Beyond Pornification and Sexualisation: Re-Theorising Sexual Representation in Popular Film
Dublin City University
(at time of presentation)
John Moran graduated from Dublin City University with a first class honours MA in Film & TV Studies in 2013. An IrishResearch Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar, he is in the second year of his PhD. He has written for FilmIreland, the former magazine and website published by Filmbase, an organisation that supports Irish filmmakers. He lectures in Film Theory & History and Screening Sex.
This abstract outlines the project I am undertaking for my PhD.
My study addresses the gap that has opened up between social scientific and humanities approaches to sexual representations in contemporary popular film. It examines claims about the increasing occurrence and acceptance of sexual themes and explicit imagery in popular culture with regard to mainstream movies, a significant element of “pop culture”. The first approach to cinematic sexual representation, evident in social scientific and public health research, frames the issue as an investigation into potential negative effects of exposure to sexual content in mass media. The second, more prominent in film studies, focuses on the transgressive potential of a reconfiguration of pornographic aesthetics in contemporary film. Both of these approaches represent academic responses to an apparent “pornification” or “sexualisation” of western culture.
My project entails a comprehensive, explicit and systematic study of sexual representation in popular film based on an extensive sample that is more representative of “popular” or “mainstream” film than in other studies, histories and commentaries. It entails an approach grounded in the constant comparative analysis of sexual representations in a broad range of films, working towards the development of a theory of sexual representation of popular film that emerges from examining the films themselves rather than applying pre-existing ideas or theories that may not fit. It advances the study of sexual representation in cinema within film studies beyond the focus on art house and avant-garde/experimental cinema while departing from “the effects paradigm” in social scientific/public health discourses.