The practice of pornography consumption : a qualitative inquiry into heterosexual men's perspectives and experiences



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This dissertation is about heterosexual men's perspectives and experiences with pornography. This inquiry was primarily informed by men's studies, more specifically, Connell's (1987, 1995) scholarship on masculinities as configurations of practice. This study also drew on cultural studies perspectives on consumption and everyday life and the concept of culturally figured worlds (Holland et al., 1998). The purpose of this research was to develop a gender specific account of the figured world of heterosexual pornography consumption, to connect masculinities to this culturally figured world. Using a sample of 17 self identified heterosexual, university aged men, the study focused on their first and early encounters with pornography, a critical or key event in their engagement with this culturally figured world. The study primarily used the theories and methods of qualitative inquiry. The data for the study were collected through three focus groups, follow-up individual interviews, and the administration of a 33-item questionnaire. The data was transformed primarily through the Wolcott's (1994) approach to qualitative inquiry and Franklin's (1997) approach to narrative representation and analysis. The data was interpreted using Connell's (1987, 1995) theorizations on gender, masculinities, and hegemonic masculinity. Drawing on Franklin's (1997) heuristic distinction between the participant's narrative and the researcher's narrative, the data were presented in two corresponding sections. First, the presentation of participants' first and early encounters with pornography, a kind of social topography, a surface description of events, presented with modest analysis. Second, the presentation of a more holistic view of the participants' first and early encounters with pornography, an analysis through the participants' self-interpretations and the researcher's own theoretical frameworks. The practice of heterosexual pornography was conceptualized as a project of masculinity and inescapably implicated in the vicissitudes of compulsory heterosexuality, and the broader operations of hegemonic masculinity. One of the central findings of this dissertation was the ways in which the participants' first and early encounters with pornography prematurely evoked, realized, and shaped sexual desire. These findings were configured within a historical perspective, the new psychology of men and masculinity, clinical practice, and the researcher's own experience of the inquiry and writing up the dissertation.