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11th Aug 2022

University slammed for allowing ‘PhD in Masturbation’

Danny Jones

PhD in mastrubation

Don’t mean to presume, but fairly certain most people are already experts in this field

The University of Manchester has been criticised for allowing a student to pursue a PhD in masturbation, to the point that a Conservative MP is now trying to intervene.

Postgraduate student Karl Andersson is in the process of getting his doctorate in Japanese Studies at the Russell Group institution and as part of his overall research, he published his first peer-reviewed article in an academic journal entitled, “I am not alone – we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan.”

While published separate from the university, news of the research being carried out by a student in their Arts, Languages & Cultures faculty has been met with criticism – including from the MP for Huddersfield, Neil O’Brien, who suggested that this side of the humanities should not be paid for by “hard-working taxpayers”.

O’Brien argues that some degrees and postgraduate research projects outside of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) are, in this instance at least, “not socially useful”.

Moreover, while many online are frustrated and some have even taken the time to defend his right to appreciate and write about the niche art form, others have simply tried to find the funny side of the story.

As explained in the abstract, ‘shota’ is a type of manga or anime which typically revolves around prepubescent or pubescent male characters depicted in a “suggestive or erotic” manner – the young nature of those featured in the content being another aspect which has raised concern.

Andersson goes on to detail in his introduction that as part of his practical research, he spent three-months masturbating to the genre and making extensive “field diaries” with detailed notes on each session, recounting sexual acts performed in specific comic book panels and even describing his often “ceremonial” set up while masturbating.

He also claims he shunned other forms of pornography and sex, remarking in a fairly graphic passage hinting at the difference between Western and Japanese culture: “It was necessary to be diligent enough to abstain from the ‘milk and muesli’ of porn during this experiment, in order to see what happened to my body on a long diet of ‘fish and miso soup’.”

Having only recently moved to Manchester after having started the PhD in 2021, Andersson says that he lived alone during the experiment and had newly become single after a long term relationship, adding that “these factors probably contributed to my willingness and eagerness to explore this method.”

As well as the outrage, he also revealed in a recent YouTube video that despite securing a small grant for his research, he ultimately failed his ethics review and must now spend the summer reworking his thesis.

While the article itself is technically separate from the school and Andersson has clarified that UoM have rejected at least the first draft, a spokesperson did issue a statement to The Spectator following the controversy:

“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.”

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