Are there Disciplinary Differences in Writing about Pornography?

By Alan McKee, University of Technology Sydney and Roger Ingham, University of Southampton, UK. In 2016, Professors Alan McKee (a humanities researcher) and Roger Ingham (a psychology researcher) submitted to the Australian Research Council a successful grant application for a project entitled ‘Pornography’s effects on audiences: explaining contradictory research data’ (DP170100808). We were approached by Feona Attwood, who knew of the grant and asked if we could provide a piece for this special issue that explored ‘writing about porn across disciplines’. The process of writing the grant application had already provided us with plenty of rich data about differences in disciplinary vocabularies and the ways in which various words implied different objects of study and different relationships to objects of study. Rather than trying to hide these differences we decided to make them the focus of the article. This piece presents three voices – Alan (AM), Roger (RI) and the original grant application (GA) – in trialogue, as a tentative beginning to the exploration of some potential differences between academic disciplines in conceptualising, researching and writing about pornography.

Industry Self-Censorship and the Birth of the ‘Alternative Adult’ Market

By David Church, Northern Arizona University, US. Prosecutions of theatre owners for obscenity increased after the US Supreme Court’s 1973 Miller v. California decision returned responsibility for obscenity definitions to the judgment of local community standards, meaning that ‘smaller hard-core theatres suffered through a lack of product and a suddenly more discerning hard-core audience.’ [1] One of the major implications of this legal precedent was a deliberate toning down of ostensibly aberrant or ‘taboo’ content in many post-1973 hardcore films. […] In the theatrical pornographic feature, illicit acts seldom appeared to begin with, but even a handful of 35mm genre ‘classics’- such as The Story of Joanna (1975), Femmes de Sade (1976), Barbara Broadcast (1977), Pretty Peaches (1978), Candy Stripers (1978), and 800 Fantasy Lane (1979) - suffered trims of select scenes when later appearing on video.

Sex in the Christmas Film

by Lauren Rosewarne, University of Melbourne, Australia. The typical Christmas word cloud is filled with holly jolly words like wishes and faith and festiveness. Bethlehem, yuletide and snowflakes are likely included; a word with no place there is sex.  Easter we could, perhaps, draw a bow long enough to recognise that with it being a season associated with rebirth and renewal, fertility might play a role. However, the birth that – in a roundabout way – led to the celebration of Christmas didn’t involve intercourse. Distinctly so. To stir sex into the season therefore, feels inappropriate. Christmas is about family and gift-giving and fat men clad in red; all the debauchery, seemingly, gets postponed to New Year. At least in theory.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Sex and Grief on Screen

by Katie Barnett, University of Worcester, UK. John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole (2010), an adaptation of David Lindsay Abaire’s 2006 stage play, deals with the aftermath of a family tragedy as Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) struggle to come to terms with the death of their four-year-old son Danny. Almost immediately, it becomes clear that Becca and Howie are dealing with their grief in very different ways. They circle around each other in their large, empty house. As Howie endlessly tries to remember Danny, watching old videos on his phone, Becca desperately tries to forget, stripping his drawings from the refrigerator. Their grief separates and isolates them. This emotional estrangement extends to a physical estrangement that makes Becca flinch whenever Howie touches her.

Retrosexual: The Notorious Work of Bettie Page and Irving and Paula Klaw 

by Ellen Wright of De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Model Bettie Page and filmmaker/photographers Irving and Paula Klaw have left a curious cultural legacy. Their work together, between 1952 and 1957, often filmed in a studio above the Klaw’s photo and bookshop, resulted in a catalogue of pin-up and fetish photographs, a clutch of burlesque revue B-movies and a number of short, silent 8mm and 16mm, mail order fetish ‘specialty’ films, intended for home exhibition. In these films Page, clad in lingerie, stockings and vertiginously high heels, would enact requested fetish and BDSM scenarios, either alone or with other young women. 

Susie Bright, Good Vibrations and the Politics of Sexual Representation

by Lynn Comella, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US. Susie Bright was not yet the nationally known author and trailblazer Susie Sexpert when she walked through the doors of Good Vibrations for the first time in 1980. She was 22 years old and lived around the corner from the store at Twentieth and Valencia Streets. Bright remembers that initial visit vividly. Honey Lee Cottrell, who would later become Bright’s lover and collaborator, was working behind the counter. Cottrell, a butch lesbian with prematurely greying hair, was opening envelopes that contained a single quarter – the amount that the store’s founder, Joani Blank, was charging at the time for an itemised list of vibrators that doubled as the company’s mail-order catalogue. Bright watched curiously as Cottrell opened the envelopes and stacked the quarters, one on top of the other, next to the cash register. ‘Why don’t you just put them in the register?’ she finally asked. ‘We don’t know how to record it’, Cottrell replied. ‘It’s not a sale and no one can figure out what it is, so we just pile them up on the side and Joani says she will deal with it later’.

Telling Stories: Annabel Chong, Instrumentality and Exploitation

by Caroline West, Dublin City University, Ireland. Sex: The Annabel Chong Story (Gough Lewis 1999) is a documentary based on a porn film starring Annabel Chong, a woman catapulted to infamy through porn. Chong, whose real name is Grace Quek, is a 22-year-old Singaporean woman who partook in a gangbang, billed as The World's Biggest Gangbang, in having sex with 251 men over ten hours. The film follows Chong as she discusses her motivations for taking part in the film, the buildup and promotion of the event, and the fallout.