I love reading books about porn. So it’s no surprise that I had Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals’ book Exposure on my wish list before it was even released. Part memoir, part commentary on issues in both academia and the adult industry, this book is a lovely addition to my porn studies shelf.
The full title is Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment. The book begins with Dr. Tibbals foray into studying the adult industry as she pursued her doctorate in sociology. The author confronts many of the prejudices and “Academic Snubbery” surrounding the study of adult entertainment in the realm of sociology. She relays humorous stories of her first trip into an adult video store and mishaps at adult entertainment expo booths. Her journey from automatically despising and dismissing porn to examining and embracing aspects of the adult industry is quite relatable. The author’s account of early experiences with porn (most notably being incredibly offended by an unfortunate incident with soup in a movie) was eerily similar to things I’ve felt as a woman confronting and eventually embracing porn.
Tibbals gives us a behind the scenes look at porn shoots as she has often been on sets while scenes are being filmed. I find it amusing that some anti-porn proponents depict shoots as dark, secretive, scary places where women are incessantly abused, yet this book provides evidence that sex bloggers, writers, and other media representatives are actually invited to sets and shoots.
The author also sheds light on the darker aspects of the industry such as the behavior of unsavory porn fans. A chapter entitled “The Slippery Slope of Subjectivity” dissects why porn continues to be an emotionally rife topic that gets stuck in subjectivity.
The second part of the book focuses on the author’s commentary regarding issues in the adult industry. She unravels popular myths and confronts media misrepresentations regarding pornography. Tibbals discusses Linda Lovelace, Traci Elizabeth Lords, and the complicated matter of language when talking about certain genres of pornography.
On top of that, topics the author tackles includes pegging, pubic hair, sex toys, music in porn, and the impact of fantasy on the psyche.
My favorite chapter in the book is called “Being a Guy in Porn is (Not) Hard” in which the author muses on many injustices men deal with in porn and the fact that men in the adult industry are often left behind in sociological discourse.
This is all a fantastic cornucopia of commentary, but don’t be afraid – the book is very reader friendly. There are 20 chapters, each about 7-10 pages long with a clean layout. The author remains focused throughout and the narration is free of rambling or off-topic tangents.
The only befuddling thing about this book is how to categorize it. While the beginning is heavy with memoir narration (and I would classify this as a memoir) most of the chapters offer insights and information on the adult entertainment industry. I feel this book is a bit stuck in the middle. Some readers might relate more to the memoir side and become bored with the commentary, while others might prefer the book to be comprised of information and leave the memoir aside. Either way, there is much in this book that would be valuable to those studying porn as well as consumers of porn – or perhaps those just looking to read something different.
Overall this book is a balanced look at the adult entertainment industry with a healthy dose of academic exploration and insightful observations from the author. If you are interested in pornography for any reason, I suggest you give this book a look, for perspective, information and, if you study porn, a nice reminder that we aren’t alone in the world.