Love and sexuality on the Internet
The Internet has become an arena for love and sexuality, but what does this arena look like, how is it used, and by whom? And why is the Internet used for love and sexual purposes? These are some of the questions this dissertation attempts to answer. The study comprises answers from 1850 respondents who participated in a Net-based questionnaire and 26 informants who were interviewed via the Internet. By analyzing the participants’ answers and narratives, the thesis provides insights into this relatively new phenomenon. This is the first more or less comprehensive investigation in Sweden about love and sexuality on the Internet.
The findings show that the Internet contains several different arenas that are used for purposes of love and sex and that they are used in different ways for different purposes. The results also show that both men and women use the Internet for love and sex purposes and that user patterns can be related to both gender and age. Unlike older users, young users make the Net an integrated part of their everyday life, that is, they do not log on primarily for love and sex purposes. The majority of those using the Internet for these purposes have favorable experience from it, while a minority find it problematic.
Among other uses, the Internet makes it possible for people to flirt, look for partners, look at or read erotica, seek sexual education, and receive support in sexual matters, as well as purchase sex products without having to reveal their identity or their sexuality to others. Roughly one third of the respondents had some experience of cyber sex, and more than a third had met someone on the Internet with whom they later had sexual contact. The interviews revealed that the Internet was seen as a good medium for finding a partner, since it made it possible for the parties to get to know each other, making it easier to deal with embarrassing situations.
One important factor that helps make the Internet a popular venue for love and sexuality is the anonymity it allows, not only owing to the security achieved by the physical distance to others but also owing to the fact that anonymity empowers people to dare to take part in activities or try things out that would be difficult if not impossible outside the Internet.
The dissertation points out that the Internet is a changeable medium; old arenas disappear and new ones appear. It is not only the sites that change but also the users and user patterns. This makes it difficult to predict what the future will look like. However, the thesis establishes that the Internet has already brought changes in the field of love and sex.
Eva Lundgren | alfa
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