Chauntelle Tibbals Publishes Research Exploring Porn, Law and Society

May 6, 2013 3:45 PM PST

LOS ANGELES — Sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Anne Tibbals announced the publication of her study, “When Law Moves Quicker Than Culture: Key Jurisprudential Regulations Shaping the U.S. Adult Content Production Industry.” The article can be found in the journal, "The Scholar: St Mary’s Law Review on Race and Social Justice."

The introduction poses the question that the paper seeks to answer, “Why, in spite of its legal and protected status, is adult content and adult content production still a stigmatizing and polarizing dimension of U.S. culture?”

Tibbals considers key jurisprudential proceedings, technological developments and intersections between porn and wider society from the 1970s to 2012. Each dimension, Tibbals claims, demonstrates the progressive edge that judicial cases have taken, leaving pervasive and prejudiced social morays to catch up with forward-thinking court decisions.

“In spite of our most noble ideas about ourselves, we as a culture still really struggle with porn,” Tibbals told XBIZ.” If it wasn’t for all of these legal findings that have been occurring for the past 50-plus years, that emission of speech would have been really limited. Essentially the finding is that something that’s really kind of looked at as a cut and dry section of our culture — law — is actually something that’s facilitated free speech, creativity and growth because we as a culture seems to really want to stunt that, in respect to adult content production".

“When Law Moves Quicker Than Culture” is broken down into three sections based on three major epochs in the adult industry, "Developments During the Reel Era (1957-1974)", "Developments During the Video Era (1975-1994)" and "Developments During the Digital Era (1995-2005)." Each section chronicles its respective era’s social and cultural dialogue with judicial proceedings related to adult industry, including turning points like Miller vs. California (1973) and First Amendment attorney Paul J. Cambria’s informal production code, “Cambria’s List” (2001). 

Tibbals became particularly interested in the academic study of adult content when she experienced cognitive dissonance related to her personal knowledge of the industry as a San Fernando Valley resident and the academic accounts she read in graduate school.   

“The stuff that you learn in school – you have to remember that this was 2002 – so the stuff that I was learning in grad school was, like ‘porn is bad,’ ‘porn exploits all people and women,’ 'people are tortured and trafficked in the industry,' and stuff like that,” Tibbals said. “And just having a little bit of common sense I was like, there’s no way a trafficking circle going through Chatsworth — what I’m reading here is not adding up to daily life.”

While Tibbals' study highlights the pro-adult path trail blazed by U.S. courts in decades past, she laments the advent of Measure B and AB 332 and deleterious effect they will have on free speech in general.

“There’s something about porn and sex that causes people to completely lose their capacity to think rationally,” Tibbal said, explaining why the tension between the adult industry and mainstream society is not going to dissipate anytime soon.  

Tibbals currently holds a visiting scholar position at USC and specializes in gender, sexualities and media and popular culture.

Her research has been published in several scholarly journals, including “Sexualities, Gender Work & Organization” and “Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.”

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