special Issue: The Business of Pornography

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special Issue: The Business of Pornography

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Call for Papers: Special Issue of Organization
Issue Editors:

Peter Fleming (University of Technology Sydney)
Sara Louise Muhr (Copenhagen Business School)
Masoud Shadnam (Sharif University of Technology)

NB!!!:_ Extended deadline December 1st 2022

Over the last half century, pornography has emerged from the underground and developed into a significant, global industry (Tarrant, 2016; Wosick, 2015). The internet in particular has seen an exponential growth in this sector. Yet organization and management studies have said very little about it. It is almost as if (despite being a multi-billion dollar business) the topic is taboo for organizational researchers. This special issue plans to break the silence and investigate the pornography industry from an organizational perspective, including its ethical and socio-economic implications, in order to yield new insights concerning what organization studies might teach us about pornography and what pornography, in turn, might teach us about organizations. Do current theories of organization – related to power, racialization, feminism, institutionalism, networks, resistance and hierarchies, for instance – apply in the same manner when used to understand a sexualized industry? Or do we require new theories, perhaps as yet undeveloped (Shadnam, in press)? In short, how can organization studies contribute unique and novel insights when it comes to conceptualizing this socio-economic sector?

Due to the relatively secretive, privately-owned, and stigmatized nature of pornography, it is often difficult to obtain reliable figures regarding its size; but all the available estimates and proxies indicate a substantial international industry with unique cultural characteristics, notable economic features, and significant societal influence (Mecham, Lewis-Western, & Wood, 2019; Sullivan & McKee, 2015; Voss, 2015; Weitzer, 2010). So, how do we study pornography from an organizational perspective? On one hand, it can be studied like any other business (Voss, 2012) or work (Berg, 2021; Dewey, 2015; Miller-Young, 2014) under the category of entertainment (Edelman, 2009; McKee, 2012), the creative industries (McKee, 2016) and core-stigmatized industries (Ashforth & Kreiner, 1999; Ashforth et al., 2007; Hudson, 2008; Hughes, 1962). On the other hand, pornography may not be like other businesses or work, especially as it may counter norms that ostensibly define life in most other organizational contexts.

The nominal suppression of sexuality and its expulsion into private life has been one of the fundamental features of modern organizations (Burrell, 1984; Fleming, 2005) and yet pornography – like prostitution and people trafficking - brings it back as its core business. Feminist labor theorists argue, however, that the distinction between the public and private has never born out in the realities of gendered labor (Morini & Fumagalli, 2010)—the cordoning off of sexuality into private life may speak more to organizations’ own mythmaking than to the realities of the mainstream workplace. Anti-porn feminist warnings about the “pornification” of culture (Dines, 2011) may thus occlude longer histories of the mundane sexualization of gendered labor in mainstream organizations. How might comparative studies of porn and other forms of gendered labor compliment, and, indeed, challenge, organization studies’ assumptions about the intersection of the economic and the sexual? Likewise, whereas anti-porn feminist thought (Dines, 2011; Dworkin, 1991; Jeffreys, 2009), finds something unique in the pornography industry’s potential for racialized and gendered objectification and exploitation, labor studies of porn illuminate the ways that pornography reflects the ordinary dynamics of labor under racial capitalism (Berg, 2021; Gira-Grant, 2014; Miller-Young, 2014). Here again, an organizational lens might investigate the unexceptional nature of pornography as much as its uniqueness.

The organizational actors of the pornography industry strive to legitimize their business and secure their survival while simultaneously framing themselves against what is deemed legitimate (Shadnam, Bykov, & Prasad, 2021; Voss, 2015). While organizational life has historically been a site of passionless rationality (Casey, 2004), here the sexualized body comes to the fore, albeit in an industrialized setting (McDonald, 2018). As Schieber notes (2019, p. 1), the pornography industry “combines different aspects of the social world that are typically separate” such as “condoms and contracts,” “sex and career strategies,” and “nakedness and employment.”

The objective of this special issue is to clarify how pornography is organized in the contemporary global economy. The organizational attributes, contexts, and dynamics of its supply side rather than its audience (or demand) will be the primary focus. As such, we foresee papers touching on a wide range of concepts and issues with respect to the pornography industry.

While certainly not exhaustive, some themes and questions may include the following:
  • What insights does anti-racist and feminist organizational research offer about the pornography industry? How can anti-racist and feminist organizational research’s theories of domination/liberation, censorship/rights, intersectionality, and the politics of recognition illuminate the pornography industry, and how, in turn, does the industry invite new ways of theorizing these concepts (e.g. Comella, 2019; Duggan & Hunter, 2006; Harding, Ford, & Fotaki, 2012; Just & Muhr, 2020; Miller-Young, 2014; Whisnant & Stark, 2004)?
  • How has the internet (and digital technologies in general) shaped the pornography industry in terms of organizational forms and business models (e.g. Bakkar & Taalas, 2007; Berg, 2016; Jones, 2020; Pezzutto, 2019; Sullivan & McKee, 2015)? And how has the pornography industry shaped technological innovations (e.g. Keilty, 2018; Paasonen, 2015)? How does internet censorship such as FOSTA/ SESTA shape organizational models and working conditions in the industry (Berg, 2021), and what can worker activists’ responses offer organizational studies of the regulatory state (Blunt, Coombes, Mullin, and Wolf, 2020)?
  • How do theories of legitimacy apply to the pornography industry and what are the management tactics used to generate legitimacy in the eyes of the state, regulators, workers, and so-forth (Reast, Maon, Lindgreen, & Vanhamme, 2013; Suchman, 1995; Suddaby, Bitektine, & Haack, 2017)? How do the broader debates about the legitimacy and moral standing of the industry shape the practices and identities of those who produce pornography (e.g. Altman & Watson, 2018; Mecham, Lewis-Western, & Wood, 2019; Shadnam, 2014, 2015; Tibbals, 2013)?
  • What are the recruitment, retention, and remuneration structures used in the pornography industry (Berg, 2021; Griffith, Adams, Hart, & Mitchell, 2012; Schieber, 2019), and how are they structured by racial hierarchy (Miller-Young, 2014)? What do careers look like in the pornography industry, and what are key differentiators with respect to employees, contractors, management, business owners, etc. (e.g. Griffith, Adams, Hart, & Mitchell, 2012; Schieber, 2019)? How does the increased blurring of boundaries among managerial, employee, contractor, and owner roles challenge organizational research and labor theory’s traditional categories of analysis (Berg, 2021)?
  • How is pornography juxtaposed or connected with forms of organizational exploitation? Is it a piece of the puzzle of modern slavery, including human trafficking and forced sexual labor (e.g. Crane, 2013; Shimizu, 2010; Wood, 2002)? Or, are the forms of exploitation at work in this industry unexceptional when understood alongside other precarious, feminized labor under capitalism (Berg, 2021; Gira Grant, 2014)? How does the specter of trafficking shape pornographic business’ interactions with mainstream business such as the payment processing industry, and how does this dynamic shape porn’s working conditions? How does the contemporary organization of pornography intersect with other industries, both in the mainstream and criminalized sex industry in an international context (Jeffreys, 2009; Shannon, 1997; Sullivan & McKee, 2015)?
  • What is the role of stigma in promotion or inhibition of different practices (both symbolic and material) in the pornography industry? How do studies of stigma labels and stigmatization processes in the pornography industry contribute to socio-science and management research (e.g. Blithe & Wolfe, 2017; Voss, 2015; Stardust, 2014; Weitzer, 2018)?
  • How does ‘pornification’ affect industry workers and its audience? What are the salient forms of pornification and which sensemaking processes are triggered by pornification (e.g. Attwood, 2005; Boyle, 2017; Hong & Duff, 1977; Waskul, 2004)?
  • With respect to the broader question of how organizations view, frame, and engage bodies, what new questions and insights emerge out of studying the pornography industry? Does this industry shed light on some previously eclipsed ways that organizational life is produced and reproduced (e.g. Brewis & Linstead, 2000; Dick, 2005; Hassard, Holliday, & Willmott, 2000; Riach & Warren, 2015)?
  • Which methodological approaches and tools are best suited for studying pornography (e.g. Ashcraft & Muhr, 2018; Sanders, 2006; Voss, 2012)?
  • How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected the production, distribution, and consumption of pornography? What organizational shifts, responses, and adjustments are taking place both nationally and globally? How might the global pandemic intersect with sextech to demand broad organizational change? (e.g. Mestre-Bach, Blycker, & Potenza, 2020)?
Submission Process

Papers may be submitted electronically from 1 June 2022 until the deadline date of 1 December 2022 to SAGETrack at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/organization. There will be a special submission tab for the special issue that will become active on 1 June 2022. Papers should be no more than 10,000 words, including references, and will be blind reviewed following the journal’s standard review process. Manuscripts should be prepared according to the guidelines published in Organization and on the journal’s website: http://www.sagepub.com/journals/Journal ... Submission. For further questions about the special issue, please use the guest editors’ contact email: sibusinessofporn@gmail.com

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