Drumroll: An Academic Journal For Porn Fans

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Journal of Awesome Studies - spoof coverAcademia prepares to 'accentuate the positive' in new porn periodical

If there were ever a human phenomenon in need of serious objective investigation, Internet porn use is surely it. Never has the youthful human brain been battered with so much erotic novelty during such a critical window of sexual development, and cracks are definitely appearing. However, judging from the board of the upcoming Porn Studies Journal, this particular publication will lack the detachment and expertise to fulfill this critical role.

According to HuffPo:

The journal, which is being published by Routledge starting in 2014, will welcome submissions from fields as diverse as criminology, sociology, labor studies and media studies. According to the New York Times, Porn Studies will focus on pornography as it relates to “the intersection of sexuality, gender, race, class, age and ability.” This is definitely XXX-content for the scholarly set.

There is nothing in the list of proposed topics about the adverse effects of Internet porn on users. In fact, all of the 32 board members for the new journal appear to think porn's benefits far outweigh its costs.

Imagine a "Dietetics Studies Journal" in the Land of the Obese, whose board consists only of the Chairman of the Board of PepsiCo, the CEOs of Nestle and Pillsbury, and a marketing exec from Kraft, and you have a good feel for the bias of the upcoming journal.

23 of the total 32 board members specialize in media and film studies, which suggests that a better name for the journal would be Porn Film Today. None have extensive background in physiology, neuroscience, adolescent development or addiction. Indeed, a mere 3 of the 32 have PhDs in psychology.

Worse yet, none appear to have any clinical experience with the kinds of issues today's porn can cause—with the exception of Marty Klein, darling of the Adult Video Network. AVN honored Klein with his own porn star page to show its gratitude.

It should. Klein has repeatedly emphasized porn's harmlessness. See, for example, his post, Fourteen Ways to Observe Pornography Awareness Week. One of the 14 is, "Memorize this fact: using porn does NOT cause brain damage, erectile dysfunction, or loss of sexual interest in one’s mate." Brain damage is a red herring — although addiction-related brain changes can be stubborn to reverse. Many self-reports of users, however, document porn-related ED and loss of attraction to real partners (as well as reversal of these symptoms after giving up porn use).

A closer look at the editors and editorial board

The new journal's board is overwhelmingly composed of artists and theorists who think Internet porn is the greatest thing since the invention of "talkies." Here's a sprinkling of the talent the new journal will tap, beginning with its editors, Smith and Attwood.

  • Clarissa Smith - In a recent "Intelligence Squared" debate, Smith, representing the pro-porn side, announced that "Pornography is good for us."
  • Fiona Attwood and Clarissa Smith were co-authors of a survey of people who "use and enjoy porn." Alas, the press then predictably glosses over such limitations, misleading readers that an objective study has concluded that "porn is great."
  • Australian board member Kath Albury, did their her own dodgy survey with fellow board member Alan McKee in 2008, funded in part by actual pornography businesses. "The authors claim that the harm of pornography is negligible and is, in any case, outweighed by the expressed pleasure of its users.
  • Alan McKee - "Pornography is actually good for you in many ways."
  • Violet Blue - Blue says you should think of erotica as a tool in a woman's sexual arsenal. "It can be as reliable as a woman's vibrator." (Link not included: NSFW.)
  • Meg Barker  - "Most of my research has been conducted within sexual communities, focusing on bisexuality, BDSM, and open non-monogamy."
  • Tristan Taormino - Pornographic film maker and actress, creator of "Rough Sex #2" and "House of Ass," among others.

Expect this bunch to churn out the erotic equivalent of food studies entitled, "The Life-Enhancing Aspects of Deep-Fried Banana Splits." Why? Because the Porn Studies Journal board members have made it their mission to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, just like the old song advised.

Who is not on the board?

Although many porn users across the web are complaining of severe symptoms from overconsumption of Internet porn, including escalation to extreme material, withdrawal misery, delayed ejaculation and erectile dysfunction, there's not one behavioral-addiction specialist or urologist among the new journal's dozens of colorful board members. In fact, it seems likely that this board is so focused on what's going on between our legs that they will have little use for gathering data on porn's effects between our ears.

The New York Times announced the new journal in its "Arts" section. However Internet porn that's wreaking the most havoc today is not about culture, the niceties of erotic film making, or anything that happened before high-speed. It's about delivery of unending novelty and screens—not sex. It's about free porn tube sites, that is, multiple open tabs of 3-minute clips of the most explosive segments of countless hi-def videos. It's about escalation to increasingly taboo (in the user's view) porn.

Above all, it's about the effects of this kind of unparalleled brain-training on adolescent brains, and related problems. These including unaccustomed social anxiety, concentration and motivation problems, widespread youthful sexual performance problems and consequent problems using condoms.

Listen for these dubious talking points

One thing is for sure: A journal whose editors will not ask questions that would uncover the symptoms of addiction or sexual conditioning certainly will not find evidence of either. Indeed, judging from the talking points we hear repeatedly from folks on the Porn Studies Journal board, you can expect them to largely ignore the unsettling phenomena in the preceding paragraph in favor of the following distractions:

  1. Lots of porn is made by amateurs (or at least made to appear that it is made by amateurs), so we can all disregard the tube-site, gonzo-porn phenomenon.
  2. Becoming dependent upon a screen to become aroused is every bit as much "healthy sex" as is human erotic interaction.
  3. Sexual minorities can only learn how to have sex by watching Internet porn, so porn access for kids is vital. (However, Austrian film maker Gregor Schmidinger is asking whether early Internet porn use is leading to weak erections among some gay users.)
  4. The rise in popularity of so-called 'Mummy Porn', including books such as the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, is a step forward for humankind.
  5. Telling kids that there is "good porn" and "bad porn" will head off any problems for youthful porn users, a proposal Marty Klein refers to by the euphemism porn literacy.

Basically, this journal seems poised to tell us what we already know: Porn users like porn (at least until it causes life-wrecking symptoms)." If academics survey fraternity parties and yell, "Anyone here like beer?" We hypothesize that the collective response will be an overpowering "Hell yes!" But would such a survey tell us anything about the benefits or harms of binge drinking?

Petition to journal's publisher

If you would like Routledge (the publisher of the new journal) to instate a more objective board, or, in the alternative, change the new journal's title to something more accurate, you can sign this petition.

The petition's creators say,

"It is imperative that a journal titled Porn Studies creates space for critical analyses of porn from diverse and divergent perspectives. Our hope is that you will change the composition of the editorial board, confirm the journal’s commitment to a heterogeneous interrogation of the issues embedded in porn and porn culture, and ensure that diverse perspectives are represented – on the board and also in the essays published in the journal. Failing that, we ask that you change the name to reflect and make evident the bias of its editors (Pro-Porn Studies) and create another journal ... (for instance, Critical Porn Studies)."

UK article about new journal

Comments

Margaret WenteAll professors know that the surest way to scare students away is to schedule a course at 8:30 in the morning. But Bobby Noble’s course was different. He taught pornography – and his York University students never missed a class. What could be better than porn in the morn, complete with a chance to study the oeuvre of legendary porn director John Stagliano (aka Buttman)?

“None of us wanted it to be over,” writes Prof. Noble in Porn Studies, a brand-new academic journal that made its much-anticipated debut online this week. It is published by a famed scholarly imprint and fills a valuable niche with its rigorous critical analysis of people watching other people having dirty sex.

In the ivory towers of academe, pornography is smoking hot. A vast and growing body of scholarly books, papers, conferences and dissertations are devoted to the topic. Next weekend, the University of Toronto hosts its second annual Feminist Porn Awards and Conference, which will be stacked with leading scholars, cultural critics, activists, performers and producers from all over. A highlight will be the gala celebration of the Good for Her Feminist Porn Awards, which have been “celebrating feminist smut for eight sexy years.”

Why porn studies? Why now? As the editors of Porn Studies explain, in typical academese: The field “has taken on a new urgency and significance given the continued position of pornography at the centre of controversies around media, gender, sexuality and technology. Pornographies, their spread, their imageries, their imaginaries and their consumption always have a high profile, but in the past decade or so, interest in pornography has grown exponentially – with a concomitant increase in claims about porn’s effects, both positive and negative.”

Also, porn is a career builder. If you want to shine in academia, you have to break new ground. (For example, Concordia’s Evangelos Tziallas, an up-and-comer who is on the editorial board of Porn Studies, is an expert in the horror sub-genre known as “torture porn.” )

But wait, I can hear you say. Aren’t feminists against porn?

Well, many of them used to be. The battle between pro-porn and anti-porn feminists is as old as feminism itself. The anti-porn faction (which Prof. Noble calls “paranoid”) believes that pornography is automatically oppressive and degrading. But the pro-porn faction is now in the ascendant. It believes that porn can even be empowering (especially if it’s produced by lesbians).

“When I first started teaching and researching pornography, the question of whether porn could be empowering was very much up in the air,” said Rebecca Sullivan, director of the Institute for Gender Research at the University of Calgary. (She was quoted on a university website.) “We need to go beyond the pro/anti-porn arguments that lead nowhere and instead talk about issues like consent, cultural labour, sexual citizenship, non-normative desire and pleasure, and authentic performance.”

Sadly (considering the subject), academic discussions of porn are extremely dull. Despite promising titles like People’s Pornography: Sex And Surveillance On The Chinese Internet and Finding Gender Through Porn Performance, the essays in Porn Studies are nearly impenetrable. References to Derrida and Foucault are obligatory, along with terms like “performative,” “deconstruction” and “discourse.” If for no other reason, porn studies should be banned as a crime against the language.

Fortunately, the biggest stars on the academic porn circuit aren’t academics. They’re artists, of a sort. One is Tristan Taormino, an attractive woman in black plastic glasses who has produced and performed in a number of self-help videos, including the classic Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women. She will be at next week’s conference. So will Courtney Trouble, who is described as a “queer porn icon” and goes by the gender-neutral pronoun “they.” Trouble's string of hits includes titles like Trans Grrrls: Revolution Porn Style Now. Trouble is celebrated for the use of what is known as non-normative bodies. Trouble's films feature a lot of fat women with nipple piercings and appliances. Both Ms. Taormino and Ms. Trouble are astute entrepreneurs, with websites full of ethical but racy products that can be downloaded on the spot by anybody with a credit card.

Not all is jolly in the ivory tower, though. Prof. Noble writes that administrators in what he calls the neoliberal academic-corporate complex can be awfully skittish when someone wants to teach a class on porn. They are uneducated in the subject, and unreasonably afraid that students might be harmed or even traumatized by the material, even though (as he obliquely points out) they’ve probably already seen more dirty sex than all their ancestors combined ever did.

The potential for porn studies is indeed awesome. If the scholars get their way, we can look forward to entire centres and institutes dedicated to it. But perhaps the administrators are right to be skittish. After all, parents might find out and wonder what the hell they’re wasting tuition money on. Uneducated donors might not be too happy, either. Or the media might draw attention to what’s going on and stir up the uneducated public.

Personally, I think civilization as we know it will probably survive unreadable academic discourses on anal sex and torture porn. I’m aware that this self-indulgent garbage makes up just a teeny-tiny part of the worthy and important enterprise known as higher education. What bothers me is the utter collapse of seriousness and rigour, and the utter inability of top administrators and granting agencies to put a halt to what is essentially a con job on the public.

If students want to watch people having dirty sex, that’s okay with me. Just let them do it on their own time.

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/porn-studies-is-hot-im-bothere...