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Red Light: Inside The Sex Industry [Paperback]

James Ridgeway
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 1 1999
Featuring over 120 gritty black-and-white photographs, Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry is a provocative tour of New York City's sexual underground, told in the authentic voices of those who live and work in it.

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From Amazon

Sylvia Plachy, a photographer for the Village Voice, and James Ridgeway, a reporter for the same publication, have delved into the depths of the pornography trade to explore and explain both its allure and its vulgarity. There is a sense of shock value in exposing the most lurid of fantasies--a man who has his dominatrix mummify him in concrete--that is tempered with theories as to how such an industry could have evolved. We also get to meet for ourselves those in the trade, providing a walk on the wild side within the safe confines of photographs and words. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The sex industry, declares Village Voice Washington correspondent Ridgeway, is an agent of social control, a safety valve for a repressed, confused patriarchal culture that transforms the hunger for sex and power into a commercial product laden with worn-out male fantasies of a prefeminist world. This survey of the sex business combines Ridgeway's essay incorporating strenuously nonjudgmental interviews with prostitutes, porn-video makers, actors, strippers, topless dancers, a dominatrix and other sex workers in the New York metropolitan area with arty, often explicit photographs by Village Voice staff photographer Plachy. Some interviewees speak of sex work as a socially valuable or personally empowering profession; for others, it's a way to get by. Ridgeway looks askance at an impersonal industry where contact with another human body is increasingly replaced by electronically enhanced onanism, but he is equally critical of the "sex police," by which he means law enforcement agencies, often in league with conservative family-values groups and antiporn activists. With its jazzy layout and garish photos, this volume comes across as a celebration of an arena it purports to analyze.

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The banality of sex work. June 10 2000
Published in 1996, "Red Light" is a quick, interesting read that opens a window to the everyday world of New York and New Jersey sex work. Focusing primarily upon different types of prostitution and "exotic" dancing, writer James Ridgeway also touches upon porn films, phone sex, and computer-oriented enterprises. The black and white photos by Sylvia Plachy ably illustrate the world that's being delved into here.
Because "Red Light" was published in '96 the subject of computer oriented work is out of date, but the predictions regarding that arena have turned out to be mostly true. Frustratingly, Ridgeway occasionally makes sweeping or trite generalizations - particularly in the introduction - without presenting information beforehand to bolster his statements. The biggest drawback to this book is that it is geographically focused on New York and New Jersey, which are unique to anywhere else in America. Lastly, while it is often understandable, Ridgeway sometimes uses language that hinders the reader from deciding how he or she feels about a certain situation or person; or he turns the narrative in a negative direction if an interviewee starts to express something positive.
Even so, since I'm interested in human sexuality, our society's dichotomous, hypocritical and confused views on sex, and because I believe in freedom of choice, I thought "Red Light" would provide uncensored insight into the sex worker's life. It did that, though not to the extent I'd hoped. Mr. Ridgeway mainly focuses on the squalid side of the business (e.g.
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Red Light promotes the radical notion that sex workers are people, too. Here "sex worker" carries far beyond the stigmatized streetwalker stereotype. This biz provides the legal livelihood of folks as diverse as the vice cop, the cosmetic surgeon who creates the outlandishly enlarged tools of the trade, the porn star, the publisher, the dominatrix and the vibrator dealer. Their voices, as well as those of the neglected other half of the equation, their customers, humanize the daily commerce of desire. Ridgeway's eloquent and stylish prose probes the relationship of the sex industry to family values, gender inequality, censorship, anti-porn feminism, sexual liberation, puritanism, government repression and the fulfillment of fantasy. But the focus is always on the people: go-go dancers including men who shake it for audiences of both straight gals and gay guys, fetish mistresses, peep show performers and a midwest massage parlor madam, among many others, tell their stories. Their articulate observations about their professions in their own words comprise the most compelling part of the text. Plachy's intimate photographs are likewise non-judgemental, neither romanticizing or demonizing the workers or their patrons. Depictions of on-stage professional personas engaged in enacting male expectations alternate with moments of quiet, backstage reflection and many pictures of nothing more or less than workers at work. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Additional interesting information... Aug. 18 2003
By A Customer
Apparently the book may have hit a little too close to home for some. One of the book's researchers (a dancer in the sex industry) disappeared not too long after the release of the book. It is still unknown if the disappearance was a result of her work on this book or some of her other reasearch in writing about Vampyre Cults. If you ever catch the documentary "Stripped", you can find more of the details there - but it seems fairly certain that foul play was involved. Anyway, just a little interesting fact that may make the book more interesting for some.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exploration of the sex industry. July 9 1999
By A Customer
An excellent survey of all types of sex work, from phone sex, massage parlor, brothel and street prostitution to stripping. The author presents a balanced and readable work. I recommend it highly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book available about the "industry" July 14 2000
By A Customer
Short and Sweet review: This book digs deep and gives the reader a taste of what happens in the sex "industry". Buy it! I was not disappointed.
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