UK PhD student comes under fire for 'masturbation research'
PETALING JAYA, Aug 12 — A UK-based student has drawn flak for his paper documenting his experiences masturbating to comics featuring young boys.
Karl Andersson from the University of Manchester spent three months researching how readers “experience sexual pleasure” when reading Japanese shota comics.
He said he did this by spending three months masturbating to such comics himself, taking "critical self-reflection” notes along the way.
“I had hit a wall in my research,” Anderson wrote in the abstract of his 4,000-word article published in the journal Qualitative Research.
“Semi-structured interviews (Bernard, 2006) can only take you so far, especially when the topic is sensitive (Lee, 1993), which mine is.
“And so I realised that my body was equipped with a research tool of its own that could give me, quite literally, a first-hand understanding of shota.”
Andersson, who is originally from Sweden, also concluded that masturbation could be an act of “self-care”, and that the activity was when “we are least alone”.
Andersson’s paper details his three-month ‘research’, where he journalled about masturbating to Japanese comic books. — Picture via Unsplash/ Hello I'm Nik
“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’,” he wrote.
Shota refers to a genre of Japanese comics known for depicting young boys in sexually suggestive situations, often with adult men.
The genre is seen as the male equivalent of “lolicon”, which features pre-teen girls having erotic encounters with mostly adult men.
While the paper was originally published online in April, it went viral on Twitter earlier this week, sparking debate about research ethics and values.
Many questioned the ethics of the paper, saying it was bordering on paedophilia due to the nature of shota comics.
How did this pass IRB? Or is this another example of “autoethnography” allowing white scholars to avoid more rigorous ethics review? How was a description of the author masturbating to the images of young boys peer reviewed and published? pic.twitter.com/jNnzHkwxum
— M. Jane (@madjane_) August 10, 2022
Academics also ripped into the paper, calling Andersson’s take on qualitative research “lazy”, “navel-gazing” and “mere wanking”.
Cannot believe it’s the real life embodiment of this arrested development joke. pic.twitter.com/1izT4P3yIM
— Dr. Kara Christensen (@KChristensenPhD) August 9, 2022
Following the backlash, both the university and journal said that they have launched investigations into the paper ― at the time of writing, the paper is still viewable online.
“We are currently undertaking a detailed investigation into all aspects of their work, the processes around it and other questions raised,” a University of Manchester spokesperson told The Guardian.
In its public statement yesterday (August 11), Qualitative Research said it is in the midst of its investigations and will “consider closely all guidance from the Committee of Publication Ethics”.
— Qualitative Research (@QRJCardiff) August 10, 2022