TALK: What It Means to be a Man in the 21st Century – Masculinity, Sex, and Popular Culture


WHEN: Weds 22nd March
6.15pm (for a 6.30pm start) – 8.30pm*
The Parkside Building (Lecture Theatre), 5 Cardigan Street, Birmingham City University, B4 7BD
WHAT: BCU City Talks Series – What It Means to be a Man in the 21st Century (Masculinity, Sex and Popular Culture)





Join us at Birmingham City University on Wednesday 22 March as a panel of experts consider what it means to be ‘masculine’ in the 21st century, and how everything from gay pornography to Hollywood blockbusters, and Tinder to ‘The Only Way Is Essex’, are fuelling its diversity, as well as its ambiguity.

From bodybuilding to ‘lad’ culture, and from the metrosexual to the lumbersexual, the masculinities of popular culture have never seemed so dynamic and generative. As a result, this event will debate how men both negotiate and struggle with their identities in the modern world.

This event is presented in partnership with SHOUT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture.

The talk forms part of Birmingham City University’s successful City Talks programme of events. The series features a line-up of high profile speakers who share their views and insights on a range of topics, promoting the University’s ambition and aim of being a ‘university without walls’.

Joining the panel of experts:


Event chair

Jose Arroyo, Principal Teaching Fellow, Department of Film and Television Studies, University of Warwick

José Arroyo is co-founder of the Cultural Workers Against Obscenity Laws Committee that reported to and was quoted by the Fraser Commission report on Pornography and Prostitution in Canada.

He currently teaches film studies at the University of Warwick, hosts a film appreciation evening at Birmingham LGBT, and writes a blog on cinema.


Professor John Mercer, Professor of Gender and Sexuality, Birmingham City University

John Mercer is Professor of Gender and Sexuality at the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research. His research interests focus on the social and cultural construction of masculinities in the 21st century. He is the author of ‘Pornography: Representations of Masculinity and Sexuality’ (IB Tauris, 2017) – which will also be launched on the night and available to buy – ‘Rock Hudson’ (BFI, 2015) and (with Martin Shingler) ‘Melodrama: Genre Style Sensibility’.

John is co-editor of the ‘Journal of Gender Studies’, one of the editorial founders of ‘Porn Studies’ and editorial board member ofSexualities’ and ‘Celebrity Studies’. With Clarissa Smith, he is developing a monograph series entitled ‘Masculinity, Sex and Popular Culture’ for Routledge.


Mark Simpson, author and journalist

Known as the ‘skinhead Oscar Wilde’, writer Mark Simpson is the ‘father’ of the metrosexual and spawner of the spornosexual.

International trend-spotting website Science of the Time described him as ‘the world’s most perceptive writer about masculinity’ and GQ included him in their ‘Top ten Things That Changed Men’s Lives’ list, above Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sigmund Freud – and even Biotherm Homme.

He is the author of several books, including ‘Male Impersonators’ ‘Sex Terror’ and ‘Metrosexy’, and has written for various magazines and newspapers around the world from The Guardian to Attitude.


Dr Clarissa Smith, Professor of Sexual Cultures, University of Sunderland​.

Clarissa Smith is Professor of Sexual Cultures at the University of Sunderland. A founding co-editor of the Routledge journal ‘Porn Studies’ Clarissa’s research is focused on representations of sex and sexuality, their production and consumption.

Publications include numerous articles and chapters exploring the specificities of pornographic imagery, forms of stardom, production and regulation. She is also particularly interested in consumption of pornography and how different audiences engage with – and make sense of – sexual representations.

Members of the audience will be invited to raise their own points and questions following the panel debate.


*The talk will start promptly at 6.30pm. We ask that guests arrive for 6.15pm to ensure that the talk starts on time.

Unfortunately as these tickets are complimentary we cannot guarantee a seat in the lecture theatre. As it is a free event, people often request more tickets than they need and for this reason we issue more tickets than there are seats available.

We recommend that you arrive early to avoid disappointment as entry to the lecture theatre is on a first come, first served basis. Booking is essential.

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