Sexual Identity Online

Violet Blue (Violet Blue)
General
Location: Marina Ballroom E

How do you express yourself sexually online? Is it intentional?

As part of my job for Fleshbot.com, I’ve been called upon to have upward of 300 sex blogs in my RSS reader; still, nothing is as predictable as the arc of the “anonymous” sex blogger. Time and again, they are a sure bet for being outed or discovered, have the shortest life span, and are the least reliable for following as a human narrative.

Clearly, something’s not working out quite the way they planned.

In late 2006, two people in Seattle performed “The Craigslist Experiment” where they put up a stolen, extremely explicit personal ad allegedly from a submissive female. They received hundreds of responses: pictures, voicemails, piles of personal information—from work and U.S. military addresses, and more. They published all the results. Jobs were lost and relationships ruined.

Not everyone who answered the ad was fresh off the dialup boat.

Zoe Margolis used to be the anonymous sex blogger “Abby Lee: Girl With A One Track Mind,” until she wrote a book based on her real-life adventures and UK paparazzi ambushed her outside her home, outing her in the tabloids. She lost her job and privacy, yet she still blogs about sex—much differently than before.

What’s different now that her dates know who she is?

Sexual etiquette intersects with identity at every turn. Do you kiss and blog about it? Is it okay to Twitter your first date? And what happens when you’re the subject of online sexual attention you never intended? There are fetishes for everything, even that photo of your birthday balloon; do you know if you’re all right with having your balloon as someone’s sexual fantasy… or not at all? Even more, gender plays a huge role in sexualization online, especially for malfeasance. Everyone knows a troll’s most effective tool is violent sexualization of their subject (typically female). How do deliberate acts of sexual identity foil—or feed—the trolls?

Whether it’s a sex blog, sexy social network profile, answering a racy ad, or posting personal photos, online sexual identity is a deliberate act. Some people choose the anonymous route while others put their names and faces out front for all to see. It’s way more than a question of “Does this URL make my ass look fat?”

I will examine the pros and cons of revealing real life information versus anonymity, why one might choose either (or a little of both). We’ll look at people living each choice, and the way increased—yet simultaneously decreased—control over our online identities shapes those choices. We’ll also pore over the grisly details of what goes wrong for online sexual adventurers —and what happens when things go delightfully right.

Photo of Violet Blue

Violet Blue

Violet Blue

Violet Blue is the best-selling, award-winning author and editor of over twenty books on sex and sexuality, a number of which have been translated into several languages, and contributor to a number of nonfiction anthologies. Violet is the sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle with a weekly column titled Open Source Sex, and has a podcast of the same name that frequents iTunes’ top ten. She is a sex educator who lectures at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, UCSF and community teaching institutions; she writes about erotica, pornography, sexual pleasure and health for major publications (such as O, The Oprah Magazine and Forbes.com) and various blogs. She is an author at Metblogs SF; a video correspondent for Geek Entertainment Television; she is on the Gawker Media payroll as girl friday contributor and editor at Fleshbot. In January 2007, Violet was named a Forbes Web Celeb 25. She is a San Francisco native and human blog.

Photo taken by: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid

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