Contemporary Gay Porn and ‘Saturated Masculinity’

Paper delivered at ECREA 2016, Prague, November 9th - 12th, 2016

Gay pornography, either in print or onscreen, remains a relatively under-researched area of cultural production. It is a complicated and often contradictory form that exploits, subverts, celebrates, plays with and calls into question the ways in which masculinity is constructed and what contemporary masculinity might mean. Given that the internet has resulted in an exponential growth in the sheer volume as well as the range of gay porn available to audiences and greatly enhanced access to this material, the need for a sustained exploration of gay pornography and its modes of representation becomes ever more pressing. The research that I have done that has culminated in the monograph Gay Pornography: Representations of Masculinity and Sexuality (IB Tauris forthcoming) explores and situates the rhetorical strategies and iconography of contemporary gay pornography and discusses the paradigm of masculinities that it presents. This paper discusses the challenges that studying gay pornography presents for researchers in a university setting and will identify some of the issues that all researchers in the field have to consider. My work in the field over the last 15 years has aimed to illustrate that gay pornography offers plural models of masculinity that are more various and nuanced than they might seem. I argue that gay porn illustrates a contemporary ‘saturated’ masculinity. Ranging from an analysis of 'mainstream' gay pornography to the marginal, from glossy professionalism to the artisanal and amateur, the paradox that lies at the heart of gay porn is that it is at points both subversive and normative; undermining orthodoxies of masculine representation at the same time as producing new norms of gay sexual conduct and sexual performance.

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