Conscionable consumption: a feminist grounded theory of porn consumer ethics

Macleod, Patricia (2018) Conscionable consumption: a feminist grounded theory of porn consumer ethics. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

Much scholarship on pornography consumption has revolved around porn harms or porn empowerment discourses. Moving away from pro- and anti-porn agendas, the research presented in this thesis was designed as an exploratory, qualitative investigation of consumer experiences of pornography, using grounded theory in an effort to transcend the polarised porn debates. By means of a two-stage data collection process involving an online group activity and in-depth interviews, this research set out to extend our understanding of how feminists experience, understand and articulate their engagements with porn.
Grounded theory’s focus on iterative data collection, structured analysis and inductive theory development lent itself to several key aims for this project: (a) eschewing, as far as possible, commonly-held assumptions about the research topic and research subjects; (b) resisting agenda-driven frameworks that seek to validate pro- or anti-porn stances; and (c) allowing for the voices of porn consumers themselves to be heard and taken seriously, in a way that hasn’t tended to be prioritised in pornography effects research or the public arena more widely (Mowlabocus and Wood 2015: 119).
The iterative approach to data collection advocated by grounded theory also enabled participants to take a more agentive role in determining the direction of the research. As a result, certain elements of the project took unforeseen trajectories, shedding light on additional substantive areas for inquiry beyond those initially intended. Namely, the study provided key insights into the interaction between ethics and practice in porn consumption amongst London feminists. This gave rise to the development of the 'conscionable consumption' model; a theoretical framework for conceptualising the experiences and processes described.
Results indicated that feminists’ experiences of porn consumption were heavily influenced by their beliefs about what constituted ‘ethical enough’ (conscionable). These were accompanied by contemplative moments, whose nature tended to correlate with the degree to which the individual felt they had strayed from their own conceptions of conscionable practice, and the degree to which these decisions could be justified or dismissed afterwards. Respondents described an interactive relationship between such reflections and future intentions and/or attitudes, illustrating a cycle of evolving and adapting behaviour complemented by fluctuating definitions of conscionability. In this way, rather than referring to an achieved or failed ‘ethical consumer’ status, the porn ethics project was conceptualised as an ongoing process of ‘conscionable’ negotiation.
Such findings enhance our understanding of the ways in which ethics and porn use are woven together and navigated by feminist consumers of pornography, whilst simultaneously extending our knowledge of a demographic hitherto unexplored within both the fields of porn studies and consumer ethics research alike.
Keywords: feminism, pornography, consumer ethics, conscionable consumption

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media
B. > Theses
Item ID: 25930
Depositing User: Vimal Shah
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2019 13:25
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2019 02:38
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/25930

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