Review: Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment

Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment - Chauntelle Tibbals

The title of this book suggests that it is written through the lens of sociology, while the fruity visual pun on the cover alludes to something a bit cheekier. Both are misleading. This is a memoir, plain and simple. Chauntelle Tibbals is indeed a sociologist, but this book isn’t about sociology; it is about personal experience with an occasional sharp left turn into essays on famously problematic figures in the porn industry.


Despite what the come-on cover may lead you to believe, there is nothing terribly risqué in this book. There is a lot of discussion about bias against porn (particularly in academia), much detail about Tibbals own academic pursuits, and the occasional visit to a porn set or sex shop as a means to show how boring they are once the seedy glamour is stripped away. The book itself is a loosely connected series of essays, more snapshots than study.


Once I recovered from my initial disappointment of the book not living up to the implications of its title, I actually rather enjoyed it. Tibbins is an engaging writer, her stories are often entertaining, and she certainly isn’t wrong when she says that American culture has an extremely fraught and unbalanced relationship with pornography. It’s very clear that her sympathies lie with the workers in the industry, but she dedicates an awful lot of page space to anecdotal proof that people “hate” pornography for unfounded reasons instead of unpacking those reasons in more nuanced ways. She also likes to use an issue to open an essay—like discussing the “condom controversy” in porn—only to use that as a segue into something completely different, and never return to the original issue. Sometimes she buried the lede so deeply, I had to return to the beginning to make sure I didn’t black out and lose a chunk of the narrative.


Should you be interested in a personal approach to becoming a sociologist specializing in porn, this will probably be moderately interesting. However, if you were hoping for some real, solid sociology, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place.