I have a new article hot off the presses. I’m honored to be part of the wonderful “Porn Labor” special issue of the Porn Studies journal, with editors Jiz Lee and Rebecca Sullivan. My article “Doing It for Free: Digital Labor and the Fantasy of Amateur Online Pornography” is about how many folks idealize DIY, unpaid porn performances like those found on Youtube-style sites — and how that reflects problematic cultural beliefs about the the value of sex work and the role of crowd-sourcing in digital economies. Here’s the abstract:
To date, scholars of digital labour have not turned sufficient attention to online sex work, which constitutes a sizeable portion of contemporary web-based labour. In particular, the rise of unpaid amateur pornography, circulated through YouTube-style tube sites, points toward an important shift in how adult content is being produced and distributed in digital spaces. This shift also raises questions about the cultural narratives that surround sexual labour. This article explores the labour politics that underlie the unpaid work of do-it-yourself (DIY) porn performers who are populating highly lucrative tube sites with hundreds of thousands of amateur videos. In doing so, the article argues for understanding DIY porn in relation to the increasing popularity of other digital maker movements.
As feminist scholars of digital media have noted, crowdsourcing platforms like Wikipedia are commonly idealized as empowering and democratizing, yet they often reinforce existing social biases and obfuscate conditions of difference. I assert here that a similar utopian fantasy operates around online amateur porn, which is frequently figured as ethically superior to pornography for which performers are paid. Recognizing the production of DIY porn as digital labour offers the opportunity to challenge this narrative and make the network of capitalist forces that drive free amateur online content once again visible. This also presents a valuable framework through which to critique the harmful misconception that sexual labour is superior if it is done for pleasure rather than for profit.
If you’re having trouble accessing the article (for instance, if you aren’t affiliated with a university and you’re running up against a pay-wall), here’s a PDF version of the article you can read for free. Also, here’s a nice little write-up about the piece from the Berkeley Center for New Media, where I did a lot of my doctoral work. Really great to see this out in the world!