What does pornography mean to women?.
In this research I employ a feminist and qualitative approach, challenging the
predominant psychological discourse of pornography. I discuss the ways law,
history and economics influence how women relate to pornography. A range of
theoretical approaches, including psychoanalysis, film theory and cultural studies,
are used to explore pornographic texts and women's accounts of their engagement
with pornography. Drawing on these different disciplinary frameworks I argue that
the meanings of `pornography' are changing and elusive: its insusceptibility to easy
definition is a theme of this research, which takes into consideration diverse media,
including erotic fiction and women's magazines.
Feminist theory and discourse analysis informs the analysis of 34 interview
transcripts, and leads to reflection on research-related problems such as questions
of ethics, researching the `other', and tensions between feminisms and psychology.
Women negotiate the heterosexist and masculine discourse of pornography in
unexpected ways, and anti-porn feminism is shown to have shaped participants'
views and impacted on their identities. The ways in which individual psychic
histories and sociocultural constructions such as `race', `class', and sexual
orientation enter into women's viewing of porn are explored. Psychoanalytic and
gaze theories are drawn upon to offer insight into the different psychic mechanisms
and positions involved in viewing and reading pornography.
Pornography is a factor in the social construction of sexuality, but women's
accounts (unlike much of the theory) show how their views, experiences and
feelings about pornography are variegated, individual and complex. I argue for a
Foucauldian perspective on the question of sexual repression and the effect-'of
categorisations (such as `paedophile' and `sadomasochist'). The effects of new
media and technologies are wide ranging, and include increasing opportunities for
sex without physical contact, access to sex educational material, and the creation
of multiple meanings of pornography for women. This thesis concludes by
su gesting that the proliferation of new sexual discourses, including gay, lesbian
and bisexual pornographies, has transgressive, contradictory and complex
implications for women's sexualities.