Screen Cultures at Sexual Cultures 2 2015

By Oliver Carter on April 18th, 2015

John Mercer and Oliver Carter recently presented papers the second Sexual Cultures conference, which took place at the University of Sunderland’s London Campus between April 8 and 10.

The abstracts for the papers are as follows:

‘Saturated Masculinity’: Men, Sexuality and Meaning – John Mercer, Birmingham City University

This paper is designed to ask questions about representations of sexualized masculinity within contemporary popular culture. It has become a commonplace in popular, academic, media and political discourses to identify the ‘sexualization of culture’, a term that is ill defined and used by different parties to mean different things. The unifying refrain being that the relatively unfettered access to sexually explicit materials often attributed to the internet has had profound implications for locally/nationally-bounded notions of sexual decency and propriety.

Within this rubric men are most often positioned as the consumers of sexually explicit material and the beneficiaries of this sexualized culture and consequently the group who are provided with distortions and misrepresentations that perpetuate gender inequality and sexual violence. This popular debate fails to consider (or even acknowledge) in any systematic way the increased visibility of sexualized masculinity in the media and across culture, and it is this that I am trying to address. This is the context in which my own work as an academic sits, which since the late 1990s has focused on the ways in which masculinity manifests itself across and within generic frameworks and temporal parameters.

I have focused on the ideals that American gay video pornography produced during the 1980s and 1990s, and the models of masculinity that gay porn continues to circulate. My work has also looked at the ways in which masculinity is a site of crisis in film melodrama and more recently how the Hollywood studio system constructed Rock Hudson’s persona as the ideal man.

In this paper I will argue that the advent of the web has created conditions in which access to greatly expanded ranges of representations and articulations of masculinity results in what I would describe as, drawing on the terminology of Kenneth Gergen (1991), a ‘saturated masculinity’ where masculinity as a category carries the burden of multiple (and proliferating) meanings and multiple ambivalences, and where the dichotomous fixity between terms such as gay or straight increasingly no longer have the purchase that they once had.

Makin’ Whoopee: Historicizing the British Hardcore Pornography Film Industry – Oliver Carter, Birmingham City University

The pornography industry plays a significant role in the economies of countries all over the world. In 2006, Barnes and Goodchild estimated, albeit vaguely, that revenues for the British pornography industry were valued at one billion pounds; five percent of the worldwide pornography industry. Despite these revenues, there has been little academic interest in documenting the British pornography industry. Hebditch and Anning’s (1998) quasi-academic study Porn Gold delves briefly into the British pornography industry, drawing on journalistic style interviews with its workers and stars, but focuses more on the industries found in other European countries. Other studies have tended to focus on specific British pornographic media, such as pornographic magazines (Smith, 2007). Surprisingly absent, however, is work on British hardcore film industry.

In this paper, I discuss the findings from my early research into the British hardcore film industry as I attempt to historicize the British hardcore pornography film industry as an alternative economy of media production. For the purposes of this paper, I specifically focus on the pre-digital era and the characters that were involved in establishing this economy in the 1960s and 1980s, particularly John Jesnor Lindsay and Mike Freeman.

I also highlight some of the methodological challenges associated with researching an economy that has, and in some respects, still continues to operate in a clandestine manner. To aid this historicisation I use a variety of primary sources, such as the oral histories a number of people involved in the industry, such as Mike Freeman, the proprietor of the hardcore video company Videx, analyses of production texts and the memories of fans who consumed pornography in Britain at this particular time.