Transnational Pornography Networks and Local Subculture in Britain, 1900–39

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 4:10 PM
Salon B (Hilton Atlanta)
Jamie Stoops, Pima Community College
During the Edwardian and interwar periods, pornography producers and consumers exchanged materials within transnational networks spanning the British Empire, Western Europe, and the United States. As illegal and clandestine groups, pornographers and their customers necessarily developed methods of overcoming social stigma and legal penalties in order to exchange money and materials across the globe. In this paper, I explore the effect of these transnational economic and cultural flows on localized sexual cultures based in Britain. My research shows that transnational networks not only introduced Britons to foreign materials, but led to the development of a subculture with its own jargon, practices, and internal hierarchies. Using official records pertaining to the cross-border movement of pornographic goods alongside comparative pornographic ephemera from Britain, France, the United States, and a variety of other countries, this paper illustrates that these localized British sexual subcultures shared sexual norms and practices with their counterparts around the world. Moreover, these norms and practices often directly subverted the surrounding hegemonic culture's sexual hierarchies. Pornography thus existed not as a dark reflection of any given nation's normative sexual culture, but as a transnational sexual subculture with local nodes across the globe. The conclusions offered in this paper suggest the need to reassess not only the relationship between pornography and mainstream sexual culture, but also the relationship between local and transnational forces in the development of sexual norms.
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