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In Defense of My Small Penis

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By Ant Smith

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A study released this week informs us that the average penis size worldwide is 5.2 inches long when erect. According to the BJUI, the urology journal, which published the findings, this should help to “reassure the large majority of men that the size of their penis is in the normal range.”

I’m sure it does, but that doesn’t mean these results are all good news: My life does not change one bit waking up to find that, today, I am only 1.2 inches below average, as opposed to the whopping 1.8 inch discrepancy of yesterday.

I suppose this whole exercise of laboriously measuring 15,521 penises—both flaccid and hard—demonstrates that, as a society, we do still possess the ability to obsess about size. ( I’m open to that accusation myself.) So, whatever else is said, I’m happy that we’re all talking about penis size in an open, honest, nonjudgmental, serious way. Which we all are, right?

And yes, another positive factor—helpfully pointed out by the folk at BJUI—is that those worried about their average-sized dick being small no longer have cause to worry. Because, at five inches, it’s not small; it’s average. From now on, when someone tells you that your average dick is small, it’s abundantly clear that the problem is in their perception, not your equipment.

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However, I’m unconvinced that second point holds up. For the man with penis size anxiety is a man who takes an enormous amount of convincing. Every time he hears a kindly lady state, “That’s not small,” he gives a blank stare and thinks, Thank you. I wish that were true.’

A penis can’t be measured by inches on a stick—a penis is as small as a man’s confidence betrays it to be, or else as small as the imagination of the partner he is with. We see new research emerging regularly, seemingly always driving down the international standard of “acceptable dick.” But this has never helped—and will never help—a single soul.

At the same time, we find ourselves confronted with language like “average” and “the normal range.” This implies that the rest of us are in the abnormal range, a polarization that doesn’t serve anyone very well. A polarization, in fact, that immediately draws my mind to a solemn story of penis size anxiety leading to teenage suicide. Size is not a mark on a ruler; it really is a state of mind.

There is no doubt in my mind that you know a man of around my stature, or less. Think for a moment who it could be. Your dad? Your brother? Your roommate? Wouldn’t you be angry to see someone point a finger at their penis and shriek, telling them, “Ew, you’re abnormal!” Draw upon the strength of your familial and social bonds and recognize this thinking as the trouble that it is.

When a man suffers size anxiety there is only one solution. Enlargement methods (pills, devices, surgeries) will never yield a result that ends in happiness—though bankruptcy, anguish, and physical deformation are definitely in the cards, if that sounds like your vibe. Likewise, comparison to others will never ease a troubled mind; you’ll go mad questioning the veracity of the data or the quality of the interpretations.

The only answer is to accept who you are.

While these surveys may seem to be devised to help that, they simply do not. Nobody quite believes them. At the rate they crop up, saying different things each time, they don’t even seem to believe themselves. They polarize society into those who are normal, and those who are abnormal. Even if they don’t quite encourage an obsession with size, they certainly endorse the idea that size is a necessary concern.

“But I have to feel something,” a lady recently said to me in an interview on the topic. And I quite agree. But I believe technique and imagination can excite a greater response from a greater expanse of flesh than any dick, of any size, could ever hope to.

Complete Article HERE!

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When you want to be into BDSM but it’s too soon because you’re black

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by Luna Malbroux

Black BDSM

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have fantasies about being dominated. I would imagine someone gripping my hair tightly or a stinging slap on my ass—all very exciting. But every time I would let my thoughts run wild, they would get rudely interrupted, like an angry grandmother unplugging the cord while you’re sneakily watching TV after 2 a.m., yelling “Turn this OFF!” As soon as my brain camera spanned to any props—whips, chains, that sort of thing—all I could think about was Roots.

Let me tell you something. Nothing dries you up quicker than Roots. If it’s not Roots, it’s Amistad, or Beloved, or the slave-revolt TV show Underground. Anyone who’s seen a slave movie knows that there are plenty of examples of black slaves having to whip other slaves’ backs, so a whip is a whip to me, no matter who’s holding it. Even if my fantasy involves no props and just a little garden-variety submission, Hollywood’s love of nostalgic “Remember When Negroes Were All Our Servants?” movies gives my brain enough ammo to cockblock my heart’s deepest desires.

It’s not just Hollywood that makes it difficult for me to SWB (Sub While Black). Even the present-day black experience in America can get in the way of exploring different types of sexual “play.” Can you imagine what a black person might picture if her partner wants to roleplay as a cop? The growing list of victims—Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, just to name a few—are a constant reminder that as a black person in America, you are never safe. Which is a hard thing to balance when the very thrill of BDSM plays with our notions of safety.

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My first impression of the BDSM scene was that it was overwhelmingly white—like, really white, as white as a Rascal Flatts concert at a country club in Montana. Even the watered-down pop franchise, 50 Shades of Grey, has to be one of the whitest franchises ever. BDSM has been around for centuries, originating with the writings of Marquis de Sade in the 1700s. There have been historical examples of BDSM in African sexual, spiritual, and religious culture and early black leather culture of “The Old Guard” (returning black gay male veterans of World War II). But black people into BDSM were rarely seen in the media until the early 1970s.

Regardless of their environment, people of color constantly have to navigate stereotypes, discrimination and personal prejudices, and BDSM is no exception. Just being a young, black woman who owns her sexuality yields enough social stigma as it is. Throw in a desire to explore BDSM in a culture where freely enjoying sex is already taboo, and that is quite the mountain to climb.

But my fantasies weren’t going away anytime soon. Like the strong black people of all those tear-jerking slavery movies, my sexual appetite will not go down without a fight! So I began to ask myself: How does one be black and get into BDSM at the same time?

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When I first started having sex in college, I was determined to explore all my sexual fantasies, a la my personal hero, Samantha Jones of Sex in the City. But life at a historically black college in the South doesn’t exactly lend itself to the sexual freedom of a fictional, upper-middle class, white publicist in New York. The thick stew of the Bible Belt and racial oppression created pressure to be a Good, Christian, Black Woman. In other words: Don’t be a ‘ho.

l took baby steps in exploring my proclivities. I would whisper a few encouraging words like “Bite me harder” and “Tell me what you want me to do,” only to be met with “Wow, you’re so kinky!” (Really?) I wanted to go further, but I didn’t know how to dive deeper when my partners didn’t seem game at all. I bought handcuffs and shackles, but they ended up collecting dust in the corner. There were online resources at my fingertips—chat rooms, websites, books, articles—but the jargon intimidated me.

So I let go of my dreams of exploring my deeper BDSM fantasies until years later, when I packed my bags and moved to California.

In San Francisco, people proudly let their “freak flag” fly. There are tons of communities that explore BDSM, from dungeons to classes to meetup groups. I fell in love with exploring the different scenes of the Bay’s sexual subcultures and even created Live Sex, an interactive comedy talk show uniting sexperts and comedians.

It was doing this show that I stumbled upon a man who seemed promising in helping me explore my BDSM fantasies. The anonymity of my partners is important, so let’s just call him Ted Cruz.

Ted, a handsome and slightly dorky white guy with Paul Rudd-esque appeal, caught my attention after one Live Sex show. A history teacher, he piqued my interests immediately by flirtatiously debating the best ways to solve Middle Eastern conflict, the refugee crisis and the importance of critical thinking in schools. Check, please!

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Our night of drinks led to an invite to his house. He was a great kisser. He really took his time. He asked me if there was anything I wanted to do, and I told him I had the desire to explore a kinkier side but never quite found the right opportunity or partner. He nodded. It escalated.

“Your safe word is eggplant,” he told me, pulling my hair as he kissed me. “Say ‘eggplant’ if anything gives you too much pain.” It was clear it was about to go down, full-on 50 Shades of Grey style, minus all the money, so it was more like 50 Shades of Broke but hey, I’ll take it!

He was incredibly communicative, consistently checking in about consent. “This guy’s read a book or three!” I thought, high-fiving myself in my head. I was writing my triumphant journal entry as it happened. I pictured Kim Cattrall’s nodding smile of approval: “You’re the new Samantha Jones now, Luna,” she proclaimed.

Then, everything came to a screeching halt with one simple phrase:

“Call me master.”

Eggplant. That hurt. Immediately, all I could think about was my ancestors rolling over in their graves, breaking out like zombies in the Michael Jackson Thriller video. All my worst fears had come alive. I thought of Harriet Tubman admonishing me: “19 times! 19 times I came back, to save our people from slavery. All for you to be here willy-nilly, calling some white dude ‘master’?”

Life tip: No dick is so good that it’s worth being haunted by Harriet Tubman.

Ted was very receptive to my objections and apologized for his major blindspot. The history of slavery was something he was not reminded of every day so he was able to separate “master” in the context of BDSM play, whereas I…was not. I had failed again, even with a seemingly perfect partner.

I decided to investigate this problem further. First I discovered I was not alone in my anxieties.

“I am interested in going to BDSM meets, but I haven’t, mostly because I’m wary of being the only person of color there,” said Lynn, a young black woman I met in a sex-positive Meetup group. “Also, I’m not interested in being hit on because I’m the only black woman, which has definitely happened to me before.”

I can relate. Half of my stand-up material is derived from my experiences being fetishized. Joking about being told, “I want to look at those big black tittays” or the constant prodding of my hair has always been one of the best ways to cope.

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And because of these experiences, I always hesitated to join kink mixers in real life because I assumed a bunch of white people would be hoping I would come in and “Strong Angry Black Woman” them—i.e. play out their racists stereotypes of what they imagine a black woman to be. Lynn suggested I explore Fet Life, a social network for the BDSM, fetish, and kink community. It was a space she felt comfortable in, but even there, space has to be made for folks of color.

“When I first joined in 2010, there were over 300 groups, at least, and there were no groups for folks of color” said Daniel*, a black BDSM enthusiast who is quite the character. He quickly remedied that by becoming the leader of one of the largest groups for blacks on the site, Black Dominants/Tops and Black Submissives/Bottoms. The members offer each other support while navigating kink; he told me about one woman who reached out to the community after coming across a picaninny fetish.

For anyone confused, a picaninny was a racialized caricature (think blackface) that depicted dark-skinned cartoon children with bulging eyes and grins. It’s an image that painfully captures our history of racism. The idea of someone doing sex play around this was incredibly disturbing to me.

“We have this saying in the black kink community—my kink ain’t your kink,” said Feminista Jones, sex-positive feminist writer, community activist, and author of the book Push the Button. “There is something called race play, and it ain’t for everyone, and it’s not for me.”

Jones told me about an interview she did with writer and race-play expert Mollena Williams, an authority on race play who says that engaging in this kind of play may be empowering but always should be done with caution and consideration. (You can listen to her talk about a particular experience with race play in the Risk Podcast, Slave.) That’s all well and good, but I realized that it was the very idea of race play that had always deferred my BDSM dream. I can assure Langston Hughes that my fantasy indeed “dries up like a raisin in the sun” (along with my vagina) after hearing about a picaninny fetish.

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Luckily, one can experience and engage with BDSM without incorporating race play.

“It was a long path of reconciliation for me,” Feminista Jones said. “But some of the language of BDSM like ‘master’ and ‘slave’ has existed since before black people were enslaved. Most relationships have a dominant and submissive dynamic to them, particularly in religious communities, which many black people are a part of.”

There are endless explanations of why people, black or not, are into BDSM. Sex and relationship expert Celeste Hirshman told me our fantasies “are an unconscious attempt to soothe ourselves around challenging experiences that we’ve had or positive experiences that we’ve missed out on.” Others, like notable black kinkster Craig Fleming, suggest that one’s proclivities have to do more with nature than nurture, and although “people can use [BDSM] as a way to come to terms with a particular experience…it’s not therapy. It’s not the place to work out racial issues, or abuse.” Sometimes it’s as simple as: What arouses you arouses you.

For me, it’s more about exploring power dynamics. Before the “master” debacle, Ted rhetorically asked me, “Why does a strong, assertive, powerful woman such as yourself enjoy being submissive? Is it because you can let go of control? Because you don’t have to worry, or take care of someone?” His hunch may have been right. I was able to experience a type of attention and care that led to unbelievable pleasure. I felt freedom in moments of not having to be the decision maker, nurturer, or advisor.

“The key elements in BDSM is developing that trust in relationships,” Jones said.

For me, trust is the most arousing thing of all, and seeing a partner respond and adapt to a voiced need is one of the most important things in building trust with a partner. The experience taught me more about my limits and desires and how to communicate them. So even though it didn’t go the way I expected, I have hopes for exploring more kinky play in the future. As for, you know, the slavery stuff: Knowing that one can separate race play from BDSM gives me peace of mind. I know I can’t engage in anything that conjures up those images without getting angry or turned off. So for now, my safeword might just have to be “Harriet Tubman.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Ultimate Guide to Pregnant Sex

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By Lauren Katulka

Takeaway: The nine months of pregnancy bring with them a host of coital challenges, but with our handy guide you can enjoy good loving during any trimester.

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You’ve just received the happy news that you’re expecting and you’re feeling more connected to your partner than ever. Although those nine months of pregnancy can be a challenging time to be a woman, that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice time between the sheets. Read on to discover the difficulties you might face during each trimester, and how you can overcome them to experience some of the best sex of your life.

First Trimester Fun

It wasn’t too long ago that you were getting down to business on a regular basis, but now that you’ve got a bun in your oven you might be thinking of sex less often. The first trimester can leave you exhausted and morning sickness can make you feel far from sexy.

Just know that you’re not alone. A waning libido is only natural as your body stops sending signals to pass on your genes. You’re also feeling the maternal urge to protect your tiny offspring. Even if the doctor assures you sex is safe, a mother’s instinct might have you second-guessing hanky-panky.

During the first trimester it’s good to remember that sex doesn’t have to mean intercourse. If you’re not feeling up to going all the way, perhaps you could rediscover the joys of outercourse or even a simple massage. Touching one another and talking about your desires can ensure you stay close to your partner through these challenging months. (Get some tips in Double the Fun! 5 Hot Tips on Self Touch for Two.)

You don’t have to take intercourse off the table though. Sex during pregnancy has plenty of perks, including better sleep and a feelings of wellbeing . Sex during these early months can also be really enjoyable, even if you don’t feel up to it from the outset. Allow yourself to be seduced with an open mind and you might be surprised how much fun you’ll have.

Steam It Up in the Second Trimester

Many women say their second trimester is their favorite part of pregnancy. The fatigue and morning sickness are gone and your libido has returned. Your genitals will also be constantly engorged and lubrication is increased. These changes can make you feel more open to sex and can maximize your enjoyment.

Your changing body can be a bit of a stumbling block though. A baby bump and the extra curves that come with it may take some getting used to, but it’s important to take pride in these changes. Your awesome body is building a baby! (Get some tips on body confidence in 6 Steps That’ll Help You Love Love Love Your Naked Self.)

Urinary tract infections can also curb your sexual activities for a while. Pregnant women are more likely to contract these painful problems, and they can have nasty implications for pregnancy and your sex life. Don’t ignore painful urination or cramps; see a doctor as soon as you notice these symptoms. An untreated UTI can bring on early labor, so it’s crucial that you act quickly.

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We hope you enjoyed your second trimester, because the third might be tough. That cute little baby bump has grown so large many women find that it feels impossible to get comfortable. And your estrogen and progesterone levels are at their highest.

This is the perfect time to remember the tactics you used to get through your first trimester. You might not always feel like intercourse, but sex can take many forms. Communicate about how you’re feeling so that you can stay close to your partner, even if you aren’t getting as close physically.

Oh, and with that big bump in the way, it can be difficult to get as close as you might like. Sex might seem daunting, but there are ways to work around your new body shape. Women on top and rear entry positions are ideal. See our article on safe, sizzling sex positions for pregnant women for enough inspiration to spice up this final trimester.

Your bump is also a real reminder that baby is on board, and men can struggle with this. However, doctors insist that no matter how hung your man is, his penis can’t possibly go through the cervix, amniotic sac and placenta. In simple terms, sex is totally safe for the little one (and good for you). For normal pregnancies, sex also won’t cause miscarriages or preterm labor.

And Another Thing

While sex is safe for most pregnant women, those with high-risk pregnancies should exercise caution and consult their doctor if they have any concerns. More important than sex itself is the intimacy this act can foster between new moms and dads. If you can get steamy during this time, go for it. If not, make sure you talk about your feelings and remember to show your affection in other ways. This will help couples deepen their connection with each other before the new addition to the family.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to look after your penis

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By Ed Noon

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The British are a nation of stoics, often too proud to admit we have a problem, and too polite to bother anyone else about it. Men are particularly bad at piping up about health issues, especially when it comes to our penises. Often, a source of embarrassment can be a simple lack of knowledge. Fortunately, the male anatomy is quite easy to understand, and learning what to say when seeing your GP can help avoid red faces. Read our guide from a working NHS doctor for how to keep your penis healthy…

Don’t use slang

The number of highly imaginative slang words that have been used to describe penises can leave patients embarrassed and doctors wondering. Keep it real and you’ll be taken seriously. Here’s a quick anatomically correct dictionary of our own for you to memorise and check off next time you’re in the mirror:

Penis and foreskin – no explanation needed.

Shaft – the main length of your penis but not including the glans (tip).

Glans/tip – the highly sensitive area at the end of the penis, usually covered by a foreskin, unless removed in an operation called a circumcision, with an opening for urine and semen to escape.

Meatus – pronounced “me-ay-tuss”, this is the medical name for that opening.

Testes – otherwise known as testicles or balls. All are acceptable.

Scrotum – this is the stretchy skin that forms a sack for your testes. A thin muscle allows the scrotum to contract, which it does so in cold conditions to maintain your sperm at a constant temperature.

Epididymis – behind and above the testes lies the area that stores the sperm made in the testes. Above the testes is a firm tube that carries your sperm from the epididymis (via the prostate which lies near your bladder, so it goes a long way) eventually out through your urethra to come out in the hole in the tip of your penis (yep, the meatus – well remembered).

Knowing just a small detail of anatomy can really take the embarrassment out of a problem when explaining things. So next time you notice that something’s not right, be confident and just tell your doctor “straight up”.

DIY penis maintenance

Many male problems don’t require the attention of a medical professional. Allow GQ to fill you in.

How to clean your penis

We often gaze in awe and talk excitedly about the nose-tingling, fungus-coated, ash-rolled, squishy goodness that is a well-stocked cheese counter. That’s not what you want people to experience when getting up close and personal with your penis. The “knob cheese” that is technically known as smegma, has a particularly vile smell and builds up when the area underneath a foreskin hasn’t been cleaned. This area should be cleaned daily (just pull back) along with the rest of your genitals, your bottom and the area in between, called the perineum. Use a mild soap as these areas can be sensitive.

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How to examine your scrotum

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men. For this reason, every week you should examine each testis (the plural is testes) in turn between your finger and thumb by rolling the skin over them. The most common symptom is a lump of any size but you should book an appointment with your GP if you have any new feelings in the scrotal area.

On a lighter note, most lumps in the scrotum aren’t cancer, and if it does turn out to be cancer, it’s one of the most treatable forms of the disease. You should get to know your balls like the back of your hand.

Maintaining an erection

Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is unfortunately common from middle age onwards and it’s caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels that pump blood to create and maintain an erection. This narrowing may occur for a number of reasons but high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking are high on the list. Giving up smoking seems like a no-brainer, and maintaining a healthy body weight and undertaking regular exercise reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.

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Protect your penis from STIs

STIs are invisible and often give no symptoms for many years so you won’t know if you’ve just passed one on, so you should always wear a condom. Available free at GPs and sexual health clinics, they significantly reduce the risk of the transmission of STIs but they’re nowhere near as effective if they remain unopened in your wallet. There are so many easy ways to get tested for STIs – a simple fingerpick test can detect HIV, and many GP surgeries have urine pots to test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea that you can pick up and drop off discretely without even making an appointment. No excuses.

Be careful with trimming

Many of us take pleasure in keeping neat and tidy. There are no hard and fast rules about what to do here, but a sensible one is to exercise caution. Be especially careful in the craggy terrain of your scrotum if shaving, where it can be technically more challenging to not make a tiny cut in the skin – this could potentially introduce harmful bacteria which could cause cellulitis, abscesses or worse, Fournier’s gangrene (Googling not recommended).

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Penis size really doesn’t matter to women

A 2015 survey of women presented with photographs of all types and sizes of penises published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine revealed that penis length was one of the least valued attributes. “Overall cosmetic appearance” came out on top. So no need to worry about whether your penis size is above or below average. Just keep it looking good.

Use your penis to keep it healthy

Make ejaculation part of your daily routine. Here’s why: a large Harvard study of nearly 30,000 men found the risk of prostate cancer was 33 per cent lower in men who’d ejaculated at least 21 times per month, compared to those who ejaculated only 4-7 times per month. This included ejaculations during sex, masturbation and, um, “nocturnal emissions”. Time to play catch up.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Long, Hard Work of Running the Only Academic Journal on Porn

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In 2014, Clarissa Smith and Feona Attwood launched “Porn Studies,” the world’s first academic periodical devoted exclusively to pornography, although many of their colleagues—and anti-porn feminists—advised them against it.

Academic Journal on Porn

Clarissa Smith, a professor of sexual cultures at the University of Sunderland in the UK, is describing to me the ideal sex robot. “Maybe it wouldn’t look like a human at all,” she says. “It could be like a sleeping bag you zip yourself into and have a whole-body experience. How fabulous would that be? You could have your toes tickled and your head massaged at the same time.”

I ask if she’s seen the two-legged cyborgs from Boston Robotics that don’t fall over, even when shoved. “They kind of look like horses,” she says. “They’re not sexy.” She tells me that if she had any business acumen, she’d design her own pleasure bots. “I wouldn’t be talking about this journal.”

The journal we’ve been talking about is Porn Studies, the first academic periodical devoted exclusively to the study of pornography. Founded in 2014 by Smith and Feona Attwood, a professor in cultural studies, communication, and media at Middlesex University London, it’s since become the go-to quarterly for hot-and-heavy, peer-reviewed research on how porn is constructed and consumed around the world.

After receiving a raft of coverage from the Atlantic, the Washington Post, VICE, and, of course, the Daily Mail, nearly 250,000 people viewed the journal online over its premiere weekend. The first issue featured an article by groundbreaking film scholar Linda Williams, an essay on how porn literacy is being taught in UK schools, and a meta-analysis of porn titled “Deep Tags: Toward a Quantitative Analysis of Online Pornography”—which reads sort of like Nate Silver’s guide to PornHub. Later issues have explored topics as varied as the “necropolitics” of zombie porn to the “disposal” of gay porn star bottoms who bareback.

Porn has long been a popular field of academic research—professor Linda Williams’s seminal text on the subject, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible” was first published in 1989—but its scholarly inspection has not been without controversy.

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“It has been considered a ‘despised form,'” Smith said. “But I think there are enough people around now who are approaching pornography from a whole range of viewpoints, not just asking, ‘Should it exist?’ or ‘How should we regulate it?’ but ‘What is it? Who’s in it? How does it work?'”

Before Smith became a leading expert in pornography, she was working at an ad agency and pursuing a master’s degree in women’s studies. “I sat through so many lectures about the radical feminists’ rejection of porn,” she said. Then, one day at the office, she received a press packet from two publishers who were just about to launch soft-core magazines for women.

“I was like, hang on, two publishers think it’s worth it to launch porn magazines, and yet women supposedly have no interest in this?”

Smith had friends who were into porn, she enjoyed a good Chippendales show now and then, and she’d watched as the Ann Summers sex shop in her neighborhood had transformed from someplace dark and seedy to a “bright and colorful” spot to buy sex toys.

“I saw these things happening, which, according to theory, couldn’t be happening.” She had a gut feeling that porn, too, was being misjudged.

In 1999, Smith decided to analyze For Women magazine, a relatively upmarket glossy that ran features like “Semen: a user’s guide” and “Women who sleep with strangers night after night.” The magazine, Smith argued, sought to manufacture “a space where women [could] be sexually free” by writing about things like three-ways, cuckolding fetishes, and anal sex in a way that made them seem normal. It was also primo masturbation material, offering “male bodies for female consumption” and real-life sex stories.

Academics and peers she respected tried to dissuade Smith from continuing down the porn path. “They would ask me, ‘When are you going to move on from this area into more serious study?’ They’d also tell me I was really brave.” She laughs. “I wasn’t brave, I was interested!”

For Women

When academics analyze comics, horror films, video games, or anime, it isn’t generally assumed that their scholarship constitutes a ringing endorsement of everything in their field of study. But with porn, it’s different. The topic is so “burdened with significance,” as transgender studies professor Bobby Noble once described it, it’s easy to get trapped in the debate over its existence—instead of looking at it objectively as a cultural product.

But Smith ignored the naysayers and, over the next few years, penned a number of articles with titles like, “Shiny Chests and Heaving G-Strings: A Night Out with the Chippendales” and “They’re Ordinary People, Not Aliens from the Planet Sex! The Mundane Excitements of Pornography for Women.”

She was cavorting with other porn academics and traveling to conferences when she fortuitously met Feona Attwood. “It felt like we were the only two people talking about [porn], at least in the UK,” Smith said. The pair eventually brought their idea for a porn studies journal to the multinational academic publishing house Routledge, initiating two-and-a-half years of negotiation. When, finally, the two were told their proposal for the journal had been accepted, they “sat in stupefied silence for about ten minutes,” Smith said.

Nearly as soon as Porn Studies was announced, a feminist anti-porn organization in the UK called Stop Porn Culture circulated an online petition demanding the creation of an anti-porn journal for the sake of balance. Signatories claimed the journal was akin to “murder studies” from the viewpoints of “murderers.”

Smith and Attwood believe they somewhat missed the point. “We were trying to move away from the idea that there were only two ways of thinking,” said Attwood. “Like for or against television, or for or against the novel. It’s a bizarre way of thinking, from an academic point of view.”

porn studies

At the time, the UK had recently banned a long list of hardcore sex acts from porn produced in the country, including “spanking, caning, whipping, penetration by an object ‘associated with violence,’ physical or verbal abuse (consensual or not), urination in sexual contexts, female ejaculation, strangulation, facesitting and fisting (if all knuckles are inserted).” The country’s mood wasn’t exactly sex-positive.

“We have this idea that we can just keep undesirable things out of the country,” Smith said.

That fearful attitude, naturally, extends to university campuses. “I don’t think there was ever a golden age for studying porn,” Attwood told me. “It’s always been tricky!” She says the resistance the pair encountered—and continue to encounter—is part of a “much broader” problem related to academic freedom; at the University of Houston, for example, teachers were recently told they might want to modify what they teach in case students are carrying concealed weapons.

“The social and political context we are working in at the moment as academics makes our work more precarious and dangerous in all kinds of ways that are not just about what we study,” Attwood said.

Yet the history of porn research in the United States isn’t as dramatic as you’d imagine. Linda Williams was able to teach porn with full support of her administration way back in the (H.W.) Bush years.

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“There is still such a thing as academic freedom,” Williams said nonchalantly when I asked how administrators reacted to her porny syllabi when she taught the subject at UC Irvine, in the heart of conservative Orange County, in 1992.

Back then, Williams, who’d already published a book on the subject by that point, would screen whatever porn was floating around in the cultural ether. She had her students watch gonzo porn; feminist porn (“cleaned up with lots of potted plants and no money shots”); and sadomasochist porn (“the theatrical kind…and the other kind”).

The biggest issue students had was with the gay porn, which Williams says freaked out the hetero guys—a lot. Usually, though, what students did in her classes was laugh their heads off. “That’s kind of a protective measure, because otherwise they might, you know, get horny,” she said.

When I asked Smith if she screened porn in her classes, though, I was surprised to hear that she didn’t.

“Both Feona [Attwood] and I have tenure, but that still doesn’t mean that you can do what you like. Also, I’m at a small, provincial university that is one of the post-1992 schools [formerly polytechnics or colleges of higher education in the UK], and we don’t have a very bullish attitude that we’re the elite, so I have to be aware of the university’s sensibilities, which are: Can we defend this to parents? I don’t want to cause that kind of trouble.”

For now, Smith is advising graduate students, conducting research, attending conferences, and, of course, editing Porn Studies. She says she’s most concerned about making sure the next generation doesn’t feel the same sense of shame over their sexual desires as the older people she’s interviewed in her research. “In the research that Feona and I did, one of the key things that comes through when you talk to older people about their engagements with porn [is that] people say, ‘I just wish someone had had a proper conversation with me about sex. I just wish I hadn’t felt so much shame about looking and finding bodies attractive and going looking for it. It’s taken me a long time to understand what I like sexually.’ Why do we want another generation coming up afraid of their bodies and ashamed of their desires?”

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