Greta Olson: The Pornification of Culture

With Greta Olson (Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Giessen, Germany)

Dates: March 21, 22 2018
Times: 10:00-13:00
Place: University of Leiden, Eyckhof 3, room 002
Contact: Frans-Willem Korsten,

Porn, this seminar maintains, has gone mainstream. Its tropes and narratives increasingly appear as unmarked in everday culture. This pornification of Western post-industrial cultures includes the emergence of phenomena such as do-me or fuck-me feminism, erotic capital, and the sporno (sport + porn) body type as a new masculine ideal. In terms of cultural practices, this trend comprises the visual self-stylization of one’s fuckability particularly in digital forums. For women and girls, this quality is attested to in FaceBook and other forums through poses featuring pursed lips, deep breast and bottom cleavage, and come-hither facial expressions. For men, this trend is manifested in selfies that feature the subject’s hairless six or eight pack abdomen, juxtaposed above his open pants. It is also manifested in pole dancing having become a regular form of sport.

The seminar shall analyze specific texts in which porn tropes and narratives are carried over into mainstream culture and are thereby commodified or re-commodified. These texts include popular singers such as the US American Minaj’s highly sexualized video Anaconda (2014) or the Swedish singer Tove Lo’s short film, Fairy Dust (2016), in which the singer is filmed while masturbating. We shall also examine the adaption of porn tropes in various forms of self-fashioning, such as selfies.

The pornification of culture has been variously described as “the rise of raunch culture” (Ariel Levy 2005), “the new sexism” (Rosalind Gill, 2011), or as “the diversification of the pornographic” (Susanna Paasonen 2014). The seminar shall discuss these theoretical texts to better comprehend why porn has become so ubiquitously visible that its presence is rendered invisible due to its regularity.

March 21

Part One: What are we talking about when we speak of ‘pornification’ and what else do we need to think about?

Watch in preparation: Minaj in Anaconda (2014)

Read in preparation:

Rios, Carmen (2014). “Nicki Minaj’s Feminism Isn’t About Your Comfort Zone: On ‘Anaconda’ and Respectability Politics.” Autostraddle. 25 August 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2017.

Butler, Jess (2013). “For White Girls Only? Postfeminism and the Politics of Inclusion.” Feminist Formations 25.1: 35-58. Concentrate on parts about Minaj.

Part Two: Historicizing Pornification

Read in preparation:

McNair, Brian (2002). “Porno-Chic, or the Pornographication of the Mainstream.” Striptease Culture: Sex, Media, and the Democratisation of Desire. London: Routledge. 61-87.

March 22

Part Three: Pro and Anti Positions

Watch in preparation: Pro: Anna Arrowsmith at the beginning of the debate on “5 Perspectives About Porn.” Better Sex Ed: Let’s Talk about Sex!, 12 March 2014.

Web. 30 October 2017.

Against Pornification: Dines, Gail (2010). “Visible and Invisible: Growing Up Female in a Porn Culture.” Pornoland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon Press. 99-119.

Part Four: Digitalization and Pornification

Read in preparation:

Paasonen, Susanna (2014).“Diagnoses of Transformation: ‘Pornification,’ Digital Media, and the Diversification of the Pornographic.” The Philosophy of Pornography: Contemporary Perspectives. Ed. Lindsay Coleman and Jacob Held. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 3-16