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profile-circleJoseph Brennan, Ph.D. is Lecturer of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney, where he was award his Ph.D. He is a media and cultural researcher working primarily across the fields of porn, fan, and celebrity studies. In particular, his work explores the intersections and conflicts within male sexuality. His Ph.D. involved textual analysis of photo-montaged fan works inspired by popular film and television. Known as ‘slash manips,’ in these photo remixes fans layer images of male characters from popular media with gay, and often pornographic, material. He is currently editing a special issue on ‘queerbaiting,’ to appear in Journal of Fandom Studies in 2018. Queerbaiting is a tactic whereby media producers suggest homoerotic subtext between characters in popular television that is never intended to be actualised on screen. On this website you will find information on his published work, which is organised according to particular areas of interest, with descriptions of topics studied, along with accompanying publications. It is also a place to find the latest news on his research projects, conference presentations, and media appearances.

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Queerbaiting-logo-2Queerbaiting’ is a fan-conceived term that describes a tactic whereby media producers suggest homoerotic subtext between characters in popular television that is never intended to be actualised on screen. It has decidedly negative connotations and has attained a degree of cultural currency in the popular sphere, the pervasiveness of which makes scholarly consideration important.

  publications   internationalculturalstudies

Title: Queerbaiting: The ‘playful’ possibilities of homoeroticism Abstract: This article explores the concept of ‘queerbaiting’, a term employed by media fans to criticise homoerotic suggestiveness in contemporary television when this suggestiveness is not actualised in the program narrative. I confront the negative connotations of the term and point to the agency of audiences, using the practices of ‘slash fans’ within the Merlin fandom as my case study. I trace definitions of queerbaiting in recent scholarly work and suggest comparison with another term, ‘hoyay’, which has more positive connotations. My central argument is that as this concept begins its inevitable permeation into academic work, worth considering are the queer readings that ‘queerbaiting’ in fact make possible, even plausible, which is an understanding of the term that is in line with the ‘poaching’ and ‘playful’ spirit of media fandom.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2016. Queerbaiting: The ‘playful’ possibilities of homoeroticism. International Journal of Cultural Studies Online before print. doi: 10.1177/1367877916631050



         

Slash-logoSlash’ refers to a practice whereby fans homoeroticize the bonds between male media characters and personalities, creating texts (including fiction, video, and art) for distribution within communities of likeminded fans. My concept of the ‘politics of slash’ considers issues of representation, visibility, and identity that underpin the practice.

  publications   celeb

Title: ‘Jensen Ackles is a (homophobic) douchebag’: The ‘politics of slash’ in debates on a TV star’s homophobia Abstract: This article analyses discourse on the DataLounge LGBT Internet forum that debates whether Jensen Ackles (star of The CW’s Supernatural) is homophobic. Textual analysis is performed on five relevant threads created between 2007 and 2014, which have attracted in excess of 1150 responses. This discourse is considered in conjunction with existing scholarship on Supernatural as a cult phenomenon, in particular Ackles’ portrayal of the character Dean Winchester, who has been read by scholars (and members of the DataLounge forum) in relation to a certain hegemonic view of masculinity and heterosexuality, often at odds with the popularity of the series among ‘slash fans’, who undertake homoerotic readings. In light of this, I argue that the defensive and offensive posturing of participants on DataLounge can be understood as a case study of what I term the ‘politics of slash’. Such politics underscore some of the main pieces of presented ‘evidence’ for Ackles’ homophobia, such as unwillingness to discuss subtext at fan conventions. While Ackles is the catalyst for the discourse created, I argue that what is most interesting is the insight offered into ‘slash’ as a fan practice, and the subcultural groups most affected and energised by this debate, namely male homosexuals and slash fans. The study brings to bear new insight into understandings of slash and subcultural celebrity by considering the practice as it is constructed through the debate of a TV star’s supposed homophobia, a debate that is itself framed by certain ‘politics’ of representation, visibility, and identity.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2016. ‘Jensen Ackles is a (homophobic) douchebag’: The ‘politics of slash’ in debates on a TV star’s homophobia. Celebrity Studies Online before print. doi: 10.1080/19392397.2016.1249897



         

Remix-logoSlash manips’ describe a form of remix culture in which fans layer images of male characters from popular media with gay, and often pornographic, material. Photos are typically remixed by way of image manipulation software.

  publications   internationalculturalstudies

Title: ‘Fandom is full of pearl clutching old ladies’: Nonnies in the online slash closet Abstract: This article examines cultures of anonymity (or ‘nonnies’) and secrecy in online slash fandom through textual analysis of fannish reaction to gay magazine DNA publishing slash content. I use the experiences of infamous slash manip artist mythagowood from the Supernatural fandom community to read this critical moment of online discourse creation. Specific cases on LiveJournal communities spnanonhaven and fandomsecrets are examined to reveal pockets of conservatism, or ‘pearl clutching’, online. Within the context of male slash production, I examine the implications of nonnies and their efforts to keep slash secret, which is the enactment of an online ‘slash closet’; and conclude by considering what cultures of anonymity and secrecy mean for male slashers, many whose slash practice is inextricably linked to direct identity construction.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2014. ‘Fandom is full of pearl clutching old ladies’: Nonnies in the online slash closet. International Journal of Cultural Studies 17.4: 363–380. doi: 10.1177/1367877913496200


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Title: ‘If Duchamp’s toilet can be a masterpiece…’: Slash manips as fannish readymades Abstract: This article performs textual analysis of works from two slash manip artists – Tumblr’s wandsinhand and LiveJournal’s mythagowood – to argue that the form can be understood as a fannish form of ‘readymades’. I perform a comparative analysis of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and the use of the toilet as a central sign in wandsinhand’s practice. The works of mythagowood are then examined. I use excerpts from various interviews with the artist to explore his practice, its connection with the Supernatural canon and his unique construction, ‘Sammy’. I compare his practice to that of figurative painter Francis Bacon and the statements his art makes on meat, beasts and sexuality. Framing my reading of the oeuvres of wandsinhand and mythagowood around Duchamp’s concept of ‘readymades’ and Bacon’s representation of meat demonstrates the potential for slash manips to explore the instability and malleability of the male sexed body, highlighting these objects’ aesthetic, artistic and cultural significance.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2016. ‘If Duchamp’s toilet can be a masterpiece...’: Slash manips as fannish readymades. Journal of Fandom Studies 4.1: 3–21. doi: 10.1386/jfs.4.1.3_1


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Title: Not ‘from my hot little ovaries’: How slash manips pierce reductive assumptions Abstract: Slash, a fannish practice, has been celebrated both for its transgression of male heterosexual representations and its female producers. Despite this recognition, slash manips – a form of slash photomontage – have yet to receive sustained scholarly attention. This paper argues that were slash manips to be taken seriously by researchers as objects of study, reductive cultural assumptions concerning gender, genre, medium and intent would be subject to critique. I detail what constitutes a manip and how it differs from the male celebrity fake. I also explore a similar process occurring at a commercial level and marketed to gay men, which I term ‘corporate slash’. The paper concludes with an analysis of the manips of LiveJournal artist mythagowood, which are prime examples of slash works not served by current definitions of the practice.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2014. Not ‘from my hot little ovaries’: How slash manips pierce reductive assumptions. Continuum 28.2: 247–264. doi: 10.1080/10304312.2013.854872


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Title: Slash manips: Remixing popular media with gay pornography Abstract: This article explores the value of slash manips as a form that offers new avenues for slash scholars, such as consideration of photo remix and male production, while also considering the importance of gay pornography to slash. I perform textual analysis from an aca–fan (academic and fan) position of two Merlin slash manips by male Tumblr artist wandsinhand. My interviews reveal, via the artist’s own assessment of the ‘value’ of his practice, a tendency to devalue or overlook the significance of this particular slash form, affirming a real need for further critical engagement with this under-examined practice.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2013. Slash manips: Remixing popular media with gay pornography. M/C Journal 16.4. http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/677



         

Fan-fiction-logoFanfic’ are written fan works posted online without the consent of the rights-holder and produced exclusively for an audience of other fans. My research has focused on the ethics of a particular practice within the fanfic community, namely ‘pulling-to-publish’: the process of rewriting and republishing for profit a work that was inspired by another’s intellectual property.

  publications   mia-1

Title: ‘Let’s get a bit of context’: Fifty Shades and the phenomenon of ‘pulling to publish’ in Twilight fan fiction Abstract: The publishing success of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, a series with origins as Twilight fan fiction, has energised popular interest in the practice of writing fan fiction (or ‘fanfics’). Equally, however, the series’ popularity has fuelled debate on the ethics of its commercial publication. This article highlights the divisive and polarising phenomenon of ‘pulling to publish’ in the Twilight fandom. ‘Pulling to publish’ refers to the process of rewriting and republishing for profit a work that was inspired by another’s intellectual property, and collaboratively edited by unpaid volunteers – the majority of whom would have expected the edited work to be freely available in perpetuity. Among other relevant case studies, this article examines a critical instance of pseudonymous online protest, challenge and defence between James and another well-known fanfic writer, coinciding with the March 2011 announcement that Fifty Shades would be commercially published. Several critiques of fanfic commercialisation are contextualised by a critical reading of the ‘official’ publication history of Fifty Shades, revealing the incompatibility of two self-constructed fan identities: the faithful and the opportunistic.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph, and David Large. 2014. ‘Let’s get a bit of context’: Fifty Shades and the phenomenon of ‘pulling to publish’ in Twilight fan fiction. Media International Australia 152.1: 27–39. doi: 10.1177/1329878X1415200105


   
   

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mlogoMerlin (2008–2012) is a BBC reimagining of the Arthurian legend that focuses on the coming-of-age of Arthur and his close bond with his manservant Merlin, who keeps his magical identity secret until Arthur’s final stand in the iconic Battle of Camlann. In exploring this series’ appeal to slash fans, I have primarily been interested in the application of queer theory to its male characters, namely Lancelot and Mordred.

  publications   arthuriana

Title: ‘You could shame the great Arthur himself’: A queer reading of Lancelot from BBC’s Merlin with respect to the character in Malory, White, and Bradley Abstract: A queer reading of the Lancelot character as he appears in BBC television series Merlin (2008–12) and the works of Malory, White, and Bradley, situates the cult series in the long heritage of Arthurian adaptation and reveals a s ecretive and troubled figure with a personal connection to his adaptors.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2015. ‘You could shame the great Arthur himself’: A queer reading of Lancelot from BBC’s Merlin with respect to the character in Malory, White, and Bradley. Arthuriana 25.2: 20–43. doi: 10.1353/art.2015.0030


refractoryTitle: ‘You gave me no choice’: A queer reading of Mordred’s journey to villainy and struggle for identity in BBC’s Merlin Abstract: This essay performs a queer reading of the Mordred character—that great archetype of the treacherous villain—from BBC’s Merlin (2008–2012) so as to examine his role in a series that garnered a devoted following among ‘slash fans,’ who homoeroticise male pairings. By charting the various catalysts that set this villain on his path, we are privy to insights into the representations and (queer) metaphors of this popular British series and what these elements have to tell us about this reimagined legendary villain. This reading is supported by analysis of slash fanart (known as ‘slash manips’), which support my reading and delve into typologies that help examine the construction and journey of Mordred as the archetypal villain, as well as his multiple identities of knight and magician, and queer associations of his struggle for self. This reading offers insight into the reimagining of an iconic villain, as well as the various types and queer metaphors the character’s journey in this popular series illuminates.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2015. ‘You gave me no choice’: A queer reading of Mordred’s journey to villainy and struggle for identity in BBC’s Merlin. Refractory 26. http://refractory.unimelb.edu.au/2015/10/07/brennan/


   
   

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AcafandomAca-fandom’ is a research approach within fan studies that straddles academic and fan positions. My research into slash is situated within the cultural studies, textual tradition within which I speak from the position of an aca–fan, drawing on participant–observation and my active involvement in the fan community as a slash manip artist.

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ajpc-1Title: The fannish parergon: Aca–fandom and the decentred canon Abstract: Aca–fandom, as popularized by Jenkins, forefronts reciprocity and dialogue between researcher and subject and has become the method of choice for many fan studies scholars. This article critiques the centrality of canon in the aca–fan tradition, using Derrida’s work on the parergon. I raise various issues for consideration, such as aca–fandom’s emphasis on identity, and the potential implications of a researcher presuming commonalities with fan communities. These issues are discussed with regard to my own practice-led research approach. I examine the aca–fan position in relation to ‘reflexive’ and ‘native anthropology’, the latter of which highlights advocacy dimensions of the position. I also make a case for the importance of managing responsibilities to academy and community (public or fannish) and distinctions between autonomous and public or political intellectualism. My discussion of the various implications of the aca–fan position leads to my central argument, which is that the aca–fan researcher in the textual tradition would do well to avoid the temptation to fixate on canon at the expense of the fan works themselves.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2014. The fannish parergon: Aca–fandom and the decentred canon. Australasian Journal of Popular Culture 3.2: 217–232. doi: 10.1386/ajpc.3.2.217_1





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abusepornAbuse porn’ describes a genre of extreme pornography. Boys Halfway House is used as an example of this variant of extreme pornography, which joins the genre niche of abuse, rape, and exploitation pornography sites that have surfaced in recent years.

  publications   sexualityandculture

Title: Abuse porn: Reading reactions to Boys Halfway House Abstract: Boys Halfway House is a gay bareback pornography website that purports to host the recorded abuse exploits of managers of a halfway house. It is a recent addition to the genre niche of abuse and exploitation pornography sites that have surfaced in recent years. This article reads viewer commentary of scene updates on review site WayBig.com so as to consider the controversy associated with the proliferation of gay ‘abuse porn’, and of Boys Halfway House and its theme in particular. More than 500 comments over a 2-year period help explain Boys Halfway House as a variant of extreme pornography, and canvas a range of views on rape and humiliation fantasy in gay porn more broadly. The study ends with discussion of the anxieties and appreciations the site has prompted in viewers, and the presentation of two themes in particular: ‘bad porn’ and ‘harmful porn’. Also considered are the ethical implications of such male sexual abuse fantasies, which is a subject of lasting trauma for victims, and one that poses unique challenges in wider contexts.

readcube-iconSuggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2017. Abuse porn: Reading reactions to Boys Halfway House. Sexuality & Culture 21.2: 423–440. doi: 10.1007/s12119-016-9397-3



         


gonzoGonzo’ is characteristic of the presence of a ‘talking camera’, whereby the person operating the camera also plays integral role in the on-screen action. I argue for consideration of gonzo techniques beyond the hand-held camera, in particular recognition of the ‘gonzo aesthetic’ expressed in texts aligned with the filmmaking form.

  publications   sexualityandculture

Title: The ‘gonzo aesthetic’ in gay porn: Fraternity X and Sketchy Sex Abstract: This article argues for consideration of gonzo techniques beyond the hand-held camera. The article considers other strategies at play in content aligned with the gonzo form, using gay pornography sites Fraternity X and Sketchy Sex as case studies. This broadening gesture is defined by recognition of the ‘gonzo aesthetic’ expressed in these texts. Using textual analysis, other aspects of the selected texts are considered including marketing campaigns, narrative, use or abandon of condoms, and props, all of which impact on the overall feel of the pornographic product. These techniques are considered in the context of the nominated case studies and the ways in which they help to construct a sense of the real, and also contribute to discourses of hazing and risk, among others.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2016. The ‘gonzo aesthetic’ in gay porn: Fraternity X and Sketchy Sex. Porn Studies 3.4: 386–397. doi: 10.1080/23268743.2016.1241156



         


micropornMicroporn’ refers to porn clips, especially those with a duration of five minutes or less, taken from commercial sources and circulated online across ‘tube sites’ such as Xtube and Pornhub.

  publications   sexualityandculture

Title: Microporn in the digital media age: fantasy out of context Abstract: This thought piece is interested in the impact of certain digital conditions on pornography. Namely that the context of the content, as inscribed in its original presentation, can sometimes get lost as it is shortened and shared across tube sites. What we find when this happens is that these videos are sometimes then interpreted as real sex by those clicking through. In this article I consider one implication resultant of the removal of context, namely the emergence of viewer speculation around the ‘authenticity’ of the clip as it circulates decontextualized across the web.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2017. Microporn in the digital media age: fantasy out of context. Porn Studies Online before print. doi: 10.1080/23268743.2017.1306453



         


publicPublic-sex’ has a long tradition within the gay community and has been a popular variant in pornography, both amateur and commercial. ‘Deerborn’ is a gay public-sex project shared via the internet that occupies a position in-between commercial and amateur spaces.

  publications   psychologyandsexuality

Title: Public-sex: Viewer discourse on Deerborn’s ‘homemade’ gay porn Abstract: This paper reads viewer discourse on a popular series of gay public-sex videos shared online, known as ‘Deerborn’. Deerborn presented itself as occupying a place ‘in-between’ commercial and amateur pornography: both free of the ‘fantasy constraints’ of commercial pornography, yet also mobilising an audience following that allowed it to compete with more commercial offerings. Discourse on these videos offers insight into audience interest in and personal experiences of public-sex. Nominated are three key themes: space, participation and anxiety. The space theme is used as a structuring device in the second half of this paper, allowing for consideration of the settings in which the scenes take place. Yet, the focus of this paper remains on the commentary of viewers. Evidenced through this discourse is a continued interest among gay men in public-sex, with these videos serving as both vicarious viewing, and as catalyst for participants to share their own experiences of public-sex.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2017. Public-sex: Viewer discourse on Deerborn’s ‘homemade’ gay porn. Psychology & Sexuality 8.1–2: 55–68. doi: 10.1080/23268743.2016.1241156


   
   

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mobilepornographersMobile pornographers’ captures how young men seeking payment for sex on geo-social smartphone apps conceive of themselves, a concept that embodies their willingness to exploit the affordances of mobile technology and the profits to be gained from youth and sex, without the digital traces of more traditional pornographic forms.

  publications   discoursecontextandmedia

Title: Cruising for cash: Prostitution on Grindr Abstract: This article employs textual analysis in the cultural studies tradition to analyse Reddit discussion forums dedicated to the use of Grindr to solicit sex in exchange for cash, which is in violation of Grindr’s terms of service. Of particular interest is a canvasing of the motivations behind amateur use of the app for paid sexual encounters. More than six hundred comments from twenty-two relevant threads are selected for analysis, drawn from the popular ‘Gaybros’ subreddit forum. I nominate three key ‘scripts’ from the discourse. Namely, from the perspective of the individual seeking payment: ‘cash strapped student’ and ‘alternative to porn’; and ‘naïve millennials’ from a community responder perspective. These scripts offer insight into the profit-seeking motivations behind exploiting a popular sex-seeking tool, in particular by participants who would not otherwise engage in ‘cruising for cash’. The discourse supports my view that the young men seeking payment conceive of themselves as mobile pornographers, a concept that embodies their willingness to exploit the affordances of mobile technology and the profits to be gained from youth and sex, without the digital traces of more traditional pornographic forms.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2017. Cruising for cash: Prostitution on Grindr. Discourse, Context & Media 17: 1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.dcm.2017.02.004


   
   

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jliconJake Lyons’ has filmed scenes with some of the largest gay porn studios – including Falcon Studios, Next Door Studios, Colt Studio Group and Lucas Entertainment – and some of the biggest names in the business, all within two years of his 2009 debut. However it is this performer’s infamy subsequent to his brief period of prominence in 2010, and subsequent descent into relative obscurity, which makes analysis of his career valuable as a case study of the faded individual performer.

  publications   pornstudiesicon

Title: ‘Bare-backing spoils everything. He’s spoiled goods’: Disposal and disgust, a study of retired power bottom twink Jake Lyons Abstract: This article uses star study and textual analysis of posts on popular gay porn blog TheSword.com as a means to chart the career of retired power bottom twink Jake Lyons and the manner in which his various career and personal decisions – such as to perform bareback and in fetish porn – are critiqued by participants on this blog. I argue that a discourse of disposal and disgust surrounding Lyons and his actions pervade this forum and that this discourse is worthy of scholarly consideration: not only because it relates to sexual health concerns resulting from high-risk sexual practice facing the industry and gay community, but also because it has something to tell us about the consumption of gay porn and the objectification and disposal of gay male performers, twink bottoms particularly.

Suggested citation: Brennan, Joseph. 2016. ‘Bare-backing spoils everything. He’s spoiled goods’: Disposal and disgust, a study of retired power bottom twink Jake Lyons. Porn Studies 3.1: 20–33. doi: 10.1080/23268743.2015.1074867



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