College Prof to Interview Performers, Producers for Research

WASHINGTON, D.C.—An associate professor at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., is looking to interview adult performers and producers of adult content about gender roles in the industry.

Julie Fennell, associate professor of sociology, told AVN said she is hoping to interview 90 people from both sides of the camera.

“My plan is to interview about 45 mostly-performers and about 45 mostly-non-performers,” Fennell said. “I am recruiting and interviewing widely, but the people I'm having the most difficulty reaching are male performers in straight porn, trans performers, and people who make decisions about content and marketing.”

Fennell has been researching and personally involved in the BDSM (Bondage & Discipline/Dominance & submission/Sadism & Masochism) subculture for many years.

“I’m wrapping up that research now, and there are many social and professional network ties between the BDSM subculture and the adult industry,” she said. “As there are a great many opinions about the adult industry, but precious few facts, it was an obvious place to study next. In particular, I'm interested in the ways the adult industry imagines its audience/consumers, and how this vision shapes the performance/marketing/products they create and sell. Mainstream porn producers and performers typically seem to imagine their audience as male, and I am very curious about the whys and hows of that.

“In short, I am researching gender roles in the porn industry,” she added.

While there’s been academic research into sexuality, little has been done into the adult industry, Fennell noted. She believes, in part, the lack of research stems from a propensity by anyone in mainstream to dismiss anyone associated with the industry.

“There is a powerful quote in the podcast documentary the Butterfly Effect, where Jon Ronson asks a conservative woman who used to watch porn if she ever thought about the lives of the people who made the videos, and she replies, ‘I didn't really care about them … It's like when you kill a deer—you don't name it because then you can't eat it,’” she said. “I think any attempt to accurately represent the porn industry (though in my case, people will be presented anonymously) forces people to acknowledging that there are actual humans attached to the vaginas and penises they watch.

“There is great power in telling these stories anonymously, however, because it allows people to detach themselves from their public personas and frankly discuss their experiences without having to worry about affecting their brands,” Fennell continued, “I believe that porn has an important impact on sexuality and gender, but academics have historically had many more opinions than facts about the industry. If I can make this information more public, I hope that it might make a small contribution toward reducing some of the stigma of working in the adult industry.”

Those interested in being interviewed can contact Fennell by email at [email protected], or DM her on Twitter @SlutPhD.