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Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex,…
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Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment

by Chauntelle Tibbals

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In Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment, Chauntelle Tibbals exposes readers to her PhD research on the San Fernando Valley adult entertainment industry. Double standards, a lot of mystery, a thin line between real and fake characterize pornographers, content, distribution and the people working in this legal industry. Whether you're in favor or against it, adult entertainment is a hugely influential cultural component in the U.S., and therefore interesting from a sociological point of view as well.
Tibbals met many industry professionals, watched a lot of content for both professional reasons as well as voluntary work as competition judge, worked as PR official in one of the companies, visited trade shows, and watched in film sets. The author shares what she saw, though not providing her full thesis here. Neither is the book itself adult entertainment. You'll be surprised about the many unexpected industry insights, stigmatized workers in their powerful moments as well embarrassing scenes. It's a fly-on-the-wall account of a multi-year research, including scientific analysis.
No one is a neutral observer, and Tibbals does affirm that her exploration is as subjective as any other's. She's positive about the industry, sees little or no real dangers. There's no mentioning of addictions, almost nothing on STD. Both producers and consumers have their dreams and desires. In the end, the porn industry is a business like any other, according to Dr. Tibbals. Exposure is well-written, free from scientific jargon and leaves room for a personal choice regarding the actual consumption of the industry's products and services. ( )
  hjvanderklis | Jul 10, 2015 |
Free review copy. A defense of porn whose Panglossian account is unpersuasive, even if working in porn isn’t doom either. She hasn’t encountered abuse, and “there is no authority more correct than your own informed perspective,” which makes it hard to evaluate her book against others that tell stories that are far more unpleasant. Tibbals’ resentment of other academics seems both justified—she reports a lot of disdain, and she has a right to be angry at mistreatment based on her choice of topic—and unhelpful (I don’t know too many sociology grad students who really get a lot of “networking at symposia, eating free lunches and drinking free cocktails). She doesn’t like a fellow academic’s observation that a panel she organized on porn only featured white people, even though the white women she invited were diverse in other ways, and calls that criticism “uninformed and uncritical,” which doesn’t seem accurate.

She also defends porn with false equivalences (The Fast and the Furious plainly doesn’t impact how people drive—how we know this is unclear—and thus porn can’t be thought to have an impact on real-life sex) that don’t address the ways in which Americans get sex education, in particular, from media. In fact, later on she says that when it comes to sex, we wrongly conflate porn with reality in ways we don’t with horror films—so we get “consumers using adult content as a sexual teaching tool [and] people gauging their selfworth against the images they see in the newest adult scenarios.” I also lost a lot of respect at the point when she indicated that Traci Lords (who made a number of films while several years underage), though she wasn’t exactly to blame for her situation (throwaway kid, addicted to drugs, etc.), wasn’t exactly not to blame either. While I take her point that someone tricked into sex with an underage performer also has reason to feel bad, that doesn’t mean “Traci’s story stopped being about her a long time ago,” or that the people whose businesses were ruined as a result of having to destroy Lords’ films have more grievances than she does. “[W]here is the book about them?” she wonders, having sort of written it, albeit not that well. If she doesn’t like “a system that allowed a teenager to take everything,” does she mean that the films should have been left out there? Should the government have paid the producers for destroying child porn, and how would that work with an I-didn’t-know defense in general? Although she deploys her academic status to gain credibility—and that’s an understandable and acceptable move—the arguments here lack the rigor I’d expect in an academic work. I looked up one of her law review papers, on adult performers and safety/health regulations, and wasn’t more favorably inclined. ( )
  rivkat | May 9, 2015 |
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