My interest in this area of work first came out of what struck me as a gap between the concerns and panics that are regularly voiced about sex and the media and the lack of real knowledge about different kinds of media representations and their audiences. Some of my writing has focused on the ways in which pornography and other kinds of sexual media have become the focus of public and political discussion; most recently in the debates about ‘extreme’ pornography and the sexualization of young people. I have also tried to chart the different approaches that researchers have taken to the study of pornography and to describe their experiences of working in this area.
Although I am still interested in older media forms such as magazines and books, my recent research has focused more and more on newer technologies and their use for sexual explorations; on sex chat sites and sexblogs, on new and alternative types of pornography and their producers, and on the increasing diversity of sexual material online. For example, some of the places and people I have written about recently include Literotica, Nerve.com, Suicide Girls, Audacia Ray, Bella Vendetta and Furry Girl. I have also edited books on sex in mainstream media and on online pornographies. Last year I sought funding for and set up a research network Onscenity which draws together international experts who are interested in and write about the new visibility or ‘onscenity’ of sex in commerce, culture and everyday life. The network responds to public concerns about a range of issues including the new accessibility of pornography, the mainstreaming and normalization of sexually explicit representation, the commercialization of sex, the role of the internet in circulating ‘extreme’ images, and the use of communication technologies, often by young people, for sexual purposes.
My interest in this project lies in finding out what these kinds of technologies and media mean to the people who make and use them.
Feona Attwood, Professor of Sex, Communication and Culture, Sheffield Hallam University
Some key publications:
porn.com: Making Sense of Online Pornography (2010).
Researching and Teaching the Sexually Explicit. Sexualities. (with I.Q. Hunter, 2009)
Mainstreaming Sex: The Sexualization of Western Culture (2009).