Strange Fruit: A Black, Queer, Feminist View of Porn; AP Stylebook Nixes Word “Homophobia”

Pornography has long been a divisive topic among feminists. From Second Wavers who ended up in unlikely anti-porn alliances with conservatives in the 1980s to today’s Third Wave feminists who call themselves sex- (and porn-) positive. But no matter whether you feel that porn is de facto exploitation, a liberating sexual tool, or somewhere in between, there’s no denying that lots of porn is misogynistic, racist, classist, able-ist, and just about any other -ist you could name. 

Earlier this month, the New York Times hosted an essay debate called, “Should Porn Come Out of the Closet?” One of the respondents was Dr. Mireille Miller-Young, an associate professor of Women’s Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara who’s been researching the porn industry for a decade. She writes that performing in adult movies can be empowering to the women on screen, and that the typical argument against porn “ignores the diverse ways that women actually interact with it.” We wanted to hear more about her work—and how her identity as an African-American, queer feminist shaped her opinion and research—so we speak with Dr. Miller-Young on this week’s show.

Also this week, the AP updated its Stylebook to discourage use of the word “homophobia” in political and social contexts. Phobia, the reasoning goes, is a psychological term meaning an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often appearing as a symptom of an anxiety disorder. So to call an anti-LGBTQ remark homophobic may not be strictly accurate. Since the AP Stylebook is rightly-called “the journalist’s bible,” this move could have far-reaching effects on how LGBTQ issues are covered in the media.

Not everyone is happy about the change, especially since the AP apparently made the call without consulting any actual LGBTQ organizations or media outlets. It was just our luck we we scheduled to speak this week with a psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders! Dr. Kevin Chapman is the director of the Center for Mental Health Disparities at UofL, and he joined us to talk about how anxiety tends to affect African-Americans differently than other population groups. While we had him in the studio, we asked him to explain what a phobia really is, and whether the AP was right in calling for the change.

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