Genders in Transition: Masculinities, Affects, and Bodies

John Mercer

The unifying focus of my research is an interrogation of the cultural construction of gender and sexuality across a range of mainstream and marginal media texts. My interests in gendered and sexual representations inform my sustained body of work around the construction and performance (in all of the senses that the term can be understood) of masculinity. My work is concerned with the ways in which contemporary masculinities are constructed and performed across a range of cultural artefacts. I research the ways in which masculinity is sexualised in the current moment and how this sexualised masculinity manifests itself in media representations but also in practices of self representation.

The foci of my research can be described as:

Performances of gender and sexuality online and across wider culture

The politics of representation, in particular sexual representation

The social and cultural construction of masculinities

The connections between gay pornography and the making of a gay identity

My key achievement as a researcher has been to integrate these strands into a coherent whole based on the argument that masculinity in the contemporary moment has become saturated with competing meanings and that this connects to wider social, cultural and political contexts. My research is predicated on the acknowledgement that analyses of specific materials, genres or media forms must be situated in the complex networks of meaning that surround and contextualize all cultural artefacts and that this is especially true for researchers of digital materials.

My current work builds upon nearly 20 years of research and writing about the connections between sexuality, iconography and questions of identity and how these articulate themselves through representation in an array of materials including those produced by the gay pornography industry. The scale, scope and penetration of pornography into the mainstream and the purported ‘sexualisation’ of culture means that this work continues to be of importance in terms of understanding the nature of pornography and the ways in which sexual representations function in the shaping of a sexual identity and the construction of modern masculinities which have a profound impact on the wider culture.

I am editor of the Journal of Gender Studies, a co-editor of Porn Studies (both Routledge) and an editorial board member of Sexualities (Sage). I am editor (with Professor Clarissa Smith) of the Routledge monograph series Masculinity, Sex and Popular Culture and have been awarded an AHRC network grant in this area.

Selected Publications:

Mercer, J. & McGlashan (eds.) Toxic Masculinity: Men, Meaning and Digital Media. Routledge. 2023.

Mercer, J. & Attwood, F. The Metrosexual: Figures of Masculinity. Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith Handbook on Media, Sex and Sexuality, Routledge, 2018. 

Mercer, J. Sex Positivity and the Persistence of Shame. Sexualities. Sage. 2018. DOI: /10.1177/1363460718770443

Mercer, J. Gay Porn: Representations of Masculinity and Sexuality I.B. Tauris. 2017.

Mercer, J. & O’Connor, J. Childhood and Celebrity. Routledge. 2017 

Mercer, J. Special Edition: Gay Porn Now! Porn Studies. 2017, 4:1

Mercer, J. Popperbate: Video Collage, Vernacular Creativity and the Scripting of the Gay Pornographic Body. Porn Studies. 2017, 4:1, 242-256  

Mercer, J. The Secret History: Porn Archives, Personal Collections and British Universities. Porn Studies. 2014, 1:4, 411-415 

Mercer, J. The Enigma of the Male Sex Symbol. Celebrity Studies. 2013, 4:1, 81-91

Mercer, J. Coming of Age: Problematizing Gay Porn and the Eroticised Older Man. The Journal of Gender Studies. 2012, 21:3, 312-326

Mercer, J. Gay for Pay: The Internet and the Economics of Homosexual Desire. Ross, K. The Handbook of Gender, Sex, and Media. Blackwell-Wiley, 2011, 535-551

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