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Hot off the presses! Coverage of SHiFT Lab presentations at this year’s British Psychological Society’s Psychology of Women and Equalities Section (POWES) Conference in Windsor, UK – in the July issue of The Psychologist magazine!

Read the full article here: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/creative-and-critical-feminist-research

From the article:

“Usra Leedham (Ryerson University) initiated a lively conversation on the effects of pornography consumption on young girls’ views of their own sexuality. Sexuality, as Leedham explains, is both private and public, and is rooted in gendered senses of power and pleasure. Her research is predominately interested in how porn situates sex as ‘public work’, whilst creating complex discourses of interplays between desire and entrepreneurship. The interview participants in Leedham’s studies understand porn to be a fake, ‘counterfeit experience’ of sexuality. Sceptic of the authenticity of ‘public’ sex work, her participants grappled with concerns and constraints of their own sexuality in the research interviews. Summarising, Leedham urges us to consider what is done both with and through pornography. Her participants reported some contradictory feelings about porn. Some claimed that porn ‘dissects desire’, offering a fake representation of intimacy. However, interestingly, others reported to enjoy knowingly ‘fooling themselves’ with pornified fantasy.

Emily Thomas (Ryerson University) later extended the conversation on the conceptualisation of consent in offline sexual exchanges. Offering an insight into the nuances of sex, consent, and pleasure, Thomas reported from her semi-structured interviews, which were later analysed using critical discursive psychology. ‘What is good sex?’, Thomas prompted us to consider. According to her participants, good sex involves consent, comfort, and communication. Bad sex, however, is much more fluid a term. Sex is about navigation and negotiation and it is conceptualised differently depending on the ‘dominant discourses’.

During the Q&A session, a spirited discussion of consent, desire, and sexuality ensued. After much deliberation, the general consensus was that sexual consent is difficult to conceptualise due to a lack of a common language. ‘If your friend asked you to go out to dinner and you didn’t want to go, you wouldn’t just say “no thank you”, right?’ Thomas said. ‘We make excuses’. When this discursive template is translated to the context of sexual decision making, it becomes a lot trickier to navigate. We are told through well-meaning consent campaigns to ‘just say no’, assured that our ‘no’ doesn’t (or shouldn’t) require a reason or excuse. As Thomas, and later the audience, later explains, this is completely out of line with how we communicate in the rest of our lives. How do we ask for sex? How do we give consent? The answers, as Thomas’ research demonstrated are more psychologically messy than they appear.”