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Stefanie Duguay, Jean Burgess, and Ben Light
Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology
Draft working paper for the Digital Intimate Publics Symposium, 19-20 November 2015, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
This paper focuses on images of sexual desire that shape digital intimate publics of same-sex attracted women through related hashtags on social media platforms. While previous research has focused on same-sex attracted men’s use of digital technology to perform sexuality, studies of same-sex attracted women are sparse, focused on older technologies, and complicated by debates around gendered power relations. This is investigated by examining sexual content organised through hashtags related to same-sex attracted women (e.g., #lesbian, #gaygirl) on Instagram and Vine. Textual and visual analysis of user-generated content is paired with walkthroughs interrogating these platforms’ design, activity flows and features, identifying mediators that shape performances of sexual desire. Preliminary analysis shows that performances on Instagram can be divided into four categories: pornography and advertisements; memes, animations, and popular media; images of idealised ‘lesbians’; and personal selfies and sexy photos. On Vine, popular media and idealised lesbians are represented in fan mash-ups of YouTube celebrities while the majority of sexual performances involve sensual lip dubs and dancing to rap and hip hop music. Each platform provides unique affordances for these performances, such as Instagram’s filters and Vine’s audio track tools, as well as shared affordances like co-hashtags. Further analysis will allow for a better understanding of these multiple components of performances of sexual desire, presenting a view of Instagram and Vine’s digital intimate publics relating to same-sex attracted women.