Our article with Sanna Spisak, Elina Pirjatanniemi, Tommi Paalanen and Maria Vihlman, with the whopper of a name, “Social Networking Sites’ Gag Order: Commercial Content Moderation’s Adverse Implications for Fundamental Sexual Rights and Wellbeing” is just out with Social Media and Society (OA). It’s one outcome of our ongoing project, Intimacy in Data-Drive Culture, and the abstract goes like this:
This article critically investigates the reasoning behind social media content policies and opaque data politics operations regarding sexual visual social media practices and sexual talk, asking what is at stake when social media giants govern sexual sociability on an international scale. Focusing on Facebook, in particular, this article proposes an alternative perspective for handling various expressions of sexuality in social media platforms by exploring the wide-ranging ramifications of community standards and commercial content moderation policies based on them. Given that sexuality is an integral part of human life and as such protected by fundamental human rights, we endorse the freedom of expression as an essential legal and ethical tool for supporting wellbeing, visibility, and non-discrimination. We suggest that social media content policies should be guided by the interpretive lens of fundamental human rights. Furthermore, we propose that social media content policies inclusive of the option to express consent to access sexual content are more ethical and just than those structurally erasing nudity and sexual display.
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.
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.
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.
Join us February 11, 7pm CET, for a Zoom chat on sex and online platforms, under the title “Infrastructures of Intimacy and the Deplatforming of Sex”. Mine is the first talk in INTIMACY series organized collaboratively by Schwules Museum, Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ZfL), and ICI Berlin — with Jean-Luc Nancy and Tim Dean coming up in March and April. For registration go to the ICI Berlin website: https://www.ici-berlin.org/events/susanna-paasonen/
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.
Ever wondered about the local markets for gay print pornography in 1980s Finland? Well, I have, as has Mari Pajala. Our article “Gay Porn, Politics and Lifestyle in 1980s Finland: The Short Life of Mosse Magazine” is just out with Nora – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, with free eprint available through this link. And here’s the abstract:
Although the gay press has been seen as central to the formation of the gay movement, entertainment magazines focusing on sex and consumer lifestyle have until recently received little attention in studies on gay history. This article focuses on Mosse, the short-lived gay porn magazine published by mainstream publishing company Lehtimiehet in Finland between 1983 and 1985. In addition to nude photos and porn stories, Mosse featured articles on gay politics and lifestyle. Analysing Mosse’s attempt at creating a market for a new kind of gay magazine, the article explores the relationship between commercialism, porn and gay politics in Mosse. The article argues that Mosse, alongside other porn publications, explored themes of gay liberation and gay consumer culture at a time when the discussion of gay issues was limited in so-called legitimate media in Finland, in part due to legislation which criminalized the “encouragement” of homosexuality. In its articles on gay politics and lifestyle, Mosse positioned Finland as lagging behind Western countries, with Sweden and Denmark figuring as ideals of progress. Despite its modest circulation and short lifespan, Mosse’s very existence is significant as a sign that it was possible to imagine a Finnish gay consumer market in the first part of the 1980s.
An interview on our new book and what the whole thing is about is freshly out in the MIT Press Reader. And this is the editors’ intro:
The hashtag #NSFW (not safe for work) acts as both a warning and an invitation. NSFW tells users, “We dare you to click on this link! And by the way, don’t do it until after work!” Unlike the specificity of movie and television advisories (“suggestive dialogue,” “sexual content”), NSFW signals, nonspecifically, sexually explicit content that ranges from nude selfies to pornography. But Susanna Paasonen, Kylie Jarrett, and Ben Light, the authors of “NSFW: Sex, Humor, and Risk in Social Media,” argue that when applied across the board to all kinds of sexual images and formations, “the tag NSFW flattens crucial differences between them under the opaque blanket of offensiveness, riskiness, and unsafety that it connotes.” They maintain that if we are to envision social media ecologies capable of accommodating sexuality as a field of pleasure, communication, occupation, and world-making, it is crucial to resist categorical effacement of sexually suggestive and explicit content.
We asked Paasonen, Jarrett, and Light about how subjectivity and politics contribute to the nuances of what is designated “not safe for work,” how the hashtag reinforces our culture of heterosexism, and about its effects on the careers of sex workers across social media platforms.
Out a year ago, Many Splendored Things is being read by game scholars, which is fantastic. Adding to the thrill, some of them like it. Recent reviews are out from Ashley Darrow for the Manchester Game Studies Network and from Miguel Sicart for a WiderScreen special issue on sex and play. I’m taking Sicart’s definition of this being “one of the most important books on play” as an objective fact.