Analyzing Porn

By Edo Steinberg

Dr. Bryant Paul is undertaking a very large content analysis of pornographic videos from two websites. The aim of the study is to find out what’s in porn. In particular, coders are looking for aggression, degradation and the types of sex acts depicted. They are also looking at the demographics of people appearing in porn.

With 2,000 videos already coded, 2,500 others to be coded by the end of the semester and even more planned after that, he needed a large team of coders. Two graduate students, Yanyan Zhou and Michelle Funk, participate in the study, as do 28 undergraduate students who are taking it as a class.

Michelle recently coded 40 videos for reliability testing. “Once the summer hits, I’m going to be doing hundreds,” she says.

Coding so many sexually explicit videos isn’t easy. “When I went out last night, I actually caught myself thinking, ‘wow, I had a hard day watching porn, I think I’m going to kick back with a drink.’ That’s probably something most people don’t ever say in their lives.”

“Porn really isn’t too friendly to women,” Michelle says. “There’s a certain amount of forcible things that you see that bum you out. There’s a lot of degradation. I don’t like to see myself reduced to a collection of body parts, which is really what porn is. It does this to men too, but it does it to women to a much larger degree.”

The effects of coding on the undergraduate coders can already be felt. “We’ve noticed that the boys in the class, who used to joke around and use crass language in their questions, now, after watching so much porn, they have been sensitized. Now they’re trained to look for aggression. The fact that they’ve been exposed to the nitty gritty dark side of porn has caused them to really think about it.”

“I’ve lost a lot of my appetite and have lost weight since I started coding,” Michelle says. “But the silver lining is that this project has been begging to be done for a really long time and nobody has done it, because it is so large scale.” Michelle thinks this can become the flagship content analysis researchers refer to when studying pornography.

Pornography isn’t Michelle’s main research interest. She’s interested in “the potential for negative media effects in viewers that cause potential violence against women,” including in mainstream media. She’s interested in such issues as rape myths, harmful stereotypes and coverage of sexual assaults perpetrated by athletes. She will, however, continue studying porn as well. For instance, she would like to analyze the language used on porn sites in titles, tags and other kinds of text.

Advertisements
Next Post
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: