Battle Over Porn Studies Academic Journal

Academic publishing house Routledge has launched a new journal called Porn Studies, first issue due out sometime next year. Outraged anti-porn activists have started an online petition drive, claiming that the journal’s “pro-porn” editorial bias “further fosters the normalization of porn”. The Guardian covered the battle in two articles over the weekend: Editors of sex studies journal attacked for promoting porn and Porn wars: the debate that’s dividing academia.

Journal editor Feona Attwood responded to the protests at The Conversation: Academia needs a porn journal: here’s why. “Like all good researchers, scholars in porn studies don’t start with a single question, they don’t get stuck at the level of arguing about whether porn is a good or a bad thing, and they don’t start out already knowing all the answers.”

My take: the people protesting Routledge and Porn Studies vastly overestimate the cultural influence of academic journals. The “normalization of porn” will increase or decrease regardless of whether academics have one more venue to write about heterogeneous discursive constructions of postcapitalist gender hegemonies. Only a handful of other academics will read Porn Studies, and it won’t affect the broader public debate in the slightest.

To their credit, the petitioners do not aim to quash the new journal. They just demand that Routledge add “anti-porn” thinkers to the editorial board, or change the journal’s name to “Pro-Porn Studies” and create an “Anti-Porn Studies” rival. My suggestion: why not just create your own rival publication? Why insist that Routledge do it for you? Publishing nowadays, whether online or print, is incredibly cheap and easy.