A leading university has launched an investigation after it emerged that one of its graduate students had written a research paper on sexual attraction to young men.
Carl Anderson spent three months recording his thoughts and feelings while masturbating over images of young boys from Japanese comics.
In an abstract for the paper, Anderson, who is interviewing comic book fans for his Ph.D., said he wanted to “understand how [they] experience sexual pleasure while reading the shot.”
His 4,000-word study, detailing his sexual habits and sexual interactions between boys in comics, was published in the journal Qualitative Research in April. It sparked outrage from academics, MPs and others after it was shared on Twitter this week.
The University of Manchester and Qualitative Research have announced that they are investigating the circumstances surrounding the study and its publication.
In the article, Anderson explains how he will document the details of each masturbation session in a journal as “a kind of critical self-reflection.” He describes how he gave up all other sexual activity, from sex with other people to other forms of pornography.
“During this experiment, I was living alone and I had recently become single after a long relationship – these factors likely contributed to my willingness and willingness to explore this method,” he wrote.
Dr Mara Keir, an Oxford University historian who writes about sexual abuse, expressed her dismay at the research paper, tweeting: “How was the author’s description of masturbating to images of young boys viewed and published?”
Conservative MP Neil O’Brien asked: “Why should hardworking taxpayers in my constituency pay for a scientist to write about his experience of masturbating to Japanese porn?”
A spokesman for the National Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse said: “That this study was published in a peer-reviewed journal is of great concern and it is right that the universities and publishers involved are investigating. All research and research publications should be subject to proportionate but rigorous ethical review, including robust safeguards checks.’
Anderson’s profile page at the University of Manchester states that his PhD work is funded by the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. But in his research paper, he states that he “received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.”
A University of Manchester spokesman said: “The recent publication in Qualitative Research of work by a student currently registered for a PhD has raised serious concerns and complaints which we are taking very seriously. We are currently conducting a detailed investigation into all aspects of their work, the processes surrounding it and other issues raised. It is very important that we look at the problems in depth.”
In a statement posted online, the editors of Qualitative Research said they have launched an investigation into the publication of Anderson’s study, which will determine whether it is ethical.
“On August 9, we began an investigation into the publication of the article ‘I’m not alone – we’re all alone: using masturbation as an ethnographic method to study the Shoto subculture in Japan’, published earlier this year,” said statement.
“We are continuing our investigations and will carefully consider all recommendations from the Publications Ethics Committee and ensure that any action is in line with COPE standards.”
Anderson has been reached for comment.