OMSI Science Pub - Sex, Relationships, and Technology


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"Sex, Relationships, and Technology"

This Science Pub took place on Tuesday, March 30, 2010, at the Mission Theater in Portland, Oregon. It was presented by Dr L. Kris Gowen from Portland State University. You can check her blog here:
Spoiler alert! Dr. Taylor will giving this same talk at the Science Pub-Mission Theater in Portland on Tuesday, February 16, 2010.

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OMSI Science Pub - Sex, Relationships, and Technology

  1. 2. Sex, Relationships, and Technology L. Kris Gowen, PhD, EdM Portland State University
  2. 3. Sex, Relationships, and Technology <ul><li>Focus on the Internet </li></ul><ul><li>How has this technology changed the way we </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Learn about sex </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meet potential partners </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interact with sexual partners </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Express our sexual selves </li></ul></ul>
  3. 4. How do people use the Internet for sex-related activities and expression?
  4. 5. How do people use the Internet for sex-related activities and expression? <ul><li>Education </li></ul><ul><li>Buying/selling sex-related merchandise </li></ul><ul><li>Entertainment/masturbatory purposes </li></ul><ul><li>Seeking partners </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For a short-term relationship </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For a lasting relationship </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Maintaining relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Cybersex </li></ul><ul><li>Exploring different sex practices </li></ul><ul><li>Exploring one’s gender and/or sexual identity </li></ul><ul><li>Expressing sexual fantasy </li></ul>
  5. 6. Prevalence <ul><li>Online dating sites generated 27.5 million unique visitors in June, 2009 (Nielsen). </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In 2008 the online dating industry earned $957 million. This makes it the third highest revenue grossing industry (Forrester Research) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> had 35 million visitors in 2006 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>36% of Internet users visit at least one adult Web site each month (2008) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Of people who access these sites, they actually visit an average of 7.7 times per month. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Revenue from U.S. online adult entertainment in 2006 was $2.8 billion, up 13% from 2005. </li></ul>
  6. 7. Prevalence <ul><li>36% of Internet users visit at least one adult Web site each month (comScore 2008) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Of people who access these sites, they actually visit an average of 7.7 times per month. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pornotube, the 298th-most trafficked site on the web (Alexa) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Revenue from U.S. online adult entertainment in 2006 was $2.8 billion, up 13% from 2005. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Oregon has one of the lowest subscription rates; Utah and Mississippi have the highest </li></ul></ul>
  7. 8. Online sexual activities <ul><li>Normative by default </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But mass media seems to focus more on the problems … </li></ul></ul>
  8. 9. Internet + Sex =  <ul><li>Newspaper Headlines </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Child predators </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Teacher sent nude photos of herself to student” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Adding panic button on Facebook?” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scandal! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Joslyn James Denies Provoking Tiger Woods Sexting, Promises More Sordid Details Shortly </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Addiction & Ruined Relationships </li></ul>
  9. 10. Why is the Internet conducive to exploring sexuality? <ul><li>Cooper’s Triple-A Engine (general appeal) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Affordability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anonymity </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Young’s ACE Model (infidelity) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Anonymity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Convenience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Escapism </li></ul></ul>
  10. 11. Psychological Theories in Cyberspace: Do they work? <ul><li>Disinhibition Effect/Dissociative Anonymity </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can increase or decrease honesty </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reduced Sensation vs. Cathartic Effect </li></ul><ul><li>Proximity and a precursor to intimacy </li></ul><ul><li>Evolutionary Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Importance of Status </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lowered online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Things we rely on to determine status not present or highlighted </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Identity Formation – Conformity or uniqueness? </li></ul>
  11. 12. Basic Theory of Relationship Establishment <ul><li>Find that “special someone” in 5 easy steps! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Meet person </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Physical attraction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Proximity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Similarity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reciprocity of attraction </li></ul></ul>
  12. 13. Meet Person <ul><li>Online (dating) has widely expanded our “field of eligibles” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>So what do we do with all those extra options? </li></ul></ul>
  13. 14. Physical Attraction <ul><li>Plays an essential role in initial meeting as well as in continued relationship (matching hypothesis) </li></ul><ul><li>Attractive women get 5x the number of messages as an average woman; 28x more than a lower-rated woman </li></ul><ul><li>Attractive guys get 11x the messages the lowest-rated do. The medium-rated get about 4x. </li></ul>Source: okcupid’s blog
  14. 15. Physical Attraction Who is attractive in Second Life? “ The avatar I am now is quite stunning. She is everything I should have been years ago, slim and attractive. I finally felt I could be who I wanted to be. I felt stronger.” – Kirsten via
  15. 16. Physical Attraction: From the Virtual to the Physical <ul><li>Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the Proteus Effect, after the Greek god who could shift form </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Avatar impact on behavior </li></ul><ul><ul><li>people given taller avatars behaved more aggressively in a virtual bargaining task AND later in a face-to-face one. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Following a virtual reality exercise, subjects were asked to choose people they'd like to approach from a mock dating website: people who had been in more attractive avatars during the exercise chose more attractive partners. </li></ul></ul>Source: Nikelodeon
  16. 17. Physical Attraction: From the Virtual to the Physical <ul><li>Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People in online world often adopt exaggerated forms of stereotypical beauty </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If online play affects real-life identities, how might our online peers/avatars reinforce class and gender roles? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Potential to obliterate them not employed – many beautiful people live in SecondLife. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 18. Proximity <ul><li>How we define proximity needs to change </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Potential for continual online connection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ambient awareness—the incessant contact we have with each other due to technology. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can backfire: “I CAN SEE HE'S ONLINE BUT HE'S NOT SAYING ANYTHING TO ME!” she messages. She's going out of her mind. ( Baby, you don’t poke me anymore ) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 19. Proximity <ul><li>Meeting up in virtual worlds </li></ul>“ Neither of us went on Second Life to find a new relationship,” says Kristen. “I had heard Duran Duran were playing a virtual gig and wanted to see them, so when my avatar, Kira, saw Nik...” -UK Telegraph, 2008
  19. 20. Having and maintaining a relationship online <ul><li>Does the internet help or hinder a face-to-face relationship? </li></ul>
  20. 21. Negative effects of OSA <ul><li>If the user downloads Internet pornography on the work computer or engages in cybersex on the job, he or she risks job loss. </li></ul><ul><li>Many users lie repeatedly about the sexual activities; in response, their partners feel distrust and betrayal. </li></ul><ul><li>Cybersex participants who seek out minors as sexual partners. </li></ul><ul><li>Children may be exposed to pornography (purposefully or not). </li></ul><ul><li>If online sex leads to real-life sexual encounters, the user risks acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. </li></ul>
  21. 22. Negative Effects of OSA <ul><li>Youth exposure to adult material </li></ul><ul><ul><li>33% exposed to “unwanted” sexual material (up from 25% in 2000) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1 in 7 solicited sexually online (down from 1 in 5 in 2000) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>4% of solicitors asked for sexually explicit pictures </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>4% were “aggressive” solicitations (offline contact) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>9% of youth were distressed by these incidents </li></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 23. Online sexual activities <ul><li>Lack of concrete definition to define cybersex addiction </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rely on addiction profiles of other “recognized” addictions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Only 1% of cybersex users are both high users (11+ hours/week) and score high on a sexual compulsivity scale (Cooper, 2000). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cooper also claims that between 8 and 17 percent of his sample was &quot;at risk&quot; for addiction </li></ul></ul>
  23. 24. Online sexual activities <ul><li>Question: Does the Internet cause sexual addiction, or is it simply a new medium for existing sexual addicts? </li></ul><ul><li>Cybersex addiction is currently not recognized by the APA </li></ul>
  24. 25. What do we know about the more sex-positive effects of OSA? <ul><li>MSNBC/Elle Magazine </li></ul><ul><ul><li>81% men, 53% women used the internet to look at erotic images or engage in “sexy talk” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>37% men, 28% women say OSAs expanded their ideas of eroticism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>44% men 50% women who first revealed something online told a F2F partner later </li></ul></ul>
  25. 26. Some of the more sex-positive effects of OSA <ul><li>Increase spontaneity through texts and emails </li></ul><ul><li>Look for advice </li></ul><ul><li>Different communities available </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunities for education and exploration </li></ul>
  26. 27. Gadgets! <ul><li>Teledildonics/cyberdildonics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>RealTouch: device for men which matches, frame by frame, what's happening in a video through built-in vibration, motion, lubrication and heat. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sinulator for remote stimulation by partner, seems to be off the market. </li></ul></ul>
  27. 28. Gadgets! <ul><li>Sex Robots </li></ul><ul><ul><li>TrueCompanion: cyber doll that responds to touch, with 5 different personalities to choose from. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Carries on simple conversations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Adapts to partner’s personality </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can respond to a “safe word” </li></ul></ul></ul>Source:
  28. 29. What we know so far <ul><li>Not much! Little about how the Internet </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Enhances one’s sexuality and sexual identity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increases our sexual expression </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Educates us about sexuality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Impact on sexually diverse communities </li></ul></ul>
  29. 30. The Internet and “New Literacies” <ul><li>Internet has created “new literacies” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Message boards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blogs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fanfiction </li></ul></ul>
  30. 31. Fan Fiction <ul><li>Fan fiction is conducive for writing explicit sexual stories and sexual fantasies for several reasons: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Anonymity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Potential feeling of depersonalization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Established characters provide framework </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared understanding of characters </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Women report greater sexual arousal than men while writing their sexual fantasies (Carlson & Coleman, 1977). </li></ul>
  31. 32. Women and OSA <ul><li>Women may prefer OSAs because </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They remove the social stigma that women should not be sexually curious/desirous. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They provide a safe environment to concentrate on their sexuality in new, uninhibited ways. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Young, 2000) </li></ul>
  32. 33. Methods <ul><li>Search term “CSI fanfiction” +NC-17 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>NC-17 rating is given to stories with explicit sexual content. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Looked for NC-17 rated stories that were </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Written by either someone with a female-oriented screen name or who identified herself as female in an online profile. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stories between 1,000 to 7,500 words were chosen for analysis. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Only one story per screen name was used, with the most recent story fitting the criteria being selected. </li></ul></ul>
  33. 34. Results <ul><li>Themes: Healthy sexual expression </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Safer Sex </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Violence – very low levels </li></ul></ul>
  34. 35. Implication <ul><li>Fan fiction provides an opportunity for women to articulate sexual fantasy in an anonymous, structured, potentially less threatening, environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Women’s sexually explicit stories </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Depict high levels of healthy sexual expression and low prevalence of violence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Often feature alternative sexual practices </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Women’s sexual fantasies differ from the prototypical pornography that targets men. </li></ul>
  35. 36. Thank You Contact Information: L. Kris Gowen, PhD, EdM [email_address]