Sex, Privacy & The Internet
It has been said before but I’ll say it again, the Internet is changing us, and more specifically it has probably already forever changed our sex lives. We can now anonymously (or non-anonymously) engage in whatever kink, chat, turn-on or hook-up is imaginable. More importantly, we can talk openly in many spaces about our sexual curiosities, fears and beliefs.
I’ve recently moved my sexuality to a more visible space, taking a few jobs as a sex-writer. This is a very exciting career-maneuver and something that I’ve always wanted to dig my toes into. But while this path is exciting, is it also confusing.
Sexuality can be a part of internet presence for all of us, and I think that is a positive force. It no longer becomes an aspect of our personality we feel we need to hide or restrict, it now has a space with many possibilities for us to explore, whether that is through blogging, including sexuality in our social networking, discussing it on forums or even trolling craigslist. But while we are out there, being open, curious and honest sexual pioneers, there remains the question of privacy. Is it safe to put yourself “out there” sexually?
Of course there are many pre-cautions you should take that stem from basic self-awareness. Don’t give out phone numbers and addresses, perhaps use pseudo-names and don’t publish anything you absolutely don’t want linked back to you. However, nothing is fool-proof, there have been many instances of safe-players whose sexual online oeuvre have bitten them squarely in the ass: sex bloggers who lose their jobs, x-tube stars who are black-listed and so on. This is scary for me; if my professional name is linked with sex-writing, could I possibly not be able to get other jobs in the future?
To me, the problem here is not that what we do online could potentially get linked back to us (no matter how safe we think we are being) but that there is such a stigma with sexuality. Just being our sexual selves can be used to blackmail us, and that is preposterous.
Sex educator, Violet Blue recently aired a podcast of a panel on this very topic. One instance she brought up was the Craigslist Experiment. Which goes like this: basically, this guy set up an extreme Craigslist ad, acting as a submissive woman looking for a dominant man. After he was flooded with replies that included photos, phone numbers and real names, he posted all of this information to a website, with the idea that these careless people deserve to be exposed. While this could be used as a lesson in online safety, Blue brought up a good point, the Craigslist experiment could not happen in a society where sex was not stigmatized.
This problem of sexual safety, I think might be solved in two ways. Perhaps people who run social networking sites will really lock down privacy, finding effective ways to separate our sexual, social and professional selves. Or, perhaps our generation will begin to effectively erase those old sexual stigmas. Just as employers are beginning to expect a social persona online, willing to dismiss keg-party photos, perhaps we will become adjacently comfortable with talk of sex and sexuality in an online persona.
This change would erase centuries of needless sexual shame, fear and ignorance. That, I think, is a thrilling idea and hits on the very reason why I find sex-writing so important and fascinating. I think that sexual fulfillment and sexual awareness is part of living a full and happy life, of being a self-aware person. Writing about this is a way to open people’s eyes, to change their lives for the better, to let them know they are not alone, their sexuality is okay and normal. So for now, I’ll take the basic precautions but will continue to be sexually visible online, hoping to help change minds.
How do you feel about airing your sexuality online? What pre-cautions do you take?