“I didn’t want it to be ‘Little blonde girl goes to porn,'” says Chauntelle Tibbals, Ph.D., of her breezy and informative ebook, “You Study What?”, a first-in-a-series collection of her experiences studying the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley. “It’s not wide-eyed, but porn is a job with particular surprises.”
Tibbals began studying porn as a sociology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas, Austin and—as suggested by her book title—she learned to expect raised eyebrows from academics and lay people alike.
Like her previous work at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) studying labor issues and gender roles among waitstaff, Tibbals focused her doctoral research on women’s rights expansion in the porn industry. Her thesis advisor, Maya Charrad, Ph.D., wrote States and Women’s Rights: The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, scholarship concerning social solidarities in North Africa that Tibbals notes is “not unlike the unorganized movement in Porn Valley.”
Starting in 2004, Tibbals became an embedded scholar at a porn studio.
The five chapters of “You Study What?” concern Tibbals’ experience working at a studio booth at several AVN shows, wrangling RealDolls, going to an actual store with a porch to buy porn (it doesn’t end well), true-to-life saggy balls, and pegging. Along the way Tibbals drops dozens of gentle insights about “real” vs. “fake” vs. manufactured to look real, like “the mainstream adult industry’s current love affair with hair does not involve “70’s-era nostalgia or any semblance of ‘natural.’ Actually, it’s just another trending coif.”
It’s easy-to-digest porn scholarship for just $2.99.
Interestingly Tibbals, who has published several exhaustively-footnoted and peer-reviewed pieces on her porn research for publications like the Stanford Law Journal, was marginalized by anti-porn professor Gail Dines on academically suspect grounds.
Whomever Dines was referring to when she wrote “one more fan of porn teaching porn” (Hugo Schwyzer?)—as if the ideal instructor of the pornographic arts should not be a fan—she clearly hadn’t read Tibbals’ book when she dismissed it.
“In addition to (Dines’) insulting biographical fabrications and unfortunate unwillingness to actually engage (read: read) material about which she feels qualified to critique,” Tibbals says, “there also was a significant measure of shaming.”
Dines also attacked Tibbals’ decision to self-publish.
“In spite of every social justice, public scholarship, and feminist tenant, DIY self-publication is still widely derided and delegitimized, especially in academia,” Tibbals says. “Given that, I actually made a very calculated decision to release these essays via this platform – it’s accessible, inexpensive, quick, and on my own terms. To emphasize: I did not have to publish via this route – I chose to.”
The frosted mini-tempest stirred up by Dines over whether Tibbals has a right to write and teach is similar to other eddies swirling through public discourse lately. In the end, what Tibbals has created is a thoughtful book of heavily-inked sketches of the porn industry. She finds it friendly, flawed, and fun.
Previously on Porn Valley Observed: New study explores porn’s inverse stigma to legality ratio; The Pain of The Price of Pleasure or: Why you should consider an Aggie college
See also: Chauntelle Tibbals