Clarissa Smith, Feona Attwood & Martin Barker are embarking on a research project about the everyday usage of pornography. They are inviting users to contribute via an online anonymous survey. They write:
We want to emphasise from the outset that the research we are conducting is unlike almost all the previous research that has been conducted on pornography. In the past, pornography has overwhelmingly been assumed to be a problem, and the only really important questions to ask about it are — how much do people (and especially children) encounter it, and how great is the harm that it does? This research is different.
Our project is concerned with the everyday uses of pornography, and how the people who use it feel it fits into their lives. Pornography is of course a highly topical issue, subject to many opposing views and strong opinions. And we are not saying that there are no moral or political issues. But we are saying that the voices of users and enjoyers have been swamped. In fact, there is very little research that engages with the users of pornography, asking how, when and why they turn to it.
We want to gather the thoughts and responses of people who have chosen to use pornography of their own accord. We believe that there can be many different and complicated reasons for looking at pornography. We also don’t believe that all the materials that go under that label, pornography, are the same — only to be distinguished by how extreme or explicit they are.
We are hoping to gather thousands of responses from both frequent and infrequent users of pornography. The more we can gather, the more confidently we will be able to present the results in the on-going public debates on this issue. We want to know some very simple things, like what you view, how you find it, how often, what you particularly like, what is exciting and how this fits in with your feelings about sex, your body, and your pleasures.
If you don’t know us, we are happy to tell you about ourselves, you can learn in detail about our previous work in this kind of area. If you just want to move to the questionnaire, we will just say here that all three of us have been involved in questioning the basis of moral campaigns about the media. Clarissa Smith has been researching pornography since the mid-1990s and has written widely about the problems of censorship and the attempts to legislate against sexually explicit materials. Feona Attwood’s research is in the area of sex in contemporary culture and controversial media. Martin Barker has been involved in such work since the early 1980s, beginning with the so-called video nasties campaign.
The questionnaire we are asking you to fill in has been carefully designed. It will enable us to understand the patterns of use of porn by ordinary people. You’ll find the questionnaire is a mix of multiple choice and open questions, and we will only be able to use what you say if you answer all the questions. Please feel free to add as much detail as you like in the spaces available about your pleasures and disappointments in pornography, how you use it and why. We reckon it will take you between 20-30 minutes to complete.
Once this project is completed (which will probably be around the end of 2011), we promise that it will be made widely available, including via this website.
Thank you — and if you agree that these issues badly need more knowledge and less assumption and bias, help us by passing on this weblink to other people.