Meet Dr. Joseph Brennan. It’s his job to literally sit in a room and watch gay adult films all day, everyday, and analyze the performers’ bodies and behaviors, as well as people’s reactions to them. And he does it all in the name of academic research.
Brennan is a media and communications lecturer at the University of Sydney. He recently published a paper about how studios market gay adult films and the psychological impact those marketing strategies have on audiences.
“Beyond talk of the ‘pornification’ of gay culture or the mainstreaming of gay porn, I believe more simply that gay porn has played an historically important part in our community,” Brennan tells Vice.
For his latest paper, Brennan looked at nearly 7,000 gay adults films and their marketing campaigns. Quickly, he noticed a trend: Men with larger penises were usually depicted tops, and tops were usually marketed as masculine, aggressive, take-charge kinda guys. Meanwhile, bottoms weren’t nearly as well-endowed and were often marketed as younger, more boyish, slutty, and even “hysterical.”
“There’s a privileged alignment that connects action, power, and penetration with extraordinarily sized, masculine men,” Brennan says.
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In the past, Brennan has also looked at the darker impulses of gay adult film consumers. In one study, he examined graphic rape simulations, brutality, and other themes of exploitation that viewers today can’t seem to get enough of. He observed how people differentiated between “good” (stylized) and “bad” (uncomfortably realistic) abuse porn, and where they drew the line.
Adult film research, Brennan says, is important and is finally starting to gain traction in academia.
“I see the number of scholars working in the gay porn area, and publishing on a regular basis, as a small-yet-devoted collective of talented people who approach the field from a number of disciplinary perspectives,” he says, adding that it’s good people are questioning “the presentation of narrowly defined sex roles within gay pornography.”