Written 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.
Category Archives: feminist media studies
Edited 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.
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.
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.
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.
My 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.
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.
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.
Our brand new book Objectification: On the Difference Between Sex and Sexism is out today with Routledge. Co-authored with a dream team — Feona Attwood, Alan McKee, John Mercer and Clarissa Smith — the book tracks the academic and activist uses of the notion of objectification, investigates some of its analytical shortcomings and argues for the necessity of separating critiques of sexism from those concerning sexual display. The book is intended for teaching and it should be accessible for undergraduate students. And here’s the publisher’s description:
This is a concise and accessible introduction into the concept of objectification, one of the most frequently recurring terms in both academic and media debates on the gendered politics of contemporary culture, and core to critiquing the social positions of sex and sexism.
Objectification is an issue of media representation and everyday experiences alike. Central to theories of film spectatorship, beauty fashion and sex, objectification is connected to the harassment and discrimination of women, to the sexualization of culture and the pressing presence of body norms within media. This concise guidebook traces the history of the term’s emergence and its use in a variety of contexts such as debates about sexualization and the male gaze, and its mobilization in connection with the body, selfies and pornography, as well as in feminist activism.
It will be an essential introduction for undergraduate and postgraduate students in Gender Studies, Media Studies, Sociology, Cultural Studies or Visual Arts.
Chapter One: What counts as objectification?
Chapter Two: Male gaze and the politics of representation
Chapter Three: Radical feminism and the objectification of women
Chapter Four: Sex objects and sexual subjects
Chapter Five: Measuring objectification
Chapter Six: What to do with sexualized culture?
Chapter Seven: Beyond the binary
Chapter Eight: Disturbingly lively objects
I’ve described my past few years as exceptionally crazy work-wise and it’s not just a figment of my melodramatic imagination. Many Splendored Things (2018) and NSFW (2019, with Kylie Jarrett and Ben Light) were both mainly written in 2017. We coined the prospectus for Who’s Laughing Now? Feminist Tactics in Social Media with Jenny Sundén in December 2017, wrote it in 2018-2019, and the book will be out this November. The proposal for Objectification: On the Difference Between Sex and Sexism with Feona Attwood, John Mercer, Alan McKee and Clarissa Smith was done two years ago and the actual thing is due out August. Last but not least, Dependent, Distracted, Bored: Affective Formations in Networked Media, for which I started collecting material back in 2012, has a due-date for March. One book already has a cover (with Barbie! and glitter!), am looking forward to the other designs materializing.