Stigma and the Shaping of the Pornography Industry


This project explore how stigma shapes the industrial dynamics, technological practices, and the ‘white collar’ work of the adult entertainment industry. It comprises over a decade of anthropological research, collected across a book, a series of articles and essays, and a doctoral thesis. This project was supported with an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) doctoral scholarship, a Visiting Scholarship at the University of Southern California, and visiting support at the University of California: Santa Barbara library archives.

The idea of ‘pornography’ is often employed to invoke anger, titillation, and disgust. In Stigma and the Shaping of the Pornography Industry (Routledge, 2015) I explore the effects that this stigmatized identity has had on the adult entertainment industry itself. From the video era to the emergence of the internet, to trade shows, white collar work, technological innovation, and industrial dynamics, this work looks beyond content production to explore how stigma has shaped the structures, practices, norms, and boundaries of the wider sector. Drawing on framings such as dirty work, outlaw innovation, and core-stigmatised industries, I examine how stigma is socially constructed and managed, and the deep structural effects it creates.

In Trade Associations, Industry Legitimacy and Corporate Responsibility in Pornography (New Views on Pornography, Praeger, 2015), I consider the practices of three of the pornography industry’s historically most influential trade organisations: the Free Speech Coalition, Adult Sites Advocating Child Protection, and the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation. I argue that the notion of responsibility is shaped by multiple intersecting and sometimes contradictory considerations around harm prevention and social legitimization.

Much contemporary pornography research invokes the apparent economic prowess of the pornography industry as justification for its work, yet focuses on the product and its reception rather than the industry which produces it. In Treating It As A Normal Business’: Researching the Pornography Industry (Sexualities, 2012), I identify and discuss the specific institutional challenges around studying pornography. I challenge current scholars’ dependence on secondary data about the industry by offering theoretical frameworks and methodological consideration, together with considerations around access, authentication, and stigma.