UNI SP4 Study Period 4 2014

NET102 Dating, Intimacy and Sexuality

Internet Studies 102 : The Internet and Everyday Life
Topic 1.3: Dating, Intimacy and Sexuality

The availability of Internet communications and applications has multiplied the channels through which relationships are initiated, extended and played out. This topic considers the role played by the Internet in reconfiguring the conduct of romance and intimacy. Sex, dating and pornography are connected to a broader exchange of meaning surrounding sexuality and identity on a daily, routine basis. What constitutes normal acceptable sexuality has been central in popular debates even today, although these boundaries shift with time and social milieu. Sexuality, gender and sex roles are closely-intertwined and key aspects of people’s notions of self (note: if, for some reason, you are not comfortable with the scholarly study of sex and the Internet, you may focus on online dating and relationships instead).

Simply put, sex pervades most cultures, and is also one of the major ways in which we both express our individuality and identity, at the same time, it is a major arena for the control of our bodies and identity. What has been brewing in the relationship between sex and the Internet? Net porn is a huge industry, and, like the porn industry of the past, takes part in the monetisation of meanings surrounding sex and bodies, and the definition of certain relationships and meanings as normal, marginal or deviant. Likewise, online dating is also a huge business and has played a large role in developing some Internet applications (social networking services, for instance, which has moved on beyond dating). Cybersex, where people engage in mutual and simultaneous stimulation via Internet communications, was initially introduced via IRC and MUDs and is now something that occurs in different forms of Internet communication. Cybersex highlights the problem with making too strict a distinction between the virtual and online, our bodies and mind.

There also has been the development of taste communities (see Attwood), part of the Internet’s propensity to cater to niche markets and offer some measure of anonymity. Related to the last point is another trend, part of a broader development: the loosening of distinctions between public and private life. People’s social networking (e.g. Facebook, MySpace etc) profiles disclose their sexual orientation and whether, and to whom, they are attached, breakups and new courtships likewise signalled in various ways through social networking applications (such as gift-giving and hugs), blog posts and tweets (messages on micro-blogging services).

What is the impact of these developments on our everyday lives?

What you need to do to learn about this topic:


Pascoe, C.J. (2009). Intimacy in Mizuko, I. et. al. (eds). Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media (pp. 117-148). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (ebook in Curtin Library - search on partial book title and editor, select ‘Online resource’ for the item)

How do youths growing up with the Internet form and conduct relationships these days? This reading takes us beyond online dating agencies and cybersex, into the realm of everyday life and intimacy.


Dating, romance, and intimacy in the context of the Internet, drawing on Pascoe.

The acceptability of online dating amongst your friends and family. Do you know of anyone that’s met someone online and then gone on to date them face to face?

How far would a partner/spouse have to go online before it is considered cheating? Up to what point is flirting online acceptable? How ‘real’ is cybersex?


If you choose this topic for the essay, in addition to the above, you will also need to read:

Attwood, F. (2007). No Money Shot? Commerce, Pornography and New Sex Taste Cultures. Sexualities, 10(4), 441-456. doi: 10.1177/1363460707080982. In E-Reserve. Do you agree with Attwood that the Internet has facilitated “new sex taste cultures”? What is the extent of the impact of the Internet on cultural norms surrounding ordinary, familiar, in other words, everyday, sex?

Weiss, R. and Samenow, C. P. (2010). Editorial: Smart phones, social networking, sexting and problematic sexual behaviours - a call for research. Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, 17, 241 - 246. doi: 10.1080/10720162.2010.532079. http://charlessamenowmd.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/SAC_EDITROIAL_1704.pdf

Gibbs, J. L. Ellison, N. B. and Lai, C-H. (2011). First comes love, then comes Google: An investigation of uncertainty reduction strategies and self-disclosure in online dating. Communication Research, 38(1), 70 - 100. doi: 10.1177/10093650210377091. https://www.msu.edu/~nellison/GibbsEllisonLai_2011_FirstComesLove.pdf

Each of these six topics covered in Module 1 has a particular question for the Questions and Answers assignment, you will need to complete these questions and then submit the best three of them as part of your assignment. You may also choose this topic for your essay. Your participation in discussions and activities for this, and the other topics, contribute towards the body of work that you will select from for the Portfolio. Also, review the material in this topic for your final assignment, particularly paying attention to the role played by the Internet in terms of economics, power, identity, community, time and space (Module 2).

NEXT: Topic 1.4: Health: What My Doctor Didn’t Tell Me »