Porn Studies – a new journal about porn culture

Porn Studies is a new journal dedicated to the study of porn culture. It’s the first academic, peer-reviewed publication so there’s been lots of media coverage in the past few weeks and some vocal criticism from anti-porn campaigners who say it has a ‘pro-porn bias’.

Porn Studies will be published by Routledge in Spring 2014 and edited by Clarissa Smith, a reader in sexual cultures at Sunderland University and Feona Attwood, professor of cultural studies at Middlesex University.

They say it will be “the first 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 will publish innovative work examining specifically sexual and explicit media forms, their connection to wider media landscapes and their links to the broader spheres of (sex) work across historical periods and national contexts… It focuses on developing knowledge of pornographies past and present, in all their variations and around the world.”

It will also have an online forum to air shorter observations, developments, issues and debate.

Investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr wrote this piece in the Observer newspaper on 16th June exploring both sides of the argument and exposing some of her personal views around pornography, describing herself as a 40-something from ‘the Age of Cluelessness’…’not knowing and not really wanting to know’ what’s out there.

Critics of the journal include Gail Dines, anti-porn activist and author of Pornland, and Professor Clare McGlynn, an expert in the development of rape law and policy at Durham University. Dines has questioned the editorial direction of journal and its board members. She argues it will ‘foster the normalisation of porn’, and has a ‘pro-porn bias’ given that the editorial staff include a pornographer (Tristan Taormino, a sex educator who makes feminist porn movies and sex/tech writer Violet Blue).

“These editors come from a pro-porn background and where they deny the tons and tons of research that has been done into the negative effects of porn, they are akin to climate change deniers. They’re taking a bit of junk science and leaping to all sorts of unfounded conclusions.”

A petition by Stop Porn Culture (which Dines co-founded) questioning the impartiality of the journal and calling for it to be renamed ‘pro-porn studies’ has attracted over 900 signatures. 

I contacted Feona Attwood this week for her thoughts on the backlash and why now is a good time to publish the journal. We need proper studies into the cultural effects of porn, a stronger definition of the word, and a wider understanding – not all porn is violent and abusive and there are many feminist porn filmmakers. As more academics and businesses study the field there needs to be a forum to publish findings from different angles, which is what they say the journal aims to do.

“One of the key things we want Porn Studies to develop research on is the experience of actual women and men – whether they are people who consume porn, produce porn as amateurs or make a living in porn.”

Last month Culture Secretary Maria Miller hosted an ‘emergency summit’ on how to ‘police the net’ with reps from ISP’s, phone companies and search engines, which led to Google donating £1m over 4 years to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). She has been criticised for bringing in her status as ‘a mother’ wanting to protect her children from internet porn.

Want to contribute to research? We’d love to hear your stories and book/film reviews whether you’re a porn consumer, sex worker or make/produce it for a special issue on Porn.

 

 

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