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jacobhartley
13th August 2022

UoM PHD student faces backlash over research paper on masturbating to comics of young boys

A PHD student at the University of Manchester has recently come under fire and faced a severe online backlash after a research paper he wrote about masturbating to erotic comics of young boys went viral.
UoM PHD student faces backlash over research paper on masturbating to comics of young boys
Photo: Mike Peel @Wikimedia Commons

A University of Manchester PHD student has faced extreme backlash online after publication of a research paper in which he detailed his experience masturbating over images of young boys in erotic Japanese comic books.

Karl Andersson, a PHD student studying “how fans of subcultural comics in Japan experience desire and think about sexual identities”, wrote that he was trying to understand the experience of reading shota (a form of “self-published erotic comics that features young boy characters”). To do so, he “started reading the comics in the same way as my research participants had told me that they did it: while masturbating.” In the article, Andersson details how scenes involving young boys brought him to climax. 

In a section where he describes the differences between different comics, Andersson writes: “But more often, very young boy characters would greedily jump over the first c**k that presented itself. That too worked for me, but it was different”. He also wrote that “masturbating to shota was something to feel proud and not ashamed of”.

While the paper was published in the peer-reviewed journal in April of this year, it was not until this week that backlash erupted on social media. The issue Professor Alice Sullivan, the Head of Research at University College London’s Social Research Institute, tweeted: “How did this get past Manchester University’s ethics process @OfficialUoM? Masturbating to images of children and writing it up for public consumption does not seem ethical to me. This is hugely disturbing” . 

Neil O’Brien, the Conservative MP for the constituency of Harborough, Oadby, and Wigston, asked: “Why should hard-working taxpayers in my constituency have to pay for an academic to write about his experiences masturbating to Japanese porn?”, despite the note in the paper that Mr Andersson “received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article”. 

While most commenters, such as Senior Lecturer at KCL, Stuart Richie, have described how there “was no defending that appalling “autoethnography” paper on masturbation”, some academics, such as high-profile Professor Danny Blanchflower CBE, defended the article as an issue of free speech, comparing Mr O’Brien to a “fascist”.  

Both the University of Manchester and the publisher have begun investigations into ethical concerns surrounding the article. The publisher, Qualitative Research, published a notice: “We began investigating the publication of the above paper on Aug 9, 2022, and are continuing our investigations. We will consider closely all guidance from the Committee of Publication Ethics and ensure that any actions taken comply with COPE standards”. The paper has since been removed from SAGE’s website, with a note that: “Due to ethical concerns surrounding this article and the social harm being caused by the publication of this work, the publishers have now agreed with the Journal Editors and have decided to remove the article while this investigation is ongoing in accordance with COPE guidelines”.

This is not Mr Andersson’s first brush with controversy, including other sexual comments surrounding young boys. In 2012, Vice ran an interview with him, describing the website he ran as “made up of violent, sexual headlines about young boy”, and including pictures of “pre-pubescent boys in sexualised poses”. Prior to running that, he ran a magazine called Destroyer, featuring photos of naked boys, which he says grew out of a “frustration” that the “gay movement” had become “ever more non-inclusive of … male attraction to boys”. 

 A spokesperson for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is quoted by The Guardian as saying: “That this research was published in a peer-reviewed journal is highly concerning, and it’s right that the universities and publishers involved are investigating.”

When contacted for comment, a University of Manchester spokesperson said:

The recent publication in Qualitative Research of the work of a student, now registered for a PhD, has raised significant concerns and complaints which we are taking very seriously. We are currently undertaking a detailed investigation into all aspects of their work, the processes around it and other questions raised. It is very important that we look at the issues in-depth. While that investigation is ongoing, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this time.

Mr Andersson has been contacted for comment.


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