Category Archives: feminist media studies

sex in the shadows of celebrity

Our short piece on shadowbanning, Sex in the Shadows of Celebrity, written together with the wonderful Dr Carolina Are, is out on OA with Porn Studies as part of a forthcoming special issue on the deplatforming of sex in social media. Here’s the abstract:

Shadowbanning is a light censorship technique used by social media platforms to limit the reach of potentially objectionable content without deleting it altogether. Such content does not go directly against community standards so that it, or the accounts in question, would be outright removed. Rather, these are borderline cases – often ones involving visual displays of nudity and sex. As the deplatforming of sex in social media has accelerated in the aftermath of the 2018 FOSTA/SESTA legislation, sex workers, strippers and pole dancers in particular have been affected by account deletions and/or shadowbanning, with platforms demoting, instead of promoting, their content. Examining the stakes involved in the shadowbanning of sex, we focus specifically on the double standards at play allowing for ‘sexy’ content posted by or featuring celebrities to thrive while marginalizing or weeding out posts by those affiliated with sex work.

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Filed under academic pleasures, data culture, feminist media studies, NSFW, sexuality

“We watch porn for the fucking, not for romantic tiptoeing”

My article is just out with the Porn Studies journal, on open access. Titled “We watch porn for the fucking, not for romantic tiptoeing”: extremity, fantasy and women’s porn use, it addresses gendered generalisations pertaining to porn preferences through survey data and is part of a forthcoming special issue on extremity. The abstract goes like this:

This article examines the appeal of extreme imageries through a 2017 journalistic survey of 2438 participants on Finnish women’s approaches to, opinions on and preferences in porn, with a specific emphasis on responses addressing preferences deemed extreme. The respondents regularly positioned these pornographic fantasies in relation to the assumed tastes of other women while also addressing the complex and ambivalent roles that porn played in their ways of making sense of their sexual selves. By focusing on disconnections articulated both towards the category of women and within one’s sexual self when accounting for the attractions of extremity, this article also questions the ‘will to knowledge’ underpinning popular queries into women’s pornographic likes, asking how such data can be productively explored without reproducing the binary gender logic that structures it.

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sexual objects, sexual subjects and certified freaks

Screenshot 2021-06-14 at 19.49.42Written together with Feona Attwood, Clarissa Smith, Alan McKee and John Mercer, our article both recapping and elaborating on our argument in the Objectification book that came out last year, Sexual Objects, Sexual Subjects and Certified Freaks: Rethinking “Objectification” is just out today with MAI: Feminism and Visual Culture. It is written with pedagogical purposes in mind so as to be accessible to undergraduate students, and is on open access.

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“old dirty pops and young hot chicks”

UntitledEdited by Cosimo Marco Scarcelli, Despina Chronaki, Sara De Vuyst & Sergio Villanueva Baselga, Gender and sexuality in the European Media: Exploring Different Contexts through Conceptualisations of Age is very freshly with Routledge in ECREA’s Routledge Studies in European Communication Research and Education series. Featuring an excellent range of stuff, it also includes my ‘“Old dirty pops and young hot chicks”: Age differences in pornographic fantasies’. The abstract goes something like this:

As a genre, pornography has long highlighted embodied differences and juxtaposed different bodies in terms of their size, degrees of hairiness or muscularity, skin colour and tone. Building on a 2017 survey charting pornographic preferences, likes and dislikes among Finnish women, this chapter focuses on age differences in particular and investigates the ageing male body as an ambivalent, simultaneously attractive and repulsive pornographic fantasy figure. It asks how age differences feed into dynamics of control and submission in pornographic imageries, how ageing bodies function as markers of extremity and authenticity and how the survey respondents, the majority of them in their 20 and 30s, negotiate gaps between their pornographic preferences and other sexual likes. Emphasizing the specific role and function of sexual fantasies, the respondents describe the appeal of older male bodies as sites of disgust and taboo transgression to be enjoyed from a distance, and the scenarios they enjoy as drawing their force from social hierarchies and from breaching the norms of sexual acceptability and normalcy.

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Filed under cultural studies, feminist media studies, media studies, porn studies, sexuality

‘I feel the irritation and frustration all over the body’

Our article with Mari Lehto, titled ‘I feel the irritation and frustration all over the body’: Affective ambiguities in networked parenting culture is freshly out with The International Journal of Cultural Studies, on open access. The fieldwork was all Mari’s, and here’s the abstract:

This article investigates the affective power of social media by analysing everyday encounters with parenting content among mothers. Drawing on data composed of diaries of social media use and follow-up interviews with six women, we ask how our study participants make sense of their experiences of parenting content and the affective intensities connected to it. Despite the negativity involved in reading and participating in parenting discussions, the participants find themselves wanting to maintain the very connections that irritate them, or even evoke a sense of failure, as these also yield pleasure, joy and recognition. We suggest that the ambiguities addressed in our research data speak of something broader than the specific experiences of the women in question. We argue that they point to the necessity of focusing on, and working through affective ambiguity in social media research in order to gain fuller understanding of the complex appeal of platforms and exchanges.

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Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, cultural studies, feminist media studies, internet research, media studies

shameless dicks

A new special issue edited by Gaby David and Amparo Lasén on Shame, Shaming and Online Image Sharing is just out with First Monday, with loads of stuff I’m looking forward to reading. It also includes an article we did with Jenny Sundén, titled Shameless dicks: On male privilege, dick pic scandals, and public exposure. And here’s the abstract:

Academic debates on shame and the involuntary networked circulation of naked pictures have largely focused on instances of hacked accounts of female celebrities, on revenge porn, and interconnected forms of slut-shaming. Meanwhile, dick pics have been predominantly examined as vehicles of sexual harassment within heterosexual contexts. Taking a somewhat different approach, this article examines leaked or otherwise involuntarily exposed dick pics of men of notable social privilege, asking what kinds of media events such leaked data assemble, how penises become sites of public interest and attention, and how these bodies may be able to escape circuits of public shaming. By focusing on high-profile incidents on an international scale during the past decade, this article moves from the leaked shots of male politicians as governance through shaming to body-shaming targeted at Harvey Weinstein, to Jeff Bezos’s refusal to be shamed through his hacked dick pic, and to an accidentally self-published shaft shot of Lars Ohly, a Swedish politician, we examine the agency afforded by social privilege to slide through shame rather than be stuck in it. By building on feminist media studies and affect inquiry, we attend to the specificities of these attempts to shame, their connections to and disconnections from slut-shaming, and the possibilities and spaces offered for laughter within this all.

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Filed under affect theory, data culture, feminist media studies, internet research, sexuality

absurdity in @menwritewomen

Our article with Jenny Sundén is very freshly out with the Qualitative Research Journal, on open access as part of a forthcoming special issue on Activist methodologies inside and outside of academy, edited by Gabriele Griffin. Titled “We Have Tiny Purses in Our Vaginas!!! #thanksforthat”: Absurdity as a Feminist Method of Intervention, it focuses on the Twitter account, Men Write Women, “Where the women are made up & their anatomy doesn’t matter“. This one virtually wrote itself: hope some of the fun communicates.

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dependent, distracted, bored

screenshot-2020-12-05-at-15.37.49My book a decade in the making is out in April with MIT Press, which makes me very happy. This is a project I started when Carnal Resonance was out in 2011 and I felt I had little more to say about porn or sex. And then I did and wrote other stuff instead. Anyway. Despite the name, Dependent, Distracted, Bored: Affective Formations in Networked Media is about ambiguity and has the best cover. And here’s the publisher’s summary:

In this book, Susanna Paasonen takes on a dominant narrative repeated in journalistic and academic accounts for more than a decade: that we are addicted to devices, apps, and sites designed to distract us, that drive us to boredom, with detrimental effect on our capacities to focus, relate, remember, and be. Paasonen argues instead that network connectivity is a matter of infrastructure and necessary for the operations of the everyday. Dependencies on it do not equal addiction but speak to the networks within which our agency can take shape.

Paasonen explores three affective formations—dependence, distraction, and attention—as key to understanding both the landscape of contemporary networked media and the concerns connected to it. Examining social media platforms, mindfulness apps, clickbaits, self-help resources, research reports, journalistic accounts, academic assessments, and student accounts of momentary mundane technological failure, she finds that the overarching narrative of addicted, distracted, and bored users simply does not account for the multiplicity of things at play. Frustration and pleasure, dependence and sense of possibility, distraction and attention, boredom, interest, and excitement enmesh, oscillate, enable, and depend on one another. Paasonen refutes the idea that authenticity can be associated with lives led “off the grid” and rejects the generational othering and scapegoating of smart devices prescribed by conventional wisdom.

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Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, feminist media studies, internet research, Uncategorized

who’s laughing now?

My book with Jenny Sundén, Who’s Laughing Now: Feminist Tactics in Social Media, is out in *two days* with MIT Press. This has been a joyous project and I hope some of that is mediated in the text itself. And here’s the publisher’s description:

Feminist social media tactics that use humor as a form of resistance to misogyny, rewiring the dynamics of shame, shaming, and shamelessness.

Online sexism, hate, and harassment aim to silence women through shaming and fear. In Who’s Laughing Now? Jenny Sundén and Susanna Paasonen examine a somewhat counterintuitive form of resistance: humor. Sundén and Paasonen argue that feminist social media tactics that use humor, laughter, and a sense of the absurd to answer name-calling, offensive language, and unsolicited dick pics can rewire the affective circuits of sexual shame and acts of shaming.

Using laughter as both a theme and a methodological tool, Sundén and Paasonen explore examples of the subversive deployment of humor that range from @assholesonline to the Tumblr “Congrats, you have an all-male panel!” They consider the distribution and redistribution of shame, discuss Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, and describe tactical retweeting and commenting (as practiced by Stormy Daniels, among others). They explore the appropriation of terms meant to hurt and insult—for example, self-proclaimed Finnish “tolerance whores”—and what effect this rerouting of labels may have. They are interested not in lulz (amusement at another’s expense)—not in what laughter pins down, limits, or suppresses but rather in what grows with and in it. The contagiousness of laughter drives the emergence of networked forms of feminism, bringing people together (although it may also create rifts). Sundén and Paasonen break new ground in exploring the intersection of networked feminism, humor, and affect, arguing for the political necessity of inappropriate laughter.

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Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, feminist media studies, internet research, Uncategorized

affective politics of digital media

Affective Politics of Digital Media: Propaganda by Other Means, edited by Megan Boler and Elizabeth Davis for Routledge. Not only does it have a great cover but an excellent lineup of authors, and it includes an interview “Affect, Media, Movement” with Zizi Papacharissi and me. And this is the general rationale:

This interdisciplinary, international collection examines how sophisticated digital practices and technologies exploit and capitalize on emotions, with particular focus on how social media are used to exacerbate social conflicts surrounding racism, misogyny, and nationalism. 

Radically expanding the study of media and political communications, this book bridges humanities and social sciences to explore affective information economies, and how emotions are being weaponized within mediatized political landscapes. The chapters cover a wide range of topics: how clickbait, “fake news,” and right-wing actors deploy and weaponize emotion; new theoretical directions for understanding affect, algorithms, and public spheres; and how the wedding of big data and behavioral science enables new frontiers of propaganda, as seen in the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal. The collection includes original interviews with luminary media scholars and journalists. 

The book features contributions from established and emerging scholars of communications, media studies, affect theory, journalism, policy studies, gender studies, and critical race studies to address questions of concern to scholars, journalists, and students in these fields and beyond.

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Filed under academic pleasures, affect theory, feminist media studies, media studies