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Teenage Kicks: Young People’s Engagements with Pornography
Worries about young people and their consumption of pornography are a constant feature of news reports, policy reports and government pronouncements - key to many of these scare stories about young people are the ways in which ‘porn users’ are figured as at risk, as indiscriminate, having no developed tastes, failing to acquire sets of knowledges and understandings about porn and about 'real sex'. Drawing on responses to an online questionnaire, this article attempts to uncover some of the ways in which young people talk about processes of becoming aware of what pornography means, to parents, to society and most importantly to themselves as individuals with sexual desires, feelings and identities.
Designed for Pleasure: Style, indulgence and accessorized sex
European Journal of Cultural Studies, 2007, Volume 10. Number 2, pp.167-184. This article examines sex retailing in the United Kingdom and advancements in sex toy design in order to explore the part that these products play in discourses of female sexual self-discovery. As British culture appears increasingly transfixed by sex and sexual adventure, the proliferation of sex toys could be explained as just another instance of its relaxed attitudes. The existence of specialist erotic boutiques for women indicates a shift in perceptions of women's sexuality, although the focus on 'acceptance' of sexual practices ignores the ways in which women's consumption of sexual artefacts is dependent upon the intersections of gender and class identities and the construction of a particular form of hedonistic femininity. I explore the ways in which High Street sex retailing engages with feminism and questions of identity and taste.
Pleasure and Distance: Exploring Sexual Cultures in the Classroom
Sexualities, 2009, Vol 12(5): 1–18. Teaching sexually explicit materials to undergraduate students is fraught with questions of what ought to be taught when we introduce sessions on pornography, cybersex, explicit representations of gay and lesbian sexuality and the politics of representation more generally. This article will address some of those concerns through a meditation on some of my own teaching experiences offered, not as an example of best practice, but as a further contribution to the provocative discussions elsewhere in this issue. I argue that teaching about sexually explicit representations has the potential for reaching beyond the examination of hegemonic meanings or the exposition of generic repetitions to more innovative exploration of the cultural discourses of sexuality.
Studying Sexualities: Theories, Representations, Cultures
Co-authored with Niall Richardson (University of Sussex) and Angela Werndly (University of Sunderland). Sexuality is an integral part of our lives, and our identities. But how do we study it? Written in a lively and accessible style, Studying Sexualities aims to introduce students to the critical study of sexuality, taking a look at the major theories, media representations, and cultural practices. Explaining key theoretical and empirical debates on the subject – Foucauldian Constructionism, Psychoanalysis, and Queer Theory - and address contemporary examples such as sex shops, cybersex, and sex toys, the TV series Sex and the City, Will and Grace, The L Word, and Entourage, and the immensely popular Twilight books.
Pleasing Intensities: Masochism and Affective Pleasures in Porn Short Fictions
In Feona Attwood (ed), Mainstreaming Sex: The Sexualisation of Western Culture, London: I.B Taurus.
Exploring Interests and Motivations of Porn Consumption
(with Martin Barker and Feona Attwood) ‘Exploring Interests and Motivations of Porn Consumption: Results from PornResearch.Org’, in Lynn Comella and Shira Tarrant (eds) New Views on Pornography: Sexuality, Politics, and the Law, 2 Volumes . This chapter recounts emerging findings from a research project concerned with the everyday uses of pornography and how the people who engage with pornography feel it fits into their lives (see http://www.pornresearch.org/). We begin by considering the image of the ‘porn user’, describe why and how we did our research, report on some key findings, discuss the kinds of motives and engagements that our participants’ responses indicate, and identify the sets of issues we see emerging and what these suggest about future directions for research.
More Sex! Better Sex! Sex is F*cking Brilliant! Sex, Sex, Sex, SEX
(with Feona Attwood) ‘More Sex! Better Sex! Sex is Brilliant! Sex, Sex, Sex, SEX’, The Routledge International Handbook of Leisure Studies, Tony Blackshaw (ed), London: Routledge. In late modern societies, sexual consumption, experiences and practices have become ever more important to our sense of self and making the most of our lives. Sex is a source of happiness, a form of relaxation, a site of pleasure, expression of freedoms, a means of achieving spiritual wholeness and, in all its sensory potentials, sex is increasingly linked to leisure. Those processes are accelerated by the development of a range of technologies which have expanded and extended the material and mediated sources of pleasure and opportunities for sexual encounters and explorations. Even so, the common perception that Western societies have embraced an ‘anything goes’ view of sexual pleasure and practice is matched by intensifying drives to regulate many forms of sexual behaviour. We examine some of the issues and contemporary contexts of leisured sex and recent shifts in the definition of what sex is and could be and changing relations to commerce, leisure, self-care and relationships with others.
The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Culture
Co-edited with Michael Higgins (University of Strathclyde) and John Storey (University of Sunderland). British culture today is the product of a shifting combination of tradition and experimentation, national identity and regional and ethnic diversity. These distinctive tensions are expressed in a range of cultural arenas, such as art, sport, journalism, fashion, education, and race. This Companion addresses these and other major aspects of British culture, and offers a sophisticated understanding of what it means to study and think about the diverse cultural landscapes of contemporary Britain. Each contributor looks at the language through which culture is formed and expressed, the political and institutional trends that shape culture, and at the role of culture in daily life. This interesting and informative account of modern British culture embraces controversy and debate, and never loses sight of the fact that Britain and Britishness must always be understood in relation to the increasingly international context of globalisation.
Reel Intercourse: Doing Sex on Camera
In Darren Kerr & Claire Hines (eds) 'Hard to Swallow', Wallflower Press. Also in Italian 'Recitare il porno. Il sesso e il corpo performante' Mimesis Press Rather than view sex as an inert property of the filmic process this chapter examines the sex scene as an interaction between actors bodies, exploring the properties of performed sex as ‘carrying dense and significant meaning’ (Baron and Carnicke, 2008) even if performed for that most graphically realist of genres. I examine the ways in which Allie Sin and Eva Angelina express sexual abandon, desire, authenticity and pleasure through their bodily presentations and styles, arguing that there may be more to a porn actor’s performance than simply being there and doing sex for the camera to record.
‘It’s Important You Don’t Smell a Suit On It’: Aesthetics of Alt Porn
Chapter in Porn After Porn eds Enrico Biasin, Giovanna Maina, Federico Zecca, Udine: Mimesis Press. I examine some of the discursive constructions of alternative (alt) and independent (indie) pornography, those contemporary genres of porn facilitated by the development of the web. Cramer and Home suggest that alt, or indie, porn is, ‘the pornography of this decade, if not of the whole century... Websites like Suicidegirls.com, Cleansheets.com, ThatStrangeGirl.com and FatalBeauty.com combine the punk styling of their models with visual punk aesthetics and do-it-yourself punk attitude’ (2007: 164). My interest here is in the aesthetic and ‘institutional’ politics of a number of important players in alt.porn to explore the ways in which concepts such as ‘alterity’, ‘autonomy’ and ‘authenticity’ are key elements in the discursive construction of alt.porn as different from ‘mainstream’ or ‘industrial’ pornographic productions and how such discursive constructions contribute to the ambivalent cultural positioning of alt.porn.
Investigating Young People’s Sexual Cultures
Edited with Feona Attwood, this book suggests ways of developing research on young people’s sexual cultures in the context of a media-saturated and technology-focused contemporary culture, an area of study that remains relatively unexplored despite heightened concern about young people, sex and culture. Unlike the widespread sensationalist reporting about the ‘pornification’ of young people’s lives and the policy documents which have emerged on ‘sexualization’, the book foregrounds the need for a critical approach which recognizes the complexity of culture and is able to unpack what is at stake in the construction of particular views and practices. It emphasizes how concerns about ‘harm’ and ‘risk’, however well-intentioned, can work against young people’s interests and argues that education will only be effective if it engages with young people and is based on a commitment to young people’s rights and to the broader notion of sexual rights. Drawing together key researchers in the area the book examines health policy, sex and relationships education, sex abuse therapy, television production, sport, internet use, and the production and consumption of commercial goods and media. This book will be of interest to the many academics and groups who are concerned with young people’s sexual cultures and their place within society. Originally published as a special issue of Sex...
One for the Girls! The Practices and Pleasures of Reading Women’s Porn
Against the claims of increasing sexualisation of culture, one truism is constantly rehearsed – that women have little taste for pornography. In One for the Girls!, I explore women’s pleasures in sexually explicit materials focusing on the production and consumption of For Women magazine. One for the Girls! examines the ways in which pornography has become a favoured repository of social fears and debunks the myth of the ‘evil pornographer’ producing images of objectified women for troubled male viewers. By focusing on an individual publication aimed at women, I explore readers’ responses to nude male pinups, explicit stories and sexy articles, and trace the patterns of response hidden behind the title ‘porn reader’. 'Smith's text undoubtedly attempts to redress the balance – the silence of female consumers of women's pornography – by contemplating such responses within wider contexts of lived experiences, institutional practices and social schemas of production at a specific moment in time in order to attain a broader understanding of the possibilities of pleasure.' – Beth Johnson, Screen 'Smith's work will provide historians with much to think about before approaching pornography and assuming that there are simplistic ways to understand it.' – The Historian
His Soul Shatters at About 0:23: Spankwire, Self-Scaring and Hyberbolic Shock
(With Julia Kennedy, University College Falmouth), in Feona Attwood, Vincent Campbell, Ian Hunter and Sharon Lockyer (eds), Controversial Images, Palgrave MacMillan). In a non-descript bedroom, four friends (three males, one female) sit together in front of a computer screen and wait for a film to begin. When it does their faces contort in surprise, shock and disgust, they shout and squeal. They are watching 'Spankwire: the scariest video out there!' and recording their reactions for YouTube. What makes Spankwire particularly interesting is that it has been at the centre of at least one attempted UK prosecution (under the 'extreme porn' provisions of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (R v Holland, 2010). Ironically, at the time that the prosecution was being brought (June 2010), Spankwire had logged almost two million hits on spankwire.com alone. This chapter focuses briefly on three connected layers of representation to explore forms of ‘self-scaring’, community in 'survival' and an ‘emotional exhibitionism’ and pleasure in disgust, dread and/or hyperbolic shock.
Porn Studies Journal
Co-edited with Feona Attwood and published by Routledge, Porn Studies is the premier dedicated, international, peer-reviewed journal to critically explore those cultural products and services designated as pornographic and their cultural, economic, historical, institutional, legal and social contexts. Porn Studies is an interdisciplinary journal informed by critical sexuality studies and work exploring the intersection of sexuality, gender, race, class, age and ability. It focuses on developing knowledge of pornographies past and present, in all their variations and around the world. Because pornography studies are still in their infancy the journal will also publish discussions that focus on theoretical approaches, methodology and research ethics. Alongside articles, the journal includes a forum devoted to shorter observations, developments, debates or issues in porn studies, designed to encourage exchange and debate. Endorsements for Porn Studies: http://bit.ly/PornStudiesEndorsements
Queering Porn Audiences
(with Feona Attwood and Martin Barker) ‘Queering Porn Audiences’ for Mary Laing, Katy Pilcher, Nicole Smith (eds) Queer Sex Work, London: Taylor & Francis. Queer porn is a small but important niche developing out of the Pornfilmfestival Berlin, the Feminist Porn Awards and American based filmmakers such as Houston, Trouble and Young, who have all attempted ‘to playfully affirm sexuality and reinvent new representations of desire and pleasure.’ (Ryberg, 2013: 142) Perhaps best described as a leaky genre, other forms of alternative-to-the-mainstream productions such as alt.porn, indie porn and feminist pornography bleed into queer interests. Such productions are, for many commentators, not just representations but an expression of politics struggling against stereotyping and conventional, normative sexual identities and practices (Attwood, 2010; Jacobs, 2007; Moorman, 2010).Queer porn's particular political valence is its resistance to stereotypes, or the commercial exploitation of women/minorities. Florian Cramer writes, these representations ‘replace the rhetoric of artificiality in mainstream pornography … with a rhetoric of the authentic: instead of mask-like bodies normalized using make-up, wigs, and implants, the authentic person is exposed.’ (174) What then, do viewers make of these representations?
Extreme Concern: Regulating ‘Dangerous Pictures’ in the UK
(With Feona Attwood), Journal of Law and Society (special issue) Volume 37, Issue 1, March 2010, pp. 171–188. This article begins with an exploration of section 5 of the recent Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, otherwise known as the ‘Dangerous Pictures Act’ which outlaws the possession of ‘extreme images’, and the Rapid Evidence Assessment belatedly used to justify the legislation. We then examine the claims of the growth, dissemination, and widespread availability of material which ‘glories in sexual violence’ and its putative ‘effects’. This current crisis over the meanings of pornography highlights the rhetorical function of the conceptual discourse of ‘pornographication’, its links to problematic figurations of the consumer or viewer of explicit materials, and how the identification of ‘extreme’ pornography has given voice to a range of anxieties about media spectacularization of the body. We end by arguing that opposition to the legislation is not just a matter of protecting personal freedoms or refusing to recognize the existence of harms; instead, we propose that academics will need to question the very parameters on which the impulses to legislate are based.
Along with Feona Attwood (Middlesex University) and Martin Barker (University of Aberystwyth) this project hosted a questionnaire at www.pornresearch.org and gathered more than 5,000 responses. Starting from a concern with people’s actual everyday engagements with pornography and not based on assumptions about the 'harms of porn', we wanted to gather a body of responses from people who use and engage with online pornography – the people whose voices and stories are almost entirely absent from the debates around it. What mattered most to us was hearing the accounts that people would give us, in their own words, of the nature of their involvements and engagements with online pornography. We know that such accounts are not transparent truths. They are the ways that people are willing and able to tell us about themselves. But that is their distinctive value. Through the words that men and women, straight and homosexual, young and old choose and use, we can hear their reasons and interests in sex, their sense of sexual self, what pornography means to them, and the ways in which it may matter to them.
Pornographication: A Discourse for All Seasons
International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, 2010, Volume 6 Number 1. In this commentary I problematize the uses of ‘pornographication’ and ‘pornification’ . My central claim here is that, notwithstanding Paasonen et al.’s careful dissection of the term ‘pornification’, its usefulness may well have been exceeded. Further, I argue that the terms have been so widely taken up as descriptions and explanations of cultural shifts and worrying experiences, that they obscure the specific histories and politics of both the cultural artefacts under examination and those who are doing the examination. The claims of ‘pornographication’ and ‘pornification’ are already so saturated in the languages and references of concern and regulation that they restrict the range of possible explanations that can be admitted.
Reading the BDSM Romance: Reader Responses to Fifty Shades of Grey
(With Ruth Deller) Sexualities 16 (8). This paper presents the results of survey data from readers of the Fifty Shades novel series. It is almost thirty years since Janice Radway’s (1984) Reading the Romance was published and audience studies have burgeoned. However, public discourse about E.L. James’ trilogy was couched in assumptions about ‘formulaic’ genre fiction, alongside debates about its ‘mainstreaming’ of BDSM, and little of this discussion drew upon the voices of readers. Our research reveals readers’ complex, often contradictory, responses to the novels. For these readers, the acts of reading and discussing the novels offer a range of (dis)pleasures, from erotic enjoyment to the amusements of critique; from self-gratification to participation in cultural dialogue.
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