Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Joseph Brennan on the "thrusts and bulges" of Gay porn studies

Share this Post:
Image courtesy of Joseph Brennan Oxford Research Encyclopedias
Image courtesy of Joseph Brennan Oxford Research Encyclopedias

Author and independent scholar Joseph Brennan has published a new entry on Gay pornography in the Oxford Research Encyclopedias, which is an updatable, online resource that summarizes the history and current trends of research of all kinds.

"Being invited to write the first survey on Gay pornography for the Oxford project has been a career-defining honor for me," Dr. Brennan said.

Dr. Joseph Brennan — Photo courtesy of the author  

He added, "I am delighted to take part in a movement that, through the nomination and involvement of recognized topic experts and rigorous peer review, and backed by the Oxford University Press, meets the challenges students, researchers, and the interested public face today when seeking informed, unbiased, and trustworthy information."

The entry, which is available for free online for a limited time, partly organizes topics into "thrusts" and "bulges." Thrusts are relatively unexplored areas of study gaining traction more recently, while bulges are discussions well underway.

"I wrote the survey to capture something of Gay porn now, with due acknowledgement to history," Brennan said. "And because it was designed to be updated: the study of Gay porn's future, it is hoped, seems not only assured in the pages and online portals of Oxford University Press but may be accounted for in subsequent updates as well."

The entry is also divided into three approaches to Gay porn studies. One involves analyzing the themes and archetypes of the porn itself. Another looks at the structure and patterns of the porn industry, and a third keeps an eye on audience reception.

Brennan's entry isn't the first pertaining to pornography; that title goes to April Alliston, whose article on porn in general was published in 2020. But it likely won't be the last, either, given that Lesbian, Transgender, and other identity-based categories of porn have yet to receive entries of their own.

Porn studies
But what does this mean for the field of porn studies? Before even that question is answered, some might wonder how relevant the field really is. Since 2014, Brennan writes in his article, an academic journal dedicated to the sociological analysis of porn has been bringing such topics into further prominence.

Titled Porn Studies, the journal made its debut with a slight hitch, since in its first issue, an author asserted that Gay porn had actually been studied more than the straight variety — when in reality, Brennan writes, the "Gay tradition" had been excluded from scholarship since modern Gay porn's emergence in the 1970s.

Historically, Brennan goes on, researchers were more focused on the "scholarly agenda" that women were being "dehumanized as sexual objects or degraded as the victims in heteroporn."

Flaws should be expected when beginning anything so fresh, of course. Porn Studies is now on its ninth volume, having published four issues each year so far. Access to its archives is somewhat restricted, but it seems to be going strong.

Other more general academic journals have also released special issues on the subject of porn, like AG About Gender, an international journal of gender studies. AG's 16th issue, published in 2019, attempted to tackle the ways the discourse around porn has perpetuated ideas of gender hierarchy — which, the authors argued, had severely limited scholarship beyond different flavors of moral panic.

Beyond academia
Beyond academia, it may surprise no one that porn is a hot topic in some political spheres as well. As of 2019, 16 US states (most of them Republican-led) have declared porn a public health crisis, for reasons ranging from ease of access to dubious links to sex trafficking.

And whatever one's stance on porn might be, none can deny that it's a big industry and an important facet of culture.

Brennan goes so far as to cite leading Gay porn scholar Stephen Maddison to say that "Gay cultures are especially 'pornified,'" meaning that porn offered Gay men a kind of cultural and aesthetic heritage, among other things.

Gay porn has been "especially important during times of discriminatory hostility," Brennan writes, "where it was played in bathhouses, sex clubs, bars, and discos. Such traditions are ongoing and evolving today, via the 'hook-up culture' at home."

Of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, Brennan said, "Nowhere is such a project more vital or timely than on topics as culturally loaded and historically underrepresented, even suppressed, as Gay pornography. The study of Gay porn overcame erasure and underrepresentation in the literature to thrive today as a vibrant subfield of porn studies, with its impact keenly felt in the wider humanities and social sciences as well."

Though this particular entry in the Encyclopedia only addresses male-on-male content, it paves the way for more areas of study, like Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, and other Queer categories of porn that have their own histories and cultural influence.

To sign up for Joseph Brennan's newsletter and learn more about his other works, like his upcoming novel Loose Lips, or his academic and nonfiction articles, visit https://www.josephbrennan.com/.