INTERVIEW WITH A STUDENT OF PORNOGRAPHY: It's Quite Common For People To Ask Me To Recommend Good Porn
Michaela Lebedíková specializes in films for adults. In the interview, she told us why it is good to study pornography and how such a study takes place.
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"Amateur porn is getting a lot of attention. It's getting easier and easier to break into it, it seems that nowadays anyone can be a porn actress or porn actor. New services are constantly being created and it's easy to create a profile on them," Miška Lebedíková, who studies pornography at university, told us.
However, she is not an actress or a producer, she is studying porn, academically. She is interested in why people watch adult films, what effect this has on society, but also on the sex life of individuals.
"People think that if I tell them what I'm studying, that gives them the right to ask me about my personal sex life or share theirs with me," she complained to us during the interview. The friendly Czech woman has also experienced confessions from complete strangers. However, as she says herself, she is not a professional therapist. She studies sociology and not psychology.
In an interview for Refresher, Michaela revealed what the department of Porn Studies is actually about and why it is necessary. In addition, she told us how her friends and acquaintances react when she explains to them what she actually does.
- What experts study in Porn Studies
- How did teachers and friends react when Michaela announced that she wanted to study porn
- How studies and scientific research are conducted in its field
- How the porn industry is developing
- Did someone make fun of her for what she does
What does Porn Studies mean and how does it fit into the study of sociology?
Sociology is the study of society in broader processes, it observes how the whole society behaves. There is also a branch in it called the sociology of sex. It's about love, modern relationships. While reading about this industry I also came across Porn Studies. It is a completely independent field, not only sociologists, but also psychologists and people from other disciplines are researching it.
So what do experts in Porn Studies do?
For example, they investigate the influence of the media on people, the influence of pornography on partner relationships, or do various psychological experiments. However, Porn Studies is also studied from the point of view of economics or law, it is rather an umbrella name for a multidisciplinary matter.
I think it is possible to study it in basically every field. It's about what kind of academic supervisor a person has. I was lucky to have my supervisor, who dealt with pornography in her dissertation. Now he no longer actively deals with the topic, but he guides me in my work.
How is the teaching going? Do you normally watch porn at school?
II didn't have the subjects for Porn Studies at school. In the past, it was my supervisor who taught some subjects, but during my time at the school it no longer works. It is my humble dream to teach a course on Porn Studies in the future.
When you see the video for the sixth time and you have to watch it in its entirety, from start to finish, it's not as fun as it might seem.
So do you have the same subjects at school as other sociology students?
Yes (laughs). But my teachers know what I am researching. For example, when I had a seminar on writing academic papers, I could write all my papers about porn. I also focused everything on pornography in compulsory English.
So teachers have no problem with that?
Not. I kind of do my own thing, I've never encountered any problems. On the contrary, I am very glad that everyone has taken it seriously so far, although it is possible that someone laughed about it behind my back. But I have a really good feeling about our teachers. In addition, I received a grant to write my thesis, so apparently the school management has nothing against my topic.
Why do you actually need a grant for pornography research?
Part of the money went to literature, although I tried to find e-books online, it was not always possible. I used a lot of money for various conferences. There I gained great contacts that pushed me forward.
For example, I met the founder of the professional magazine Porn Studies, who gave me valuable advice for my thesis. Part of the money replaced my part-time job, so I had more time to write my thesis. I also paid for proofreaders with that money, because last year I published an article in English from my bachelor's degree.
So you don't need to have a job at all?
It's not so much money that one can live off, but it's a great help to cover the costs of my thesis.
You said that your teachers react quite positively to what you specialize in. How do your peers react to it?
No one ever had a problem with it. But I don't usually brag about it. In class, people don't really deal with it, everyone focuses on the field that interests them. When I'm somewhere in a bar with friends, I don't really show it off (laughs).
People think that if I tell them what I'm studying, that gives them the right to ask me about my personal sex life, or share theirs with me.
If you're writing an academic paper about porn, do you have to watch it and somehow analyze the video?
It depends on what you write. For example, in my thesis, I asked women about their experiences with porn. I didn't need to play videos for that. But in my bachelor's thesis, I looked at the sexual objectification and sexual agency of actors and actresses, and I analyses this on the five most viewed videos on Pornhub. So I set up a coding table and yes, I had to watch the videos and check off various things.
What was it like to study porn videos in such detail?
It was horrible. When you see the video for the sixth time and you have to watch the whole thing, from beginning to end (laughs), it's not as funny as it might seem.
It sounds a bit like a literary analysis, but with porn.literárny rozbor, ale s pornom.
It's very similar, but it depends on what you're researching. I decide for myself what the things I pay attention to will be. When it comes to sexual agency, it means, how you express yourself. Can you express yourself the way you want during sex, can you tell your partner "kiss me now" or something similar. So with those videos, I watched who initiated the different steps during sex: the woman or the man. I was looking for whether the woman was passive and the man came to her, or vice versa.
Did you also mention sexual objectification, how can something like that be "branded" in a Pornhub video?
The definition of sexual objectification includes that a man or a woman is there only as an object. So, for example, every time a cumshot (ejaculation on the face, editor's note) appeared in the shot, I made a comma in my chart. This is how my work looked after that: you sit and write down what you see.
Do people ask you for recommendations of good porn?
It's quite common, yes (laughs). I have to admit that it annoys me on the one hand. People think that if I tell them what I'm studying, that gives them the right to ask me about my personal sex life, or share theirs with me. They think I can give them advice, or they get caught up in the fact that I'm a girl and I watch porn.
There are huge threads on Reddit where, for example, ex-strippers promote their OnlyFans pages so they can make money even in the midst of a pandemic.
Do you tend to hide what you do because of this?
Not that. I especially like to share the results of my research on social networks. I think that's very important in an academic environment to reach a wider audience in a digestible form. But when I go to a bar with friends who don't know about it yet, or when I meet someone new, I prefer not to tell them.
Because otherwise they would start confiding in you about their sex life?
Yes, I have already learned really strange things from complete strangers. But I don't really care what they do with their partner in bed (smile). Other people come to me for advice or looking for a porn tip. I don't mind that, but I'm not anybody's therapist (laughs).
Do your followers write to you like this on Instagram, describing their sexual experiences to you?
It happens occasionally, but it's not regular.
Have you ever felt embarrassed when explaining to someone what you do for a living?Usually when we're in a bar or a pub and I have to explain it to someone, I get the typical responses that I must be watching a lot of porn and having an awful lot of sex and stuff like that. Not that I'm ashamed of what I'm doing. But I feel embarrassed because it's nobody's business.
I observe how pornography changes the sexual scenarios of young women. I wanted to know what porn was doing to their sexuality and sex life.
What's the biggest myth you run into when you tell people about Porn Studies?
That I watch a lot of porn is definitely the biggest.
Why did you actually decide to study pornography?
Already in the first or second year at school, we read the book Transformation of Intimacy by Anthony Giddens, which is about how relationships work in modern times. I was very interested, so I went to the library and started looking for books related to this topic. That's how I came across the field of sociology of sex, which I liked and wanted to focus more on. Finally, I got to my current supervisor.
What is your relationship to porn? Did your studies change your views?
I wouldn't say it changed anything.
Do you know any porn actresses? Did you meet them?Not yet, but it's my big dream. Angel Wicky and I sometimes like each other's posts on Instagram, which makes me very happy (laughs). With another actor I like, we sometimes like each other's photos, which also makes me happy. However, we don't know each other otherwise, although we follow several actors and actresses on Instagram because they often share what's going on in the business. That interests me.
We recently talked about the negative effects of frequent porn watching. At that time, you emphasized that porn is not only black and white. So as it is, should we all watch porn, or should we all condemn it?
I think that it is the decision of each person. It's like saying that everyone should use sex toys.
What is your graduate thesis about?
I watch how pornography changes the sexual scenarios of young women. I wanted to know what porn was doing to their sexuality and sex life.
In her thesis, she asked women very intimate questions. Where did you actually find them?This is something that I dealt with a lot and I consulted about it with the female scientists that I got to know thanks to the grant. Finally, I decided on an online questionnaire with open questions. I let the women write as much as they wanted. This way it was easier to find female respondents, I didn't want to go around to my friends and ask them.
How do you know they won't spoil your survey by lying or trolling?
Out of 90 people who filled out the questionnaire, I examined 80 responses. Of the ten discarded cases, only one case was a man who wrote nonsense. Other women, for example, were older or younger than the ones I was looking for for research. I expected there to be a lot of bullshit, but when I read the answers, it didn't seem like there were any lies. It made sense top to bottom.
What can you do with your diploma in the future?
I can work as a researcher in various corporations, or I can work in statistics, with data, help in a marketing agency with data collection. I think that the department is built in such a way that it will give you a lot, no matter where you go.
And what would you like to do if you could choose?
I would enjoy doing research in corporations. But I'll see where life takes me. Now I'm preparing for my doctorate, I have a great job, I'm happy.
How do you think the porn industry is developing?
Amateur porn is getting a lot of attention. It's getting easier and easier to break into it, it seems that nowadays anyone can be a porn actress or porn actor. New services are constantly emerging and it is easy to create a profile on them.
So what services do amateur porn actresses sign up for?
For example, on OnlyFans, where people pay actresses for photos and videos. There are huge threads on Reddit where, for example, ex-strippers promote their OnlyFans pages so they can make money even in the midst of a pandemic. Pornhub also has its Modelhub, where you can easily upload your videos and earn money for subscribers. Business is now moving in this direction.
Can you evaluate whether this is a good or bad move?
In my opinion, it is very difficult to say whether it is good or bad. If it doesn't hurt anyone, why would it be bad? Someone can benefit from it and make money, for other people it can ruin their reputation. It is difficult to judge.
I was looking at why they started watching pornography. A common answer was that it was taboo in the home or they learned very little, so their first contact with porn was precisely because they wanted to find out how to have sex.
Is there a link between watching porn and sexual behaviour?
Yes, but I can't say that one causes the other. For example, we know that people who watch porn are, for example, more open to sex, have more sex, or alternate more positions. It is called permissive sexual behavior. But we don't know if one directly causes the other, if it's because they watch porn, or if they watch porn because they're more liberal.
Can a person become more violent if they watch violent porn?
I know that some studies have observed such behavior, but only in people who have had a tendency to violence before. The porn just awakened in them what was already in them. One simply has to be aware of what one is consuming and that it is just a made-up scenario.
Sex education, at home and at school, is closely related to pornography. What do you think about sex education in schools?In the Czech Republic, it is recommended in some subjects to review certain topics, but it is not written anywhere exactly how. As a result, some children have sex education and others do not, and the scope of their knowledge is also different. Somewhere they only learn about what the penis and vagina are, in other places they also talk in a broader context, about relationships, menstruation etc.. This is something that can still be improved
So do you think we are sufficiently informed about sex and pornography?
What should we do about it?
We should improve sex education and finally stop being afraid to talk about sex and porn. After all, we all have sex and the children have to find out somehow. The more we honestly tell them, the less they will need to look it up on the Internet and look for answers in porn, for example.
In my research, I also asked women how things were at home and whether they talked about sex. I was dealing with why they actually started watching pornography. A common answer was that it was taboo in the home or they learned very little, so their first contact with porn was precisely because they wanted to find out how to have sex. For them, porn was the most realistic depiction of sex.
Except that Pornhub's home page isn't exactly an example of the average sex life of the average person.
After all, that's where the problem arises. Also in my analysis, it often appeared that women had distorted ideas about sex because of porn. For example, one woman thought she was going to moan because everyone moans in porn, but she didn't. So she found out that it works differently. Another woman thought that they would have sex for 40 minutes, and she was also disappointed, it rarely happens like that for the first time.
I also had respondents who, under the influence of porn, thought they had to swallow semen during oral sex. So they did it, but in the end they didn't like it. That's why there are things that we take from porn, but when we try them, we don't like them. One has to somehow find out what one wants.
In households, sex and porn are often really taboo. Do you think schools could take over that role and teach children more?
In my opinion, the problem is deeply rooted in families. This is probably what schools also encounter, that even if they wanted to talk more about sex, parents don't want their child to listen to such things. How should schools deal with this? Are you going to send half the class out? The only thing that will help is awareness, for example from non-profits.
Can porn be used for education?
Yes, and it works. The vast majority of women look at porn for inspiration and to learn different sexual techniques. In my opinion, we don't realize at all how much influence pornography has on shaping our sexual ideas and sex lives. This is where the role of sex education would be to say: okay, watch porn, learn from it, but realize that it's just porn. It's not real.
Can you recommend porn that would also be suitable for education?
Clearly. BDSM porn company Kink has a Kink University channel on Pornhub. They bluntly and completely calmly explain various sexual techniques and how it works. Porn actresses talk about it and then show it off. It's not classic porn, it really looks like a lesson.
Let's go back to the habit of watching porn. Is it normal to feel ashamed when watching porn or an erotic scene in a movie?
I think yes. Feelings of shame when watching porn, but also when masturbating, are quite common.
Is it normal if someone doesn't even get excited by porn and doesn't feel like masturbating?
It's totally cool. I also had female respondents in my research who watched their own porn and their partner watched his. It didn't excite the women. For example, overly perfect, artificial porn didn't excite them because it was unrealistic. Each person needs a different stimulus, the fact that someone is not excited by pornography does not mean anything.
Is it okay for someone to have a girlfriend but still watch porn?
It's always up to the couple to sort it out between themselves. But it doesn't have to be a problem if they watch porn in a relationship. For women, it can be the fulfillment of sexual fantasies that for some reason they do not share with their partner and they can live them out through porn. It may be a fantasy that they are not yet ready to realize in a relationship, or their partner does not like it.
How do I know if I'm watching too much porn?
When it starts to be an obstacle in your normal and sexual life. For example, when you need to run to the bathroom at work to watch a video. Then we talk about addiction.
What would you be doing if you weren't studying Porn Studies?
I don't know (laughs). Probably marketing. I studied at a graphic arts school and for 5 years I did marketing for a fashion company, which I just recently left. I would probably do something similar.
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