Let’s play!

Sexuality and Play in Media Culture (2017-2021) is an Academy of Finland funded research project at the department of Media Studies, University of Turku. Applying theorizations of play and playfulness to feminist and queer studies of sexuality, the project proposes novel ways of conceptualizing pleasure and sexual identification in increasingly media saturated and networked environments.

The project suggests experimentation, contingency and play as having a key role in  trying out and discovering of diverse sexual orientations and identifications, as well as in people’s affective engagements with contemporary media as its consumers, distributors and producers. Drawing on scholarship on games and play, feminist and queer media studies and cultural theorizations of sexuality and affect, Sexuality and Play analyses the dynamics, rules, limits and edges of play as they unfold in and across screen-based media. It maps out sexuality and sex as material practices of play, and playfulness as an experimental orientation crucial to such practices.

All this does not involve understanding  either play or playfulness as positive, fun or voluntary by default. Play may be thrilling or cruel, and rub shoulders with empowerment and violence alike. In its ambivalent and darker forms, play sets also pleasure – its key motivator and aim – in a new light, as encompassing a broader affective register than it is often associated with. In perpetual testing of the possibilities of action, playfulness helps to see how sexual tastes develop, are learned, alter, and diversify over people’s lifespans. This sense of contingency and transformability affords productive insights into the emergence and forms of gendered and sexual identities.

Research group: Susanna Paasonen (PI), Caroline Bem (postdoctoral researcher), Kaisu Hynnä (doctoral researcher), Veli-Matti Karhulahti (postdoctoral researcher), Katariina Kyrölä (senior researcher), Mari Pajala (senior researcher), Laura Saarenmaa (Senior Researcher) & Jaakko Suominen (senior researcher)

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