Power Surge: Sex, Violence and Pornography


253 pages
ISBN 0-929005-78-3
DDC 363.4'7





Reviewed by Andrea Levan

Andrea Levan is an assistant professor and co-ordinator of the Women’s
Studies Program, Thorneloe College, Laurentian University.


Susan G. Cole is probably the most prominent Canadian anti-pornography
feminist. While not going so far as to support censorship, Cole calls
for the regulation of pornography and a civil harms–based approach to
law, which places the emphasis on the experience of women hurt by
pornography. This book is a collection of essays outlining her positions
on this and other violence issues. They develop a theoretical analysis
that focuses on the power inequalities characteristic of how these
issues have been constructed under patriarchy.

Almost all the essays are reprints from Broadside, a radical feminist
paper, which Cole edited and which stopped publishing in 1989. The rest
are reprinted from other publications, including her book Pornography
and the Sex Crisis. Although there are a few updates and comments on
such recent developments as the Butler decision, by and large the essays
remain as they were; as a result, they have a rather dated quality. For
example, the essay on sexuality remains a succinct and well-argued
example of the position that current expressions of sexuality are shaped
by patriarchal patterns of dominance and submission and thus can never
be used as liberatory tools, but it has lost some of the intensity it
had when the paper was originally published at the height of feminist
debates on sexuality. As another example, the essay on Madonna does not
consider any of her recent work.

Cole is an articulate writer who is always sensitive to the pain of
women damaged by violence. Her essays are always worth reading to remind
ourselves of the pervasiveness of violence in women’s lives.
Nevertheless, for those who are already familiar with her work, this
book provides little that is new.


Cole, Susan G., “Power Surge: Sex, Violence and Pornography,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1933.