Final Reflections on the Project and PhD

Hi all,

Here is a quick update on the Living with Porn(ography) Project and the PhD that the research was conducted for.

I am pleased to say that I was awarded my PhD in December 2019 subject to minor corrections. I will be submitting my corrections in March after which my PhD will be complete! It feels very strange to say as it seems such a long journey since I started the research. Thank you to my supervisors Professor Sarah Neal and Dr Jadwiga Leigh for all of their help in getting there. Writing the thesis up was long and difficult but thankfully I had a very supportive partner, and very supportive friends and family.

Now that the PhD is finished, the task of sharing the research and the project findings starts. First of all, I will be meeting with some of the women from the project to tell them about how I wrote the thesis up, and to conclude our work together. I will then begin preparing academic publications from the research. I am undecided yet of which format this will take but I hope to produce several publications on the research topic and on the research methodology. I am also hoping to do a public event (subject to securing some funding) in which I will share the findings of the project. I will post updates about this on the website.  

Now that the PhD is coming to an end, I need to bring the project to a close. This website, the project Twitter account and the project email account will remain live until July 2020 and after this point I will close them. If you would like to find out more about the project, please do get in touch. Until July, I will continue to post updates as and when they come up.

Thank you to everyone who has kept in touch with the project, and for all the interest in the research.

What’s New for 2018

Hi all,

Here is a very quick blog from the Living with Porn(ography) Project giving you a quick update on where things are! The research for the project is now complete, from May 2017 – January 2018, 9 of us worked together to discuss our views on porn. In total there were 10 research group meetings and 8 interviews. The findings are now being written up into the thesis for the PhD. Hopefully over the coming year I will be able to share more of the findings with everyone in different formats as well.

I have now published a paper about the experience of gaining ethical approval for this project, the difficulties that there were in doing so, and how these were overcome. The paper is entitled: ‘Is the presumption of anonymity a matter of protection or paternalism? Obtaining ethical approval for participatory research on pornography’ and is available here. If you would like to read it but do not have access send me an email.

I was pleased to present some of the findings from the project yesterday at the Pint of Science Festival in Sheffield at the event: ‘Who Run the World? Pop, Porn and Post Truth’.    It was nice to present the research in a new setting, it felt very different to presenting at academic conferences! Thanks to Pint of Science for having me.

And now, back to writing up the thesis.

#LetsTalkAboutPorn

 

News from the Project!

I thought I would write a new blog with an update of the Living with Porn(ography) Project. I don’t blog as often as I would like to, and I always seem to promise a blog when I’m especially busy so sorry that it is late! We have now had our seventh group meeting and this was the final meeting aimed at collecting new data to contribute to the research findings. I cannot quite believe how quickly time has flied!  Yesterday we went on a field trip, for which we received funding, doing some crafts and painting our own ceramics. This was lots of fun, and it will be nice to have a memento from the project. They are all currently in the kiln, once I have mine back perhaps I will post a photo of my handiwork!

I’m now in the thick of transcribing the interviews and the group meetings, there is almost a full day’s worth of audio recordings. This is of course translates to far longer than a full day’s work transcribing! Transcribing has been a really interesting process, I’m reflecting alot on how things have changed over the course of the project. For example, I can hear my own voice become much more confident throughout the course of the research. I also share more of my own anecdotes and experiences. There are also lots of laugh to be had when I listen back to some of the things we talked about! Unfortunately, I am finding transcribing a very difficult process, it really hurts my hands and my wrists so I can’t progress with it quickly as I would like to. I hadn’t quite anticipated this issue, I knew it was time consuming but didn’t realise it would hurt! I am making sure to take lots of rests.

On Thursday, I will be guest lecturing about gender and pornography at Salford University for a criminology module. This will be my first time lecturing so I am very excited, and it will be great to have discussions with the students about this topic. I am interested to hear what their perspectives are. In the afternoon, I will be presenting at a research seminar hosted by the Centre for Applied Research in Health, Wefare and Policy at the University of Salford – my talk will be entitled: What Are We Talking About When We Talk About ‘Pornography’? A big thanks to Kelly Lockwood at Salford who invited me to do both of these events. I will blog again soon and let you know how they go!

#LetsTalkAboutPorn

 

 

 

Keeping you up-to-date with the project

Hi everyone, I thought I’d blog with a quick update of the project. I hope everyone had a nice summer, it is already starting to feel like a distant memory (though a very pleasant one!) I feel sad to say that the research group has almost come to an end! We have had 6 group meetings together, and we will have our 7th in a week’s time. This will be our last meeting, bar a final analysis session later on this year. Each of the women also took part in an individual interview, all of which were really enjoyable to do and really informative for the project. In addition to this, I am pleased to say we have been awarded some funding to go on a field trip together! I’ll blog about this in a bit more detail next time and hopefully we can take some photos of what we get up to. As the project has progressed, the methodology has changed. Initially, I had planned to conduct a number of additional interviews but this has now been scaled back. Hopefully, one day this project can be extended and developed so that more women’s and other people’s experiences can be explored too.

Next on the agenda with the group is rounding off our research, and thinking about our strategy for the research data and our research findings. After we have begun analysing our research, and collectively decided upon our research findings I can begin to blog about that too so watch this space though out 2017 and 2018.

I am pleased to say that I have been invited to present a research seminar at the University of Salford and I’ll be talking about the Living With Porn(ography) Project. The theme of the talk will be the complexities of defining ‘pornography’, and the ambiguity there can be in identifying what pornography is. On the same day, I will also be guest lecturing on gender and pornography which I am very much looking forward to.

I’ll blog again soon with more updates and further news about the project.

#LetsTalkAboutPorn

Has it really been a month since I last blogged..?

Time really does fly, it has been over a month since I last blogged! A considerable chunk of the project has now been completed. We have had five group meetings, and interviews with each member of the group are underway. After the interviews, we have two more scheduled group meetings and then we will hold a final meeting later in the year to analyse our findings.

I have been learning a lot about women’s experiences of pornography but also the practicalities of doing research. Finding a reliable source of pizza for each group meeting and an appropriate room for our discussions has been a challenge! We have had some interesting discussions in our last few groups. In one group meeting we watched different music videos and talked about the representation of women within them. There was a real diversity in opinion on these videos, and often we interpreted things very differently from one another.

Since I last blogged, there have been some important policy developments in relation to pornography. The government has announced that age verification checks for pornography sites will soon be introduced, see here. You can read more about the government consultation that informed this here. Whatever your position on pornography, it is worth reading up on this new policy as it has wider implications relating to privacy, data collection and storage, and state regulation of the internet. This policy is something that I hope to discuss further with the women in the project.

On Friday the 30th of June, I attended the Healthy Sexual Development Symposium at the University of Westminster. You can look at some of the day’s events through the Twitter hashtag #HSD2017. It was a helpful event for me as I had the opportunity to meet practitioners and those involved in delivering sex and relationship education. I hope I can collaborate in some capacity with practitioners in the future. They offer an important perspective on sex and pornography, one that in my current role in academia, I am not directly privy to. It was really informative to hear their experiences. I was then able to use some of what I learned from the symposium as a basis for a group discussion which was really interesting.

I also guest blogged for Screening Sex about the Living With Porn(ography) project, you can have a read here. There are lots of fascinating blogs on the Screening Sex page, I really recommend a read!

I will blog again soon with further updates of the project. We are waiting to hear back about a funding application for the group to go on a field trip together. I will also be discussing with my supervisors about conducting further interviews for the project with women recruited outside of the group. If you have any questions or comments, please do get in touch!

#LetsTalkAboutPorn

The Project is Truly Underway…!

The Research Group

We have now had 3 research group meetings and have our next one scheduled in for Wednesday the 21st of June. Last week we discussed the relationship between sexuality and pornography. We had a very varied discussion, and amongst all of it were commonalities and differences in experience and opinion. What seems clear to me, is that there is a lot of diversity in the experiences that women can have. We started a very interesting discussion on how we define and understand sexuality, which again featured different and diverse opinions.

One thing that keeps cropping up in our discussions is the complexities of defining pornography, and identifying what is pornographic. We all have different opinions in the group on this. Next week we are going to kick start our discussion by revisiting this. If anyone has any definitions that resonate with them, get in touch livingwithpornography@gmail.com / @livingwithporn – we are going to be discussing some different perspectives and so we are interested in the range of ways that pornography has been defined.

Next week, our overall focus will be on UK law and pornography, as suggested by a member of the group. One of the challenges I have found when looking at this area before, is finding a comprehensive guide to what the law on pornography actually is. Whilst I have managed to learn quite a bit along the way, finding a guide to share with the group is somewhat difficult. Thankfully, this is where Twitter has been helpful and through tweeting a request I have managed to get in touch with some people who are willing to help. I’ll blog again after the next group to let you know what we discuss.

What Else Is on the Horizon?

On the 30th of June, I will be attending the Healthy Sexual Development Symposium in London: https://www.westminster.ac.uk/events/healthy-sexual-development-symposium.  Some of the symposium will be discussing pornography and will be really interesting to hear. I hope to live tweet from this event.

I will be putting an application in for funding to take the research group on a day trip. We are interested in creative ways of doing this research. One idea is to visit a relevant exhibition / talk / event on sex and pornography, and see where this leads on answering our question – “how do women experience pornography?” I have begun looking for relevant events but any suggestions would be much appreciated!

In July I am going to begin recruiting 10-15 women to take part in an interview for the project. This is a chance for women who couldn’t participate in the group or aren’t local to Sheffield to get involved. I will tweet and blog nearer the time with more info on this, but please do spread the word if you know of anyone interested.

Get in Touch!

I will blog again soon – please do get any touch with any comments/ questions/ suggestions. #LetsTalkAboutPorn

Yes, we do need research on pornography…!

Hello everyone – the Living With Porn(ography) project has now had it’s second research meeting and 8 women attended, bringing the group up to 9 members including myself. We have had some really interesting discussions! I am planning to blog more about the project over the next few weeks but for now here is a brief blog about a recent article that I tweeted about, and we discussed in our last research group. 

On Sunday the 7th of May, I read in the Observer magazine, an article entitled “why studying porn is like taking a cold shower” by Eva Wiseman. I found the article to be extremely frustrating, it was a very scathing dismissal of pornography research. One of the examples of said research is the series “Hot Girls Wanted” on Netflix, a series recently criticised for its deception of the women featured in it. Hardly, an example of robust, ethical or responsible research, like many of us pornography researchers aspire to. Eva stated that “there is an ever-growing number of reports and studies on pornography” and asked: “Is this obsession just another way of consuming it?” I very much wanted to respond to this question (by publishing a response), particularly from my perspective as a pornography researcher. I asked the women in the research group what they thought, and we all agreed we need more research on pornography, not less! While I did have some helpful communication from some Guardian/ Observer journalists, I wasn’t able to get anything published this time. So instead, I thought I would blog here the letter I tried to get published which the research group gave their input to.  

“As a PhD student researching pornography, I was quite frustrated to read Eva Wiseman’s  dismissal of pornography research in the Observer Magazine. At a time of such unprecedented availability and accessibility, and increasingly conflicting messages about its benefits and ills, I think we need more research on pornography not less. My research project (livingwithpornography.com) concerns women’s experiences of pornography, and together with a group of Sheffield based women, we are exploring how women feel about pornography, and how it features in our lives. Though there is a diverse range of opinions present in the group, everyone feels opening the discussion on pornography is important. At our most recent meeting, I put to them Eva’s question: “is this obsession just another way of consuming it?” to which one woman instantly responded (to raucous laughter): “we’re not all sitting here masturbating”. Everyone agreed that “knowing more stuff is always going to help you”. We hope this research can be an opportunity to hear voices that aren’t always heard, and open the conversation on pornography. We need to talk about it more not less. The group wished to extend an invitation to Eva, come and chat to us about pornography, perhaps we can change your mind about pornography research.”

I’d be interested to hear what everyone else’s opinions are, so please do get in touch if you have any comments/ questions. I’ll blog again soon with more research updates. #LetsTalkAboutPorn

Preparing For the First Meeting

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I am pleased to say that we have our first group meeting organised for tomorrow, Thursday the 4th of May at 6pm. As I am sure anyone has who has ever done group work will know, it is very difficult organising a time and date everyone can do, so I am glad that the first meeting is scheduled. This said, not everyone who has signed up to take part can attend the first meeting, so there is a need for flexibility around participating. I’m just encouraging those women to come to the second meeting instead!

We are still looking for 3-5 women to join us, so please keep sharing the project details and/ or get in touch if you are interested . If you can’t attend tomorrow’s meeting come to the next one. How often we meet, when and where is up for negotiation, so don’t worry if a Thursday evening is no good for you.

For now I am preparing the schedule for tomorrow evening, printing off information sheets and consent forms, and sorting out some audio recording equipment. I will blog again soon with an update of how the project is going.

Get in touch at livingwithpornography@gmail.com with questions or comments. If you’ve read any interesting news articles relating to the topics being discussed in this project send them my way! #LetsTalkAboutPorn

Speaking at #britsoc17 – why do we need to hear individual experiences of pornography?

I have just returned from this year’s British Sociological Association (BSA) annual conference #britsoc17. Over 800 people attended this year and it was great to hear talks on such a wide variety of sociological research. I was pleased to present a paper on my research whilst there which I thought I would briefly summarise and share here. My paper was entitled “Locating the Individual Experience within the Political Context, Feminist Research and Womens Everyday Experiences of Pornography.”. I admitted during the talk, that on reflection (and I think got some laughs) this probably wasn’t the catchiest title! In my eagerness to get accepted to speak and fit with the theme of the conference, I forwent a memorable title. However, the talk seemed to go well and I got some interesting questions at the end.

The aim of my talk was to argue that for us to understand pornography within society, we need to hear the lived experiences of individuals. We need individual experiences to develop collective understandings. I discussed this specifically in relation to my research which centres on women’s experiences but I think the same holds for all people’s experiences. I then discussed why I feel using participatory research methods, could be one such way to facilitate this discussion (I hope to develop this point in further blogs).

The theme of this year’s BSA was “Recovering the Social: Personal Troubles and Public Issues”. The conference invited speakers to reflect on how society has become more individualistic and how we might recover notions of the social and the collective. I was very drawn to this theme in relation to my thoughts on pornography. I agree that society has become more individualistic, but when it comes to pornography we are seeing broad, generalised discussions on its effects on society which lack input from the different and diverse experiences individuals have.

The question framing my thoughts, and one which I think is a big challenge for research on pornography is: “How can we build collective knowledge whilst accounting for individual experiences, difference and diversity?” We need collective understandings so that policy, legislation and action around pornography is adequately informed and reflects everyone’s needs. However, we must also recognise difference and diversity as not everyone does have the same experience. From my previous research on pornography and though reviewing other research, I have found that people’s experiences differ according to their background and identity (e.g. sexuality, ethnicity), their position in life (age, family status), their relationship to pornography (e.g. a user of or a performer in) and their own personal experiences (e.g. relationships, political interests).

I think now is a critical time for us all to be talking about pornography. We are seeing big legislative changes being proposed and/or made, regarding tighter controls on what content can be shown and how pornography is accessed. The government has also committed to compulsory Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) being taught in schools; this raises big questions about what we want to teach young people about sex, sexuality, pornography and relationships. When I previously conducted research on pornography, I found that the women I worked with had varied experiences and opinions. Some of them felt positive about pornography, some felt negative, often they felt something inbetween and their own feelings contradicted themselves. Interestingly, between all of the women there was diversity and yet there were also commonalities. For example, despite their varied opinions most of the women were against censorship but strongly advocated better sex education. Yet, there was also diversity of thought within this. We can produce collective understandings of pornography which could inform collective action but we need to be informed by everyone’s different opinions.

I think the key thing is to talk with one another, #LetsTalkAboutPorn – What are your experiences of #LivingWithPorn?

 

The Project in Progress

I thought I would put together a little blog about the project so far and how things are developing. I am really pleased with all of the positive attention the project has received so far. Thank you for everyone’s support – the retweets and likes on Twitter, posts and shares on Facebook, and suggestions for how to spread the word about the research.

Please do continue to share the project:

I am still looking for women to get involved and am pleased to say that five women have signed up so far. I am looking forward to us working together. We are currently in the process of organising the first meeting. Please do get involved or share the project with anyone you think would be interested.

On Thursday the 30th of March I spoke to Paulette Edwards on BBC Radio Sheffield about the project. This was a great opportunity to explain in a bit more depth about why I am interested in researching pornography and what I hope this project will achieve. We discussed the difficulties there can be in talking about sex and pornography; I hope this research can contribute to wider conversations on these. The interview is available for 30 days on iPlayer, it starts from 1 hour 10 minutes in. You can listen to that here or alternately you can read a short write up here.

Please do get in touch via email if you have any questions or comments about the project or getting involved. I intend to keep a blog alongside the project – if you have any suggestions about what would be interesting to read, let me know.