justify any ban on sex work or porn. The big debate at the moment is the fact that internet porn seems to be becoming de facto sex education for teenagers, and how this influences them, before they have even had sex themselves. The kinds of sex acts depicted in porn tend to be much more often rough and dominating sex (often including anal sex and oral ejaculation) than romantic gentle sex. How does this affect teenagers coming to sex for the first time ? Magnanti's answer seems to be "no definitive proof of harm = no problem". Sure, she agrees that more research is necessary, but the book doesn't really shed much light on an important debate. I expected a rather deeper contribution than just slagging off the other side's poor research, and I was disappointed there.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2012
This is a refreshing and incisive scientific view of a subject of primary interest to humankind,(i.e., sex, in case you hadn't worked it out), lightly written with a dry sense of humour. Sexual issues properly concern politics and society, and Dr M. completely demolishes various myths that permeate popular debate.
You can tell a book by the quality of its references, and as you would expect from a doctor in epidemiology, the argument is grounded in robust evidence.
She convincingly destroys, for example, the myths that rapes rise in districts with strip clubs, and that there is a huge "trafficking sex trade." The myths are not only wrong but the mis-information positively damages effective efforts to reduce rape and trafficking.
So it is good reading and if you are interested in social issues, essential, to consider evidence before arguing for policy.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2013
This is a very interesting and well written book with lots of basic facts and plenty of humour. The author became known for her anonymous blog and subsequent book - " The secret diary of a call-girl. " It's no surprise to me that this is the work of a scientific mind and not a journalistic one. Only original sources are used and not the usual 'hearsay' stuff which you find in the Press and in Parliament. This is a must-read for anyone with a serious and unbiased view of the subject. It might even remove some bias from uninformed people if they take the trouble to read its excellent contents.
Graham Lewis.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2013
This is a book that made me shout "Yes! At last somebody with sense and method!" at nearly every page.
Dr Magnanti explores the most unfairly propagated myths about sex and do so by carefully and scientifically debunking all the so-called studies that are relentlessly used or misused to push either sensationalist and/or incompetent news on one hand, or the dubious agenda of sexophobic and/or technophobic crusaders.
The author's scientific methods are impeccable and her counter arguments are very well explained even to the non-expert.
Contrarily to what another review claim, I can attest that references are made for every citation she presents or paper she refers. Also, her style is sometime colloquial but it is in no way at the detriment of the book contents nor of the rigour of the scientific approach used.
I initially feared that being a former sex-worker could be a hindrance for her objectivity but it was not the case: She uses no preconceptions to influence her reasoning while being open-minded and candid, two very useful qualities when dealing with such a loaded domain as sex studies.
This book was a breath of fresh air that confirmed my suspicions after reading wobbly 'studies' after another, and also taught me a great deal about statistical methodologies that can be used for other domains that also fall prey of sensationalist journalism or scaremongering politics. Excellent book !
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2012
From time to time moral crusaders of all colours, from the loony Left to the religious Right, and not forgetting modern radical feminists, stir up moral panics around the issue of human sexual behaviour. Claims that pornography objectifies women, that our children are being sexualised or that thousands of women in prostitution are forced to work against their will are carefully analysed by Dr Magnanti and found to be untrue. Don't be put off by Dr Magnanti's past (she worked as a call girl under the pseudonym "Belle de Jour"). She is a well-educated, qualified scientist and an accomplished author. I like the calm, scientifically objective approach she has taken in dismantling nine modern myths about sex and sexuality. Even readers who are not particularly bothered either way about subjects such as pornography, prostitution, sex addiction and the like, may find the book interesting because of Dr Magnanti's descriptions of the shocking extent to which moral crusaders will go to twist the evidence, make up data, ignore the truth and lie to the public in order to gain political influence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 September 2014
Valid points are made and it is easy to read but I found that it laboured the point in places so you felt yourself thinking "I get what your saying I do not need yet another example" so I got a bit bored by the end.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2012
As a qualified sex therapist and a scientist it is satisfying to see such a book written. However, I fear that it will do little to change biased opinions. Those people that believe these sex myths are so unlikley to buy this book. It is safer to hang on to their misconceptions, their version of the 'truth'. Sadly,the general population seems to find it difficult to embrace a scientific methodology. As Paul Simon said 'we hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest'.
Clearly Dr Magnanti has a point to prove. High intelligence and perhaps a sex drive at the higher end of the scale is a potent combination, and perhaps threatening to some. And wasn't it Anais Nin who observed that 'we dont see things as they are, we see things as we are'.

The difficulty with this area is that there is so much variation amongst individuals. Which makes if difficult when it comes down to something being true or not true. An individual is different from a population. The popular press has difficulty in coping with all the different shades of sexual feeling, sexual expression, sexual attitudes- even in these days of fity shades.... Black or white is easier to deal with. And what goes on in the emotional part of the brain- where faith and belief reside- might be a universe away from what goes on in the cerebral cortex.

Pleased I bought the book though. I remain a fan of Dr Magnanti!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2014
Cote d'Azur Men's Book Club review by Barry Hibbitt

Doctor Brooke Magnanti subtitles her book Why Everything We Are Told is Wrong and it seems she is right. A graduate of Sheffield University where she studied Genetic Epidemiology and gaine a PhD she is a former call girl, selling her body to pay off debts when she was at an American univerity, Just 17 years old, she became a star between the sheets, based in London. That led her to write, as Belle de Jour such bodice rippers as The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl and other desirable stories. Today she is happily married and a campaigner against published statistics that give false information. The Book Group largely loved the book and her presentation of arguments that used commonsense to relate some startling and educative facts of life. She points out that men are stimulated by visual scenes and are always interested in sex whlle women are more discriminating. The difference in feelings is related to the bodily differences, she asserts and sexual requirements are clearly different, men being straightforward while women use their charm to attract men. Dr Magnanti says that for every prim and proper
lady there is a dark, threatening and dangerous one. The Book Group felt the Sex Myth is intelligently written while her chatty and self jusification was not appreciated by everyone. Approval,too, for her crusade against the single interest groups, the Agenda Setters and Constellation Makers who try to influence public opinion with unfounded statustics. She has written a very readable,serious but amusing book. Finis
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
My first exposure to both has been eye opening; I felt challenged and uplifted. Simple evidence rather than artificial anecdote informs her. Bravo.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2012
Magnati takes a series of things that most people think are true about sex (that pornography leads to rape, that sex workers are all miserable and exploited) and ably demolishes each one through the application of Science.

She reveals instead the vested interests behind these claims, the flaky statistics and the reality that those who purport to be protecting sex workers in fact want to legislate them out of existence.

A fascinating and worthy book, full of interesting nuggests which you may or may not want to unveil at the dinner table...
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