Trends in pornography

Although pornography is often referred to as though it is a singular thing there are many diverse styles and forms of pornography. A wide range of styles can been traced in pornographic material produced between the 1970s and the early 21st century. These include parodies and adaptations of mainstream genres, the use of comedy, fantasy and camp, sensitive dramas, gothic horror, and social commentary. Niche films focus on particular themes such as bondage. In addition there are ‘all sex’ (or ‘wall to wall’) films, often using the gonzo style of the ‘talking camera’ and vignettes that string sex scenes together without a plot[234]. Gonzo porn uses a documentary style filmed in real time, focused on ‘live’ performance and using point of view shots and handheld cameras to emphasize the ‘realness’ of the sex, with little apparent editing or cutting[235].

The distinctive styles of particular porn studios, directors and performers attract strong followings. Pornographies can be categorized in a variety of other ways – for example in terms of their target audiences which might be straight men, lesbians or people with an interest in a particular kind of kink. They can also be distinguished by other characteristics – such as the apparent age of performers (barely legal, teen, mature, MILF, Daddy), or their ethnicity (Asian, Latina, interracial), nationality (British, German, Brazilian), or body type (BBW, twink, bear). Other types of pornography may focus on particular bodily functions (watersports, squirting), specific practices or communities (fisting, femdom, spanking, bareback), sexual communities (BDSM, furry), combinations of performers (solo, threesome, gang bang), or situations and characters (teacher and student, jail, police, medical).

A number of new developments in porn can also be noted. These include the development of porn for women and the appearance of feminist and alternative/indie porn[236]. Undoubtedly the biggest change has been the huge growth in amateur porn performance[237]. It has become much easier to set up as a producer of porn, especially given the increasing availability of digital photography, free web space, cams and tube sites. Slash communities have produced ‘transformative works’ since the 1960s, writing stories drawing on elements of erotica and porn to portray homoerotic encounters between characters from TV shows, literary fictions, and films[238]. These are now joined by other sites of amateur erotica online[239]. Tube sites provide a place where professionally produced and amateur offerings can be shared. Tumblr sites and image-boards are also used to share porn.

A current trend in media commentaries about pornography is that contemporary pornography is more ‘extreme’, that it features outrageous practices and is more ‘body-punishing’ than ever before[240]. For some, practices such as anal sex or performance styles that are rough and athletic are seen as indications of increasing violence. Studies that claim that contemporary porn is more violent generally count a range of behaviours such as pinching, biting, slapping, spanking, and hair pulling as ‘violent’, along with bondage and sadomasochism, even when these are clearly consensual[241]. There is little research in this area but recent studies suggest that acts that have been coded as extremely violent (for example torture, weapons, attempted murder, punching, kicking, fighting, beating mutilating, dismemberment, kicking, biting) are rare and that they have not increased in a decade[242]. While the internet is blamed for circulating ever more violent pornography it would be more accurate to say that it has made pornographies of all kinds more visible.

Effects of pornography

234. Tibbals, C.A. (2010). From The Devil in Miss Jones to DMJ6 – power, inequality, and consistency in the content of US adult films. Sexualities 13(5), 625-644.
235. Biasin, E., & Zecca, F. (2009). Contemporary Audiovisual Pornography: Branding Strategy and Gonzo Film Style. Cinema Et Cie: International Film Studies Journal, 9(12), 133-50; Smith, C. (2012). Reel Intercourse: Doing Sex on Camera in Kerr, D. & Hines, C. (Eds.) Hard to Swallow: Hard-Core Pornography on Screen. New York; Columbia University Press, 194-214.
236. Sabo, A. (2012). After Pornified: How Women are Transforming Pornography and Why it Matters. Winchester & Washington: Zero Books; Taormino, T., Parreñas Shimizu, C., Penley, C. & Miller-Young, M. (Eds.) (2013). The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. New York: The Feminist Press.
237. Paasonen, S. (2010). Labors of Love: Netporn, Web 2.0, and the Meanings of Amateurism’, New Media & Society 12(8): 1297-1312.
238. Esch, K. & Mayer, V. (2007). How Unprofessional; The Profitable Partnership of Amateur Porn and Celebrity Culture in Paasonen, S., Nikunen, K. & Saarenmaa, L. (Eds.) Pornification: Sex and Sexuality in Media Culture. Oxford: Berg, 99-114; Mowlabocus, S. (2010). Porn 2.0?: Technology, Social Practice, and the New Online Porn Industry in Attwood, F. (Ed.) porn.com.Making Sense of Online Pornography. New York: Peter Lang, 69-87; Attwood, F. The Politics of Amateurism in Online Pornography, http://eitherand.org/exhibitionism/homemade-nudity-politicsamateurism-online-pornogr/
239. Paasonen, S. (2010). Good Amateurs: Erotica Writing and Notions of Quality in Attwood, F. (Ed.) porn. com: Making Sense of Online Pornography. New York: Peter Lang, 142-158.
240. See for example Dines, G. (2010). Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon.
241. See Weitzer, R. (2011). Pornography’s Effects: The Need for Solid Evidence – A Review Essay of Everyday Pornography, edited by Karen Boyle (New York: Routledge, 2010) and Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, by Gail Dines (Boston: Beacon, 2010). Violence Against Women 17(5), 666-675.
242. Bridges, A.J. (2010). Methodological considerations in mapping pornography in Boyle, K. (Ed.) Everyday Pornography. London: Routledge, 34-49; Tyler, M. (2010). ‘Now, that’s pornography!’: violence and domination in Adult Video News in Boyle, K. (Ed.) Everyday Pornography. London: Routledge, 50-62.

Effects of pornography