Journal Article

Doing the naughty or having it done to you? Agent roles in erotic writing


Frequent criticisms of pornography have argued that it reproduces hegemonic misogyny by emphasising representations of females as passive, powerless and submissive. Nevertheless, attempts to substantiate such claims have been scarce. This paper seeks to provide empirical evidence on this question through an analysis of the representation of sexual activity in a large corpus of online pornographic stories. I employ corpus linguistic methods to examine the grammatical patterns used to attribute agency to male and female participants in sexual acts. The analysis shows these narratives tend to represent sexual intercourse as an asymmetric engagement between an agent and a patient, rather than as a joint collaborative activity. Although representations emphasising female agency are not rare, they are significantly less common than those assigning males the agent role, thus reinforcing rather than challenging dominant discourses of gender and sexuality. Linguistic methods such as these have the potential for a more nuanced and finer-grained description than is often possible for visual materials, and can profitably add to our understanding of gender and genre differences in pornography.

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Lischinsky, Alon

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences\Department of History, Philosophy and Religion


Year of publication: 2017
Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-02-28

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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