Why do we need Porn Studies? The first issue of a new journal devoted to the study of sexuality for show is available online, and its editors explain why it's time for pornography to receive serious scholarly analysis.
The journal, simply titled Porn Studies, launched today with an introduction by editors Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith. They explain that the journal came about for a number of reasons, including that public discussions about pornography have surged and shifted in the last few years and that the affect of technology on pornography has sparked a great deal of scholarly interest in pornography. They wanted to create a home, they explain, for serious research from various disciplines into pornography—not just how it appears on the screen or page, but also into pornography as a business, its market, and human-computer interactions.
But while the journal is interested in debates about pornography whether it is a social good or a menace, the editors are looking for careful, methodical research:
Whatever its disciplinary origin, we are not interested in work that is either antagonistic or celebratory; in assumptions about porn as essentially oppressive or corrupting, liberatory, subversive, conservative, empowering, harmful or dangerous. Instead, we seek work that makes clear its methods and theoretical underpinnings and engages with pornography as texts, productions or performances; as occurring in various kinds of 'spaces' with various significances; subject to various kinds of legal and other regulatory frameworks and with different importances for its participants and for observers of those participants. We have plans for special issues on racial pornographics, on gay male porn, on porn audiences and consumers, on porn and surveillance, on gonzo, on European pornography, on porn and performance art, and porn celebrity and stardom. We will also have a dedicated Forum section featuring shorter pieces to further enable debate and discussion.
Looking through the first issue, it's clear that while pornography is meant to titillate, it inspires some serious research. I hesitate to make jokes about the wetness of the subjects and the dryness of the papers, because the topics are quite intriguing: "Porn and sex education, porn as sex education," "Revisiting Dirty Looks" (an interview with Pamela Church Gibson about her collection of feminist essays about pornography), a study of emerging niches in US pornography consumption, and one on the nature and implications of sexual fantasies. On the other hand, many of the papers are about the challenges of actually researching pornography and the role of the pornography researcher, though even those can be entertaining; one involves a visit to the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.
If you're interested in the journal, head over to the publisher's website and read it soon. It's available for a limited time only, after which you'll have to pay for your academic porn.
Photo by Rilind Hoxha.