SELLING SEX SHORT

April 11, 2017

An academic work has been produced by Dr. Meagan Tyler which looks at the “pornographication of culture or the mainstreaming of pornography”.  Though she is writing from a specific perspective that provides solutions with which we may or may not agree, the introduction of her book Selling Sex Short is an important analysis of Western culture.  As a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow in the school of management at RMIT she looks at sex from both a cultural as well from an economic perspective.

 

Part of the INTRODUCTION:

This book aims to explore and explain the model of sexuality currently

being constructed through the industries of pornography and sexology (the

“science of sex”) in the West, in particular the United States (US), the

United Kingdom (UK) and Australia. The book focuses on five trends

which have occurred or intensified during the last decade, namely: the

pornographication of culture or the mainstreaming of pornography, the rise

of extreme and violent sex acts in mass-marketed pornography, the

resurgence of sexology, the creation of “female sexual dysfunction”

(FSD), and the rise of “porn stars” as sex experts. While there is now an

emerging body of literature, both popular and academic, which is

beginning to document some of these trends only a handful of sources

currently engage in critical feminist analysis. This book takes up the task

of attempting to fill this gap by applying a feminist analysis that

understands the current trends within pornography and sexology as

political issues which affect the status of women. Ultimately, this book is

about how pornography and sexology are selling sex short.

 

In the last decade the industries of pornography and sexology have

entered into a period of substantial growth. The US-based pornography

industry now produces more than 10,000 titles a year and worldwide the

pornography industry grosses in excess of $60 billion worldwide

(Sarikakis & Shaukat, 2008). More than $10 billion of this is accounted

for by profits from the US alone (Williams, 2007). It is estimated that the

US pornography industry has doubled in size in less than a decade. This

boom in pornography industry profits has been built on several factors,

including the success of DVD and internet technology (Maddison, 2004),

as well as the rise of extreme sex … During this same period

of significant financial growth, pornography, and the sex industry more

generally, have gained increasing acceptance and influence in the West,

particularly in regard to popular culture. Stripping and pole dancing have

become redefined as new forms of exercise, mainstream publications such

as Time and The Economist report on the financial successes of the

pornography industry as “just another business” (Dilevko & Gottlieb,

2002), and Jenna Jameson, arguably the world’s most famous porn star,

has become a household name. Pop culture references to pornography in

fashion and advertising can even be said to have developed a degree of

“cultural chic”. The pornography industry has often actively sought this

type of mainstream attention and validation. Pornography giant Playboy

for example, has found great financial success in merchandising, allowing

an extensive range of goods to be emblazoned with the famous

“bunnyhead logo”. It is important to note that while these processes of

pornographication, or mainstreaming pornography, have created a “soft”

or more acceptable image of pornography, the content of mainstream

pornography itself has, almost simultaneously, moved toward increasingly

violent and degrading content.

 

Mirroring the changes in pornography, over the past decade the

sexology industry has seen both its profits and public profile increase

significantly. After a period of stagnation in the late 1980s and early

1990s, sexology, and its most prominent subsidiary, sex therapy, have

benefited considerably from the immense medical and popular interest in

the release of Viagra for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. The

subsequent search for a similar pharmaceutical “cure” for women’s sexual

“dysfunctions” has also attracted significant research and public attention

particularly after the now widely published claim that 43 percent of

American women suffer from some form of FSD (Laumann et al., 1999).

In order to address this apparent epidemic, sexologists have variously

endorsed the use of drugs to facilitate vasocongestion (Berman & Berman,

2001; Berman et al., 1999; Miyagawa, 2005), the elevation of testosterone

levels through pills, patches and creams (Apperloo et al., 2003; Berman &

Berman, 2001; Berman et al., 1999; Guay, 2007; Van Anders et al., 2005)

and the use of sex aids such as the Food and Drug Administration

approved “clitoral therapy device” which is supposed to simulate the

sensations of oral sex (Fishman & Mamo, 2001). The promotion of Viagra

and the invention of FSD have undoubtedly helped fuel the growth in

sexology industry profits but the relatively uncritical acceptance of these

developments in the popular media has also bolstered sexology’s authority

over popular conceptions of sexuality. An investigation of the links

between pornography and sexology is therefore particularly timely, for as

the financial weight and cultural influence of these industries continue to

grow, an analysis of what type of sexuality pornography and sexology are

promoting becomes increasingly necessary.

 

In order to provide a thorough analysis of the model of sexuality

promoted by sexology and pornography, this book can be seen as loosely

separated into four sections. Firstly, the theoretical framework is set out,

then there is a section on pornography, followed by a section on sexology,

and finally the drawing together of pornography and sexology and the conclusion.

 

Chapter one sets up the overall framework and explains the links between

pornography, prostitution and harm. Chapters two and three

deal specifically with pornography and pornographication. Chapters four

and five focus on sexology and sex therapy, and chapter six and the

conclusion emphasise the links between pornography and sexology. Each

part of the book builds toward providing an explanation of what model of

sexuality pornography and sexology are currently constructing for women,

and seeks to answer one key question. The first part of the book asks: How

do pornography and prostitution fit within theories of the social

construction of sexuality? The second part asks: What model of sexuality

is the pornography industry promoting for women and how is it

popularised? The third part asks: What model of sexuality are sexology

and sex therapy promoting for women and how is it popularised? And the

final part asks: What are the material links between the pornography and

sexology industries? It is concluded that pornography and sexology have a

profound influence on the social construction of sexuality and that they

provide mutually reinforcing models of what that sexuality should be. It is

argued that the sexuality promoted by sexology and pornography closely

resembles the sex of prostitution and that this is a model of sexuality that

sells sex short. It is a model that makes it difficult for women to realise

sexual pleasure and a model that relies upon and reinforces sexual

inequality between women and men.

  Do you recommend this to others?