Punk, Porn, & Politics: The Aesthetics of Radical Sexualities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sunderland
Department Name: Media


It is forty years since the emergence of punk with its phenomenal impact on music, journalism, politics, fashion and design across the UK and USA. Although punk has been incorporated into popular culture, the influence of punk's challenges to convention can still be felt in areas of activism, politics and sexual dissidence. The crossovers between 'adult entertainment' and punk, as forms of resistance to heteronormativity can be felt in the practice and productions of figures as disparate as Vaginal Davis, Robert Mapplethorpe, Pussy Riot and Courtney Trouble. Historical, contemporary, cultural, legal, and moral battles have been fought over art, questioning its legitimacy and its funding, particularly when sex becomes the subject or when sex enters in to relation with other subjects such as religion, death, children, politics. Definitions of art and pornography and art/porn are caught in the ever-shifting climates of tolerance and politics, and punk aesthetics have been used by artists and porn producers to unsettle the aesthetic and affective dimensions of what is supposed to be 'good sex'. Setting aside the standard questions about the morality of pornography, this research seeks to explore the roots and routes of punk in pornographic productions. This will allow for an examination of the connections between media productions and artistic endeavours, exploring the geo-politics of punk and their connections to 'taboo-busting' representations and the radical potentials of sex.


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Anderson J (2019) Exhibition Review in Punk & Post Punk

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000762/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1950785 Studentship ES/P000762/1 01/10/2017 31/07/2021 James Forsyth ANDERSON
Description Current impact generated from the award pertains towards attitudinal changes in discourses and awareness of issues surrounding pornography. Reflecting on the qualitative data obtained surrounding censorship and moral panics pertaining to pornography, my research has highlighted inadequacies and implicit prejudices against pornography, in varying societal contexts; both stemming from, and contributing to, the stigma that surrounds it. As highlighted by the UK 'porn block'-proposed in 2019 and subsequently scrapped-rather than address the potential risks of pornography, prevailing attitudes often belie the potential risks of pornography in favour of recourse to moralising discourses, neglecting to see pornography as fundamentally a cultural issue in nature. Long-term research findings will shed further light here, suggesting applicability to wider contexts and more measurable forms of impact.

Academic publishing reflects a key form of collaboration and impact area in my field. As of late-2019, I have published an exhibition review in the academic journal Punk & Post-Punk, available through Intellect publishing. This review formed a measurable impact from a research trip to New York to conduct interviews with curators and archival research. This publication was consequently utilised within the public relations arm of the Museum of Sex, and has led to potential future opportunities for collaboration. In turn, a larger research paper is currently in the peer review stage of publishing. Upon successfully progressing through this process, the paper will be published in the Routledge Companion to Sexuality and Culture (forthcoming). Furthermore, I have a short research article pending publication on the academic website ASAP/J/, as well as a further Routledge publication later this year.
Exploitation Route As my research is ongoing, it is still premature to qualify my preliminary research findings for use in policy. Though, as the use of my published work by the Museum of Sex in New York indicates, the outcomes bear relevance, most notably, to those in the culture industry as a critical source to re-consider the implications and ethics of pornography.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description In public-orientated contexts, I have presented an extended oral presentation of my work on local radio station Spark FM, as well as organising and hosting an all-female radio panel addressing issues of feminism and gender inequality. This form of public engagement defines impact through organising and collaborating with research stakeholders in the local community, as well as contributing to a greater public understanding of awareness of issues related to my research area. Future forms of public engagement are in the planning process, with the potential to organise a cultural event dedicated to expanding public awareness, through bringing attention to significant artists whose work presciently reflects societal anxieties surrounding pornography.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural