University of Manchester investigating after being criticised for allowing ‘PhD in masturbation’

A spokesperson for institution said "it is very important that we look at the issues in-depth."

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 11th August 2022

The University of Manchester (UoM) has confirmed it has launched an investigation following criticism that it allowed a student to publish a “PhD in masturbation”.

For an article recently-published in the Journal of Qualitative Research, PhD student Karl Andersson was conducting research into the “shota” genre of Japanese comic books – which are known for centring around prepubescent or pubescent male characters depicted in a “suggestive or erotic” manner.

In his 4,000-word article – which is titled ‘I am not alone – we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan’ – Mr Andersson said he wanted to “understand how [individuals] experience sexual pleasure when reading shota”, and so to do this, he decided to undertake his own research.

He claims that he embarked on a three-month stint of masturbating to the comic books himself, and making notes on each session, the Telegraph reports.

Andersson added that he had recently come out of a long-term relationship when he began his research – which he said contributed to his “willingness and eagerness”.


Outlining the methodology for his research, Andersson explained: “For a period of three months, I would masturbate only to shota comics. For this purpose, I would use dōjinshi and commercial volumes that I have bought or been given during fieldwork in Japan.

The University of Manchester (UoM) has been criticised for allowed a student to publish a “PhD in masturbation” / Credit: University of Manchester

“In short: I would masturbate in the same way that my research participants did it. After each masturbation session I would write down my thoughts and feelings – a kind of critical self-reflection – in a notebook, as well as details about which material I had used, where I had done it, at what time, and for how long.”


But shortly after the article was published, Mr Andersson and the University of Manchester came under fire and were berated by both members of the public on social media and politicians – who branded the piece “a PhD on masturbation”.

Conservative MP Neil O’Brien was someone who took particular offence to the publication of the article, taking to Twitter to question: “Why should hard-working taxpayers in my constituency have to pay for an academic to write about his experiences masturbating to Japanese porn?

“The non-STEM side of higher education is just much too big, producing too much that is not socially useful.”

The university says it is “very important” that it investigates the issues “in-depth” / Credit: University of Manchester

The University of Manchester has since confirmed it has launched an investigation into the publication of the article, with a spokesperson saying in a statement: “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.

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“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.”

SAGE Journals – which is responsible for the publishing of the Journal of Qualitative Research – has also addressed the criticism it received for allowing the article on its platform, saying it is “aware of concerns”.


Taking to Twitter, SAGE Journals said: “We are aware of concerns about a paper published earlier this year in our journal, Qualitative Research. The article is under investigation, and we will ensure that any actions taken comply with the standards of the Committee of Publication Ethics.”

Featured Image – University of Manchester