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Posted 556 days ago by Super Admin / Tags: porn, media, sexuality, cultural studies, gender, sex work, gender studies / 0 Comments

Does pornography harm its viewers? Does it help improve healthy sexual development? What about the workers – are they harmed or helped by making porn? The answer is simple – as we demonstrate in our new book Pornography: Structures, Agency and Performance: it depends.

In the case of pornography production, we ask such questions as: What are the conditions on set? Was it consensual and ethical, treating the performers well and respecting their boundaries? Were they paid fairly and did the production pay attention to workplace health and safety? Do they have a say in the distribution of their images?

When we turn to pornographic representations, we ask: What kinds of sexuality are available to what audiences? Is violence depicted consensually? Is non-violence depicted non-consensually? A person can consent to kink but still refuse a kiss! Are the representations illegal – and if so, do the laws protect the people on screen, or simply conform to heteronormative values? How does each example of pornography intersect with structural issues around gender, sexuality and class?

That’s a lot of questions. And that’s the point. To say that “Pornography does this” or “Pornography does that” is to avoid the vast complexity of sexually explicit media. There are relatively tame Playboy images that nonetheless perpetuate sexist ideals of women for the consumption of men, challenged by contemporary feminist pornography featuring BDSM that interrogates gender binaries and stereotyped sex roles. There is queer porn from the 1950s, when homosexuality was still illegal; and educational colouring books of vulvas today. All these examples beg a question of the reader: What is your “pornography”?

Pornography: Structures, Agency and Performance
explores the issues we must pay attention to as we make judgements about pornography. It discusses the production of pornography, from the world of big business to the work of individual webmistresses. It examines the academic research about the harms of pornography, and exposes the problematic assumptions underlying much “anti-porn” effects research. It considers the laws that manage pornography production and distribution – and looks at the harms that they themselves might institute by reasserting stigma against workers and sexually marginalized citizens. It looks at structural issues of power – not only gender, but also race and sexual identity – that inform the production, consumption and uses of pornography.

Pulling together all of these issues, we make the original argument that performance is at the heart of negotiations between structures and agency, and offers a framework for making informed and incisive decisions about the pornography we want. And in a world where pornography is increasingly available and ubiquitous, that’s something we desperately need.

Rebecca Sullivan is Professor at the University of Calgary.  Her book, co-authored by Alan McKee (Professor, University of Technology, Sydney) Pornography: Structures, Agency and Performancewas published by Polity in September 2015

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