Alon Lischinsky's research and teaching


Agent roles in erotic writing

Journal Aricle: Lischinsky, A. (2018). Doing the naughty or having it done to you? Agent roles in erotic writing. Porn Studies, 5(2):156–174. doi:10.1080/23268743.2017.1301215

Frequent criticisms of pornography have argued that it reproduces hegemonic misogyny by emphasizing representations of females as passive, powerless and submissive. Nevertheless, attempts to substantiate such claims have been scarce. This article seeks to provide empirical evidence on this question through an analysis of the representation of sexual activity in a large corpus of online pornographic stories. I employ corpus linguistic methods to examine the grammatical patterns used to attribute agency to male and female participants in sexual acts.

The analysis shows that these narratives tend to represent sexual intercourse as an asymmetric engagement between an agent and a patient, rather than as a joint collaborative activity. Although representations emphasizing female agency are not rare, they are significantly less common than those assigning males the agent role, thus reinforcing rather than challenging dominant discourses of gender and sexuality. Linguistic methods such as these have the potential for a more nuanced and finer-grained description than is often possible for visual materials, and can profitably add to our understanding of gender and genre differences in pornography.

sexual agency, transitivity, gender studies, erotica, pornography, online fiction, porn studies, corpus linguistics, corpus stylistics, corpus-assisted discourse analysis