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Journal launches probe into PhD student’s paper on masturbating to images of underaged boys
Japanese porn study

The scholarly peer-reviewed journal Qualitative Research has launched an investigation into a paper by a humanities PhD student about masturbating to Japanese pornographic illustrations featuring underaged boys.

“On August 9th we began investigating the publication of the paper ‘I am not alone – we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan,'” the journal’s editors announced.

“We are continuing with our investigations and will consider closely all guidance from the Committee of Publication Ethics and ensure that any actions taken comply with COPE standards.”

The controversial paper was published in April and more recently prompted outrage, questions and criticisms. It was written by University of Manchester humanities graduate student Karl Andersson.

“I wanted to understand how my research participants experience sexual pleasure when reading shota, a Japanese genre of self-published erotic comics that features young boy characters,” Andersson wrote in the abstract. “I therefore started reading the comics in the same way as my research participants had told me that they did it: while masturbating.”

Andersson’s research is funded by the University of Manchester, according to his Twitter profile, in which he describes himself as “PhD student at + funded by @UoMSALC.”

However, the article includes a disclaimer stating that “the author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.”

Academics, MPs question ethics of article

Andersson’s “4,000-word essay was published in April, and since then, horrified social media users have found it and shared it on Mumsnet, where it has been dubbed a ‘PhD in w*nking,'” The Guardian reported this week.

ResearchProfessional News reported August 10 that several “academics and public figures have strongly criticised the study and the procedures that allowed it to be conducted and published in a peer-reviewed journal.”

“This entire article describes the author masturbating to drawn child sexual abuse material,” Michael Salter told the news outlet. Salter is a professor at the University of New South Wales, in Australia, who studies child abuse. “He describes his arousal to sexual scenes featuring ‘very young boys’. How was this written, reviewed or published?”

Harborough Member of Parliament Neil O’Brien wrote on Twitter: “Why should hard-working taxpayers in my constituency have to pay for an academic to write about his experiences masturbating to Japanese porn?”

“The non-Stem side of higher education is just much too big, producing too much that is not socially useful.”

Andersson defended the social value of his research

Andersson wrote in the paper that his study gave him greater insight into his Japanese research subjects, loneliness, and “the culture of self-published erotic comics.”

“What I learned from this experiment was to attach greater meaning and value to the act of masturbation, and especially of doing it to two-dimensional material in the form of comics. By that I don’t mean that I had belittled it before, but in a way I think that we all belittle, unconsciously, practices that we don’t understand. Masturbating made me understand,” Andersson wrote in his conclusion.

“Thinking more critically about my own masturbation also made me wonder if all sex is masturbation, in the sense that people are focused on their own pleasure and use other people as ‘masturbation material.'”

In his acknowledgements, Andersson thanked his PhD supervisor, Sharon Kinsella, “for always encouraging me to go where my research takes me.”

MORE: These students wanted their school to ban pornography from its wireless networks. The school did it. 

IMAGE: Sage Journals screenshot

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About the Author
assistant editor
Maggie has previously worked as an associate editor of Columbia magazine, an editorial assistant at DNAinfo.com, and an elementary school teacher at a charter school in Phoenix. She holds a B.A. from New York University and lives in New Haven, Connecticut.