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A Companion to New Media Dynamics by Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, John Hartley

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Chapter 21

Cybersexuality and Online Culture

Feona Attwood

There is nothing new in the use of technologies for the purposes of sex, or in the concern that this use tends to arouse. Sex, media, and technological development have been closely associated with one another from the printing press onwards, through books, films, magazines, and video to today's mobile and digital media; an association always accompanied by anxious voices concerned with dangerous effects. However, online sexual activities seem to be particularly worrisome because of the way they appear to emblematize a range of concerns; the “accelerated intimacy” of online relationships (Ross 2005: 346), “a larger decentralizing trend in communications” (Coopersmith 2000: 34), the difficulty of regulating the Internet, and a broader uncoupling of sex from the material world and from familiar frameworks of kinship and romance. The sexual use of any technology continues to excite interest and grab headlines; a Wired report that claims “Internet pornography is the new crack cocaine, leading to addiction, misogyny, pedophilia, boob jobs and erectile dysfunction” (Singel 2004) typifies media coverage of the topic.

Sexual activities have become “a major variable in the technological and economic growth and development of the Internet” (O'Brien and Shapiro 2004: 115), where people now access porn, buy sex toys, seek sex advice, and connect and interact sexually in a wide variety of ways, commercial and otherwise. Nicola Döring ...

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