Academia does porn

An editor at the first peer-reviewed journal on smut talks about why the topic deserves scholarly attention

Published May 3, 2013 8:12PM (EDT)

 <a href=''>Elnur</a>,  <a href=''>Elisanth</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>/Salon
Elnur, Elisanth via Shutterstock/Salon

If ever there was a sign of the mainstreaming of pornography, this is it: British publishing house Routledge is producing an academic journal about smut.

No, this is not the plot of another hot-for-teacher flick -- although here's hoping this journal begets its own porn parody. (I can picture it now: An orgiastic "peer-review process" and dialogue along the lines of, "I'll show you some intersextionality.) According to a recent call for papers, Porn Studies is "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," with an emphasis on "sexuality, gender, race, class, age and ability."

The journal's editors, Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith, are looking for papers that examine "specifically sexual and explicit media forms, their connections to wider media landscapes and their links to the broader spheres of (sex) work across historical periods and national contexts." The journal won't be published until spring of 2014 -- because peer review takes time, ya'll -- but select articles will be published online as they're ready. From the first issue, you can expect discussions of everything from obscenity trials to Australian manga to "how we think of fantasy in relation to porn," Smith told me by phone.

"Porn, of course, is very marginalized as a media form and yet at the center of lots of scares currently around young people and their access," she says, as well as "the objectification of women." The journal aims to bring some empiricism, as well as a global perspective, to the discussion. "The Anglo American debate is framed within the feminist and objectification rubric," she says. "In Europe, that just isn't the case." Papers will look at the content and "textual formations" of porn, surrounding legal regulations and other "questions that remain rather hidden and haven't had the kind of rigorous debate that we might like to see," and which "we've seen about nearly every other media form," she says. That isn't to say that the journal won't address worries about porn's impact, but "it will have to proceed beyond the scaremongering." They're interested in evidence, not anecdotes.

Still, she hopes the journal will find a broad audience outside of academia. If any subject could do it, this one would be it.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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