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From twink to kink: Academic study into gay porn reveals a multitude of ‘saturated’ masculinities

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 15 MARCH

Gay pornography, online and onscreen, is a controversial and significantly under-researched area of cultural production. In the first book of its kind, ‘Gay Pornography: Representations of Sexuality and Masculinity’ explores the iconography, themes and ideals that the genre presents. 

City Talks

Birmingham City University

The new research by Professor John Mercer at Birmingham City University argues that gay pornography cannot be regarded as one-dimensional, but that it offers its audience a vision of plural masculinities that are more nuanced and ambiguous than they might initially seem. 

Professor Mercer examines how the internet has generated an exponential growth in the sheer volume and variety of this material, and facilitated far greater access to it. He uses both professional and amateur examples to explore how gay pornography has become part of a wider cultural context in which modern masculinities have become ‘saturated’ by their constantly evolving status and function in popular culture. 

The book is the culmination of almost 20 years’ research into gay pornography; its timeline reflects the changing social, cultural, political and technological developments during that time – evolving from the aftermath of the first wave of the AIDS pandemic to gay culture being assimilated by the mainstream. 

“Plus, we must also consider how the rhetoric and iconography of gay porn is informing the ways in which heterosexual men produce their bodies for erotic consumption, which is in itself contributing to the perpetual flux of masculinities men must contend with in modern times. 

“My book is as much about contemporary constructions of masculinity as it is a work that is a contribution to the ongoing pornography debate. The intention of my study is to challenge a monolithic interpretation of gay porn and an equally monolithic comprehension of contemporary masculinities.” 

City Talk – What It Means to be a Man in the 21st Century

Published by I.B. Tauris, ‘Gay Pornography’ receives its official launch at Birmingham City University on Wednesday 22 March, ahead of its release on Wednesday 29 March. 

The launch will be preceded by an academic debate titled ‘What It Means to be a Man in the 21st Century: Masculinity, Sex and Popular Culture’ where Professor John Mercer will be joined by author and journalist Mark Simpson – who coined the terms ‘metrosexual’ and, more recently, ‘spornosexual’. 

Additional contributions will come from Clarissa Smith, Professor of Sexual Cultures at the University of Sunderland, and Dr José Arroyo, Principal Teaching Fellow in Film Studies at the University of Warwick will be the event chair. 

Using Professor Mercer’s book as a springboard, the panel of experts will consider what it means to be 'masculine’ in the 21st century, and how everything from gay pornography to Hollywood blockbusters, and Tinder to ‘The Only Way Is Essex’, are fuelling its diversity, as well as its ambiguity. 

‘What It Means to be a Man in the 21st Century’ forms part of Birmingham City University’s City Talks series. The series features a programme of high profile speakers who share their views and insights on a range of topics, promoting the University's ambition and aim of being a ‘university without walls’. The talks are free of charge, and open to the public. 

Further information about the series and upcoming talks can be found by visiting www.bcu.ac.uk/citytalks

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