Helen Hestera*, Bethan Jonesb & Sarah Taylor-Harmanc
Porn Studies /abstract content
Publishing models and article dates explained
Received: 19 Aug 2014
Accepted: 13 Aug 2015
Published online: 19 Nov 2015
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', linking sexually explicit GIFs with supposedly diminished attention spans in the internet age. These discussions emerging around microporn can be somewhat problematic in that they risk replicating and intensifying many of our culture's uncritical assumptions about porn's consumers – that their engagement with the image is passive, thoughtless, and wholly receptive. In this article we argue that microporn is in fact a key indicator of the centrality of participatory practices to twenty-first-century female porn fandom. We undertake an analysis of audience engagement with microporn to ask: what are GIFs and how do they function within the realm of porn and microporn? What are their distinctive pleasures? In what ways do GIFs augment or displace long-form hardcore? In what ways might this emergence challenge conventional scholarly theorizing of the role of narrative within the genre and what might it tell us about female fan culture and pleasure? Existing understandings of the porn consumer, we suggest, are complicated by the proliferation of pornographic GIFs, and new understandings of consumption and pleasure practices can emerge through a consideration of microporn fan cultures.
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