Remembering My Hat

10th May 2012

Conference notes: Sexual Cultures, Brunel, 20th-22nd April 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 11:23
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Some more than usually raw notes taken at a conference. The conference was ‘Sexual cultures’, organised by the Onscenity network. I was only able to attend one day, the 21st. In this post, I’ll just put the first keynote, since I took the most notes on this, being freshest at the beginning of the day. Others to follow.

Martin Barker Keynote

Prof  of film and television studies at the Universityof East Anglia

Going to the dark side: Rethinking the issue of sexual fantasy

(cc) Ludie Cochrane

Or, New title:  The unspeakable issue: pornography and sexual fantasy

All the main languages for talking about porn don’t allow you to talk about pleasure.

Based on Pornography Research Online. Proj which aims not to assume porn is a problem.

Online survey, quantitive. Asked people to categorise themselves as porn users – how imp is it to you? Why?  How frequent? Porn history etc. 5,500 responses, 1.5 million words

68% men, 32% women. Younger women using porn much more than older. Generational shift going on. 70% heterosexual

Asked to tell ‘your most exciting story’. History of okayness of women talking about fantasies of forced sex, going back to Nancy Friday but not for men talking about women being raped. They have data on this – difficult to talk about.

Theories of fantasy:

  • ‘wildness’ emph Leitenberg and Henning – brain as imp a sexual organ as genital
  •  Freudian approaches, stored-up childhood stresses and  lacks. Assosciations with pathology. Fantasy as problem-resolution

Porn users do use the term ‘fantasy’ significantly. It is about fantasy. The fantasy paradox

Public complaints about too much sex ‘leaving nothing to the imagination’ .. yet porn is the source and focus of fantasy.

Not all talk is about porn is about fantasy some is just:

  • seeing and loving bodies
  • learning techniques
  • as a route to arousals – just engages my body, not to do with mind and fantasy

Women talked about men more than fantasy [not sure I typed this right. Should it say women talked about fantasy more than men? That seems entirely plausible]. May be because it’s harder for women to use porn as so much is premised on male gaze.

More younger people than older talked about fantasy [this would seem to contradict the above, since it’s generally all young people shown in porn]

How many respondents ticked both to see ‘things I might do’ and  also ‘things I shouldn’t do = 64. i.e. a very small proportion. The people that anti-porn campaigners are worried about – it gives people ideas that they then play out. They are the respondents with Highest association with mentioning ‘fantasy’ and disproportionately women – 48% when are only 38?% women. So really it doesn’t look as if porn encourages people to actually do bad things.

Standard ideas about fantasy which this report doesn’t support

  • fantasy is uncontrolled
  • childish and immature
  • erronsous, unsupportable beliefs
  • fey, otherworldliness
  • [another one that I missed!]

What is does do is function as:

  • magnifying glass – intensification
  • mirror to self, surprised at my own reaction, self-inspection
  • emporium – supermarket of sex ‘didn’t know you you could do that!’ disgust is as important as attraction – definitely don’t want to do that!
  • journey, timing of body reactions
  • other self. What if I was in this scenario? What if I wasn’t me?

Fantasy as dangerous, illicit realms. Rape, degredation fantasies. Difficult to talk about. Doesn’t feel he yet has a good handle on this.

What terminology should you use ‘porn user’ sometimes fine. But ‘use’ porn. Sometimes not appropriate.

  • It’s an engagement – engager?
  • Explorer? Quite apt. B ring home a souvenir.
  • Player? Suggests active engagement.
  • Connoisseur – making quality judgements

Methodological issue – only asked about gender as M or F. What about trans? Difficulty when trying to reach quite mainstream people – puts them off if you have more than 2 genders. [Hmmmm, difficult issue].


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