Beyond The Sheets: Sexualities in the Age of Digital Reproduction


The representation of sexuality within culture has become deeply contested. Sexual imagery is ubiquitous in contemporary media, and yet writers often struggle to write convincingly about sex. The internet has democratised pornography, exotic dancing is the new jazzercise; many are concerned that childhood is being sexualised while others lament that adulthood is being neutered. Within this atmosphere, writing about sex remains notoriously difficult. In this interdisciplinary series, we will bring together writers and thinkers and includes academic papers, discussion panels, performances, and all forms of creative writing.

Podcasts in this series

Giffing a FXXX: Non-narrative Pleasures in Participatory Porn Cultures

Sarah Harman, Helen Hester

Pornography has long been associated with the development of leading-edge technologies and new media forms, so it should be of little surprise that adult entertainment now circulates online in the form of moving-image gifs – the 256-colour compressed image files ubiquitous within digital culture. Several critics and cultural commentators have picked up on the rise of this so-called ‘microporn,’ including the journalists Amanda Hess and Tracy Clark-Flory, both of whom link sexually explicit gifs with supposedly diminished attention spans in the internet age. These discussions emerging around microporn can be somewhat problematic, we suggest, in that they risk replicating (and indeed intensifying) many of our culture’s uncritical assumptions about porn’s consumers – namely, that their engagement with the image is passive, thoughtless, and wholly receptive.

Sun, 27 Apr 14 2

Rethinking the Queer Response: A Reflection on Ecstatic Readings

Nick Kilby

Ecstatic Readings is a performance piece in which self-selecting participants are recorded receiving various forms of sexual stimulation from the artist. It was formulated as a multi-stranded, queer response to Clayton Cubitt’s Hysterical Literature – a series of online videos in which hired female models are stimulated to the point of climax with a Hitachi Magic Wand whilst reading works of fiction. My initial attraction to the fluxian spirit of Cubitt’s project sits in opposition to the revulsion I developed regarding its heteronormative framework and polished, high-end aesthetic, which I wished to discard in favour of a more democratic approach to the making of erotic/pornographic material. This paper discusses the intent behind Ecstatic Readingsand its journey to its current state. The intimate nature of the piece involves both participants and the curious spectator, and their own politic towards the contract between practitioner and incidental performer.

Sun, 27 Apr 14 2

Translations of Ovid's Sex Poems

Blake Morrison

Blake Morrison was born in Skipton, Yorkshire, and educated at Nottingham University, McMaster University and University College, London. After working for the Times Literary Supplement, he went on to become literary editor of both The Observer and the Independent on Sunday before becoming a full-time writer in 1995. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and former Chair of the Poetry Book Society and Vice-Chair of PEN, Blake has written fiction, poetry, journalism, literary criticism and libretti, as well as adapting plays for the stage. His best-known works are probably his two memoirs, “And When Did You Last See Your Father?” and “Things My Mother Never Told Me.” Since 2003, Blake has been Professor of Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College.

Sun, 27 Apr 14 2

Teenage girls, media and sex

Heather McConnell

It seems as if the news media can’t get enough of teenage girls and sex – often at the same time. A drunken teenage girl is gang-raped, and her story is reported with much hand-wringing about how her life is “ruined;” in another story a teenage girl is blamed for her own statutory rape. Sinead O’Connor chides Miley Cyrus for being a sexualized pawn of the music industry, and other teen and young women pop stars get on board to shame her as well. Since this writing and speaking about teenage girls’ sexualities is rarely done by the girls themselves, there is an element of colonization to the ways in which our cultural narratives about teenage girls’s sexuality are framed. Teenage girls are presented in these stories as helpless victims to be pitied, naive innocents who are being taken advantage of, or exotic seductresses who tempt men to immoral acts. The now-familiar narratives that we have formed regarding teen girls’ sexuality impose white, adult, heteronormative values onto their teenaged bodies with little to no regard for the ways in which they formulate their own ideas of sexuality and identity. In this paper I will examine the ways in which several recent news stories regarding teenage girls and sex use the language and mechanisms of colonization in talking about their subjects. I will then explore several of the cultural disadvantages of this kind of colonizing lens, and look for ways of addressing teen girls’ sexuality that afford girls more agency.

Sun, 27 Apr 14 2

The Lecturer

Rachel Long

‘I Blame my Mother, she blames me’ is a creative work of extended poetic prose by emerging poet, spoken word artist and Goldsmith’s Creative & Life Writing MA student, Rachel Long. It explores in verse a mother-daughter relationship strained by an absent father, a social, cultural and religious disparity in relation to sex and the men that have left them, between a single black African mother and her mixed raced daughter. It deals with the ways in which the daughter attempts to resolve her ‘Daddy issues’ by seeking him in other men, often finding herself in empty cycles and vulnerable to abuse, when her mother is working nights, or at church; her own coping mechanism for her depression and failures.

Sun, 27 Apr 14 2