What’s hot and what’s not? Perspectives on pornography in the digital age

Ms Samantha Keene1
1Victoria University Of Wellington, Melling, Lower Hutt, New Zealand

Feminist researchers and activists have long been concerned about the potential harms of pornography, particularly in relation to its influence on attitudes and sexual scripts. These concerns have formed the basis of the ‘sex wars’ whereby pornography has been theorised in a rather black and white, or good and bad dichotomy. More recently, pornography has been considered a public health issue, with substantive concern raised by policymakers, academics and educators about the role hardcore internet pornography may play as a primary sexuality educator for young people, especially adolescents, in their formative years. Concerns about pornography as an adolescent sexuality educator are valid, but what role, if any, does pornography play for adults who consume it? This paper suggests that for a sample of heterosexual New Zealander’s, pornography in the digital age is perceived and understood in markedly gendered ways. This paper discusses the ways that emerging adults understand pornography which contains elements that are simultaneously ‘hot’ and ‘not’, and how they come to understand what is ‘hot’ and what is ‘not’, especially in relation to aggression in sexually explicit media. This paper argues that we need to move away from dichotomous arguments about the harms or benefits of pornography, and that consideration should be given to the complex, nuanced way that pornography is experienced across gendered lines.


Samantha is a PhD Candidate at Victoria University of Wellington. Her qualitative PhD research explores the influence of pornography on the lives of heterosexual New Zealander’s in relation to sex, relationships, body-image and the self. She has an interest in gendered perspectives on pornography, violence against women and student populations.


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