Tissues Not Provided: GSA Pornographic Society

The Glasgow School of Art Pornography society set up shop in October 2014 and had its first meeting around Halloween.

The word ‘pornography was coined in the mid-19th century, derived from the Greek pornographos meaning ‘writing about prostitutes’ but nowadays it encompasses a huge span of cultural activities.

The society itself is about Pornography (capital P) – looking at it, talking about it, using it and making it. There´s lots of different opinions on what count as Pornography. Variously defined, Pornography can be a work of art or literature depicting the life of a prostitute, representations intended to cause sexual excitement, sexually suggestive advertisements, scenes of sexual behaviour that are erotic or lewd or the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.

To some, Pornography is obscene and voyeuristic, who knew? At times people have called sexual orientations and some sex education Pornographic and some have referred to western culture that way. J. G. Ballard believed that “Science is the ultimate pornography, analytic activity whose main aim is to isolate objects or events from their contexts in time and space. This obsession with the specific activity of quantified functions is what science shares with pornography.”


Personally, I’ve started to think that everything is Pornography; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all and context is everything. What we want to do with this society is provide a forum for anyone who´s interested in the topic to discuss it – hate it or love it, we want to know about your relationship with Pornography. Single? Married? Divorced? Widowed? “It´s Complicated”? Estranged? You can expect film screenings (we´ll take requests), club nights and group exhibitions. Hopefully we´ll get some performances and things like drawing classes under way soon.

Since we established the society reactions have been pretty varied. Most people are curious and interested in what we might be doing. Some people are apprehensive, some excited. Under our first Facebook post one individual wrote:

“It is extremely offensive and demeaning to women IMO. If this is really an artistic enquiry rather than an excuse to watch porn, I would ask that you change your poster and be mindful of people’s strong feelings. You wouldn´t want groups of (mostly) women picketing your meeting, protesting that it breaches uni equal opps policies etc.” [sic]

We invited them to come along to our meetings.

There’s no sign of them yet, but for the record we´re inclusive of many different kinds of Pornography. There is quite a history of abuse in the Porn industry and we´re not looking to follow in its footsteps by any means, but there is also a change happening from within the industry. Nowadays, many people are working on establishing a safe working environment for actors and models from all backgrounds. We´ve also had people taking down posters we put up – very quickly I might add – which is annoying but there´s nothing you can do about it really other than put up more posters. We hope they’ll realise there is real value in discussion.

If you´re interested in the academic side of all of this, there is a great new journal called Porn Studies. All University of Glasgow students should have access to this via the Taylor & Francis online page. There are four issues a year and the fourth issue of Vol.1 was recently published. The plan is for the society to meet up regularly, for anyone who´s tired of learning alone on a computer and would like to discuss an article from the journal or indeed anything else.

We’re always questioning. We´re not sure about the effects of Pornography becoming mainstream; has it done so? what does that mean? The same goes for the difference between Art and Pornography. There is a history of Pornographic works and artists incorporating Pornography, Pornographic film stars & sex acts into their work. Where the divide begins is hard to say but we´re hoping to blur it even more. It probably has something to do with intent and ‘form and content’. It could be down to snobbery, who knows?

Our events and meetings are open to the public so come along for a look if you feel like it. Pornography runs pretty rampant in our culture in many ways and you don´t need to look very hard to find it but if you’re having trouble, you can find us on Facebook (GSA Pornography Society) or email us at gsapornosoc@gmail.com.

[Dylan Meade]

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