Pornography15 Apr 2002 12:58
Who consumes what?
"Multi-media revolution". Many sources (e.g. Stewart Brand, The Media Lab) claim porn was instrumental in the commercial success of VCRs, but I can't find primary sources for this claim. Is there any reason pornographers would have preferred VHS to Beta, and so given it a market advantage? — The story seems to be repeating itself with CD-ROM. [That was writen in the mid-1990s! Obviously, things have changed a bit by 2008...]
Does it influence people's thinking, and if so, how and whose? Does it influence people's practices?
Physiology — written smut especially. How is it possible that looking at squiggles on paper can do that to primates?
Content. Presumably, most pornography is not the work of highly original minds. (Very little of anything is the work of highly original minds, but perhaps this is more true of smut than, say, chamber music.) Also presumably, its content varies from time to time and place to place. Has anyone tried probing the (as it were) soft dark underbelly of culture through comparing smut? — Karel Capek attempted something like this in his essay "Eros vulgaris" (collected in In Praise of Newspapers), but the result is disappointing, perhaps because he didn't employ proper scientific methods. The English, he says, like to read about punishment, the Germans about discipline (not at all the same) and the French about being clever; so far as I can recall, he was patriotically silent about the Czechs. It's not clear how much time his samples spanned, or indeed how large and diverse they were in the first place. Cf., with the above stereotypes, Fanny Hill and The Story of O — but perhaps any work with any trace of literary merit should be excluded from the sample.
One obvious approach would be look at the Usenet groups, e.g. alt.sex.stories, but the problem is that we don't know how many people read (never mind enjoy) each article, and one suspects writers with odd tastes are unusually prolific (the lunatic de Sade being the supreme example). Statistics on downloads from, say, ASSTR would evade that problem, but still raise problems of sampling bias (and privacy). — Incidentally, the evolution of the on-line porn writing community would probably make for a fascinating study in literary sociology.
- Stewart Brand, The Media Lab
- Robert Darnton, The Forbidden Best-Sellers of Pre-Revolutionary France
- Kathy Foley, "Porn: Not What It Used to Be", Nua Internet Surveys 21 August 2000
- Ned Polsky, Hustlers, Beats and Others [Polsky's chapter "On the Sociology of Pornography" (written in 1968) is about the only decent thing written on the subject. It begins: "Samuel Johnson once informed James Boswell that he could recite a complete chapter of a book called The Natural History of Iceland. The chapter was entitled 'Concerning Snakes,' and consisted in its entirety of the following: 'There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.' I can be similarly brief concerning studies on the sociology of pornography: there are no such studies to be met with throughtout the whole of sociology. What we do have ... is an abundance of offhand 'sociologizing' about pornography, on the part of contemporary journalists, cultural historians, psychiatrists, literary critics, lawyers, and judges — especially if they are of liberal inclination and don't like censorship. This material isn't worth much. In fact its chief interest for sociologists ... is that the sociological interpretations most often found in it are demonstrably wrong." — The 2nd edition of this book has commentary, "30 Years On," with valuable notes on changes since he first wrote, and the continuing dismalness of the literature purporting to address the subject.]
- Jennifer A. Zimmerman, "The Effect of Television on Sexual Behavior," Annals of Improbable Research vol. 8 no. 2 (2002) [Online. Not strictly on-topic, but funny enough to deserve a link somewhere.]
- To read:
- Lynn Hunt (ed.), The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500--1800
- Juffer, At Home with Pornography
- Walter Kendrick, The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture [blurb]
- Lane, Obscene Profits
- David Loftus, Watching Sex ["Viewer-response" study of 150 men's reactions to and interpretations of porn]
- Debbie Nathan, Pornography
- Susanna Paasonen, Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography [Blurb]
- Pamela Paul, Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families
- Carmine Sarracino, The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go from Here
- Lisa Sigel, Governing Pleasures: Pornography and Social Change in England, 1815--1914
- Steele, Fetish: Fashion, Sex, Power
- Stoller and Levine, Coming Attractions
- Nadine Strossen, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights