Old and new media are often criticised for the way they frame and publicise sexuality. Conservative movements traditionally oppose the spread of “deviant” representations, invoking “family values” and “youth protection”. In contrast, feminist and LGBTIQ activisms address the social division of labour within media industries and the cultural norms that organise both regimes of representation and systems of content regulation. Among other issues, the censorship of female nudity by social media platforms and the euphemising of lesbianism within the journalistic coverage of the women’s football World Cup have recently been at the heart of substantive debate around women’s bodies and sexualities.

It is now quite common to deal with these issues within English-speaking academia, where media and sexuality scholarship has gone through a process of institutionalisation. While this field of research is now developing in France, sexuality is still considered a “dirty” object within French media and communication studies, which undermines the academic legitimacy of scholars who study it. This conference thus aims at building bridges across national and disciplinary contexts by bringing together English and French-speaking scholars who work at the crossroads of media studies and sexuality studies.

We call for papers examining the processes through which sexuality is mediated, with special interest in media genres and sectors that may not appear as “sexual” at first sight. Indeed, the queer starting point of this conference is that all media, even those that present as “non-sexual”, are actually actively involved in sexual politics, for instance through the claim of sexual decency. This also implies that all sexualities, even those that present as natural and timeless – starting with heterosexuality –, are actually the product of cultural processes, in which the media play a key role.

Production. A first range of papers will address the place of sexuality in past and present contemporary media industries, by focusing on labour organisation, media representations and/or sociotechnical infrastructure.

Journalism. Sex, through the lens of pleasure or violence, is a frequent topic within journalistic discourse; and this discourse plays a key role in the distinction between “good” and “bad” uses of sex. Sexual politics are also at play in the journalistic coverage of apparently non-sexual issues such as sports and politics. How does sexuality emerge within this field of discourse? What is the place of women, feminist and LGBTIQ journalists in the production of news media? Through what kind of trajectories do journalists come to specialise in sex-related topics?

Entertainment. How do controversies in public spaces over censorship and “sexualisation” unfold within digital, music, television, film and advertising industries? How do cultural industries come to see the sexual media content as an economic risk or opportunity? And how are people who work in the sex entertainment industries morally (dis)qualified?

Social media. What are the sexual norms that organise digital platforms focused on friendship, leisure, love and/or sexuality? Do these norms apply equally to all users or are they biased in terms of gender, race and class? How does infrastructure (algorithms, databases, etc.) matter here? And what roles do users play in consolidating and challenging these standards?

Regulation. A second range of papers will address the regulation of media and technology, by focusing on the internal functioning of censorship and moderation apparatuses as well as on discourses over “dangerous” and “vulnerable” audiences.

State regulations. Through which historical processes have modern State media regulation apparatuses emerged? How have anti-pornography and anti-sexwork movements contributed to their shaping (e.g. the recent FOSTA-SESTA laws in the US)? How have young people, women, working-class and people of colour been framed as inappropriate audiences for sexual images? What kind of values (e.g. “human dignity”) and scientific data (e.g. psychology, criminology, etc.) is invoked within expert committees? And what are the implications of such regulatory practices on public spaces and everyday-life experience?

Corporate regulations. Media and technology companies develop their own policies, taxonomies, devices, terms and conditions in order to prevent the circulation of “inappropriate” content. How is sexual media content framed by corporate regulations (esp. digital platforms) and what are the interactions between these different levels of regulation? What kind of activities are necessary to identify and suppress the texts, images and videos that transgress these rules? How are social media flagging devices used by conservative movements to limit online sexual expression? And how do sexually marginalised groups (e.g. sex workers) organise against such limitation of their online expression?

How to submit a paper proposal? We welcome paper proposals in English or French, from any social science or humanities discipline, that address both media and sexuality from a critical perspective. Proposals should be no more than 500 words and make clear their theoretical and methodological background. Proposals can be sent to mediasexlille2020@gmail.com until January 27th, 2020. They will undergo peer-review by the academic advisory board. 

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