Aug 01 2013

There’s Nothing “Sad” About Online Sex

Many pearls have been clutched over the actions or inactions of the various women involved in Anthony Weiner’s latest fall from grace (pearls that could’ve really been spared for Weiner himself). Susan Jacoby, with whom I generally agree on things and whom I respect very much, wrote an article for the New York Times that focuses on the motivations that the recipients of Weiner’s photographic gifts had in engaging in these online flirtations with him:

People ask how Mr. Weiner’s wife, the soulfully beautiful and professionally accomplished Huma Abedin, can stay with him. My question is why hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of women apparently derive gratification from exchanging sexual talk and pictures with strangers.

[...]The morality of virtual sex, as long as no one is cheating on a real partner, is not what bothers me. What’s truly troubling about the whole business is that it resembles the substitution of texting for extended, face-to-face time with friends. Virtual sex is to sex as virtual food is to food: you can’t taste, touch or smell it, and you don’t have to do any preparation or work. Sex with strangers online amounts to a diminution, close to an absolute negation, of the context that gives human interaction genuine content. Erotic play without context becomes just a form of one-on-one pornography.

[...]As a feminist, I find it infinitely sad to imagine a vibrant young woman sitting alone at her computer and turning herself into a sex object for a man (or a dog) she does not know — even if she is also turning him into a sex object. Twentieth-century feminism always linked the social progress of women with an expanding sense of self-worth — in the sexual as well as intellectual and professional spheres. A willingness to engage in Internet sex with strangers, however, expresses not sexual empowerment but its opposite — a loneliness and low opinion of oneself that leads to the conclusion that any sexual contact is better than no contact at all.

As a feminist, I find it infinitely sad that many people are still unable to grasp this basic truth: what gets you off is not what gets others off, and vice versa, and that is okay. So Jacoby doesn’t get the appeal of online flirting/sexting. That’s totally fine. But she leaps to huge assumptions about the women who do get the appeal: that they’re turning themselves into sex objects, that they’re “lonely” and have a “low opinion” of themselves, that they’re settling for some substandard type of sexuality.

Actually, if you’ve read anything else by Jacoby, this should not be that surprising. I read her book The Age of American Unreason recently and, although I loved the book overall, learned a lot, and laughed out loud a few times, I was also shocked by how many of her arguments hinged on the notion that digital technology is…not bad, per se, but at the very least problematic in ways that non-digital technologies and mediums are not.

Interestingly, Jacoby also insists firmly that e-books are a failure, and notes that serious readers could never enjoy them. The book was published in 2008, before e-books really got off the ground. Nowadays I know nobody who can afford and access e-books but has chosen not to; although I (and many others) still prefer paper books, the e-book market has definitely exploded and Jacoby’s opposition to them looks a little silly 5 years later.

Anyway, I could write a whole post critiquing Jacoby’s views on technology, so I’ll just say that her take on online sex is not surprising at all. But it suggests a certain empathic blind spot, an inability to see that different folks like different strokes.

These two sentences are the ones I especially disagree with: “What’s truly troubling about the whole business is that it resembles the substitution of texting for extended, face-to-face time with friends. Virtual sex is to sex as virtual food is to food: you can’t taste, touch or smell it, and you don’t have to do any preparation or work.”

The view that online communication is a sad, pathetic attempt to “substitute” artificial interaction for genuine interaction is prevalent in many books and articles about digital technology. Cell phones, texting, iPods, tablets, instant messaging, online forums, blogging, and more have all been accused of being mere “substitutions” for “real” interaction, and virtual sex is clearly cut from the same cloth.

Here’s the thing, though. The several things:

  • Not everyone has access to a supportive, in-person community, including willing sexual partners who are into the things you are into. For most of my college years, I did not.
  • Anything, digital or not, can potentially be used to avoid meaningful human interaction: alcohol, drugs, books, schoolwork, work work, hobbies, exercise. The problem isn’t the medium; it’s the fact that a person feels so isolated from their community or so incapable of connecting to people that they turn to these things instead.
  • Although being physically with people, especially if sex is involved, obviously has huge advantages, interacting with people online also has huge advantages that Jacoby is ignoring, especially for people who are shy or picky. It’s a tradeoff and we should trust adults to be able to make their own decisions about whether those tradeoffs are worth it for them.

I’ll expand on each of those points. First of all, people who clutch pearls about digital technology “replacing” in-person interaction are all going off of the assumption that everyone has in-person interaction to replace to begin with. While it’s sort of a truism that Anyone Can Find Friends If They Just Try, that’s really not the case. The fewer privileges you have, the less you fit into the community you happen to be living in, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to find close, supportive friends and partners in meatspace.

Although I’m very privileged and lucky in many ways, I screwed up my choice of college and ended up somewhere I didn’t fit in at all. For many years, my most meaningful connections with people were online. Those friends kept me sane last summer when even the few friends I had at school were gone. Why should I assume that my fairly shallow-by-comparison meatspace friendships mean more than these close, loving, but far-away friends?

Second, technology can be used unhealthily and/or as a means of avoidance, but so can lots of other things. As a child, I was painfully shy and had a lot of trouble finding common ground with other kids. So I read a lot. And I didn’t even read novels, which might’ve helped me understand people; I read nonfiction about science, mostly. I literally took encyclopedias to birthday parties and read them instead of playing with other kids.

Was I using books to avoid people? Absolutely. Was anyone disturbed by this? Not really, because I wasn’t using the dreaded technology. On the other hand, though, my parents and teachers were probably right to let this fly. I got older, met kids who were as nerdy as I was, and made lots of friends and started dating and gradually became more comfortable with groups of people. Nowadays I’m still an introvert, but a very friendly one who’s fine with public speaking and code-switching and all sorts of other formerly scary things that adults have to do socially.

The point is that it’s not always easy to tell whether or not someone is using something as “avoidance,” but even if they are, that’s between them and their therapist. Jacoby simply leapt to the conclusion that the women who do sexual stuff online are avoiding “real” sex and that they’re “lonely” and have low self-esteem, but there isn’t any data to warrant these conclusions.

Third, Jacoby is only looking at the disadvantages of online sex, not the advantages. This gives her a skewed image of what it’s like. Everyone is, I’m sure, familiar with those disadvantages, so I’ll list some advantages I can think of:

  • It’s much less risky, especially for women who know they’ll get blamed if they’re assaulted while meeting with a partner.
  • It’s possible to interact with partners who don’t live near you.
  • You can try out different sexual personae and identities, which is especially useful for people who are unsure about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • You can have the thrill of doing something that’s taboo.
  • It’s easier to schedule than in-person dates.
  • There’s less pressure if you’re shy or unsure what you want.
  • You don’t have to worry about STI transmission or pregnancy.
  • For some people, showing sending nude photos of themselves or being naked in front of a webcam is simply hot, so the technology becomes the actual medium through which arousal happens.

That’s why I think the biggest flaw of this article is that Jacoby didn’t interview anyone. Yes, it’s an op-ed, not a story, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your research. Had Jacoby asked at least a few people who have sex through technology why they do it, she probably would’ve yielded answers other than “Because I’m lonely” and “Because I have no self-esteem.”

But even if those were the answers, again, the problem isn’t the Internet. The problem is that we do, in fact, live in a society where many people are lonely and have low self-esteem. We should help them. And in the meantime, if meeting sexual partners through the Internet is helping them, why the hell not?

I’m sure, though, that most people who have virtual sex don’t do it because they have no self-esteem. They do it because it’s fun, because it turns them on, because they haven’t met anyone who lives in their area yet, because they don’t want to deal with risky situations, because it lets them be someone other than who they are in person, and any number of other reasons. Human behavior, especially when it comes to sex, is much more complex than Jacoby suggests that it is, especially when you consider that what seems pathetic and sad to one person may be empowering and life-altering to another.


Cautionary note: none of this is to suggest that all sex is automatically Good and Empowering and Problem-Free just because someone has chosen it. My point is only to push back against the idea that there’s something inherently wrong with/pathetic about online sex. Jacoby may be correct to worry about sexual objectification, but it seems patronizing to me to insist that women who are having a good time are actually objectifying themselves and this is therefore “sad.” A thorny issue, to be sure, that will probably warrant its own post.


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  1. 1
    Raging Bee

    Jacoby simply leapt to the conclusion that the women who do sexual stuff online are avoiding “real” sex and that they’re “lonely” and have low self-esteem…

    There’s a stereotype of a certain kind of man, who bullies a woman into giving up all her interests and having sex with him by insinuating that anything else she does is just for the purpose of avoiding the “real man” she’s afraid of but secretly desires and needs. Jacoby’s comments here are very similar to that stereotypical male contempt for a woman’s own interests. And she calls herself a feminist? This must be the next iteration of the right-wing, anti-sex, anti-porn version of “feminism.”

    I’ve been in a couple of online relationships, and I found it both interesting and ironic that such interactions can be both totally pornographic and very cerebral at the same time. And such relationships can have the opposite progression to meatspace relationships: where the latter tend to start with talking about various interests and then lead to sex, the former can start with the sex (“I wanna slide my hand under that sundress and…”) and then move on to other common interests. Or they can pause the interactive-fantasy-role-playing and suddenly start talking about WHY they’re turned on by this or that fantasy action.

    There needs to be a lot more understanding of sex and desire than one sees in a lot of “real” relationships — and online sex is a way to reach at least some such understanding with much less risk of offending a partner or trampling on his/her relationship needs.

  2. 2

    Great post. I never get the whole ‘digital technology is horrible’ thing, and I don’t see the online social scene as something that’s in competition with meatspace – they’re like two circles that have a large degree of overlap for anyone. Online communication is just a different form of communication, no better and no worse than any other.

    On sex, there seems to be this idea some people have that certain acts are *real sex* and everything else is an inferior substitute. That seems silly to me, like someone saying certain foods are *real foods* and others are just inferior substitutes – chocolate isn’t a complete meal, but sometimes that’s what I want to eat and I would think it silly for someone to clutch pearls because I at a PBJ instead of a ‘real’ sandwich. I’d imagine that sex is the same way (I’m asexual so I have to do some imagining) – masturbation isn’t necessarily a substitute for sexual activity with another person, it might just be something different that’s enjoyed for its own sake.

    The other problem with Jacoby’s position is that it’s just another level of shaming someone for what they do sexually. If everybody is having a good time, there’s no call for shame.

  3. 3

    I find that texting in particular has unquestionably enriched my sex life. Texting is a means of communication perfectly suited to tiny, bite-sized expressions of affection.

    I find the contrast between blogs, Tumblr, and twitter is a good way of thinking about it. Generally speaking, I use blogging for long, processed thoughts. I use Tumblr for brief, paragraph-sized thoughts. I use twitter for sentence-length thoughts. Strictly speaking, I don’t have to restrict myself this way. I could write a blog post and put it in 300 tweets. I could write a sentence and put it on my blog. I never do, though, because twitter is particularly well-suited for the individual sentence. And not only do I tend to isolate my brief thoughts to being expressed through twitter – I almost certainly wouldn’t be expressing them anywhere if twitter didn’t exist. Twitter causes, enables me, to communicate in a particular way that I probably wouldn’t communicate in if I didn’t have this particular technology facilitating it.

    Texting is a lot like Twitter, but for more personal communication. I will text a friend of mine who live thousands of miles away if I see something that reminds me of them when I’m browsing in a shop. I’ll text a long-distance partner that they posted that picture on Facebook and I thought it was incredibly sexy and it made me think about that time we [redacted], or that I can’t concentrate on work this morning because I’m thinking about fucking them. Texting enables just these sorts of little bite-sized expressions of affection, and in that way it has made my connections, sexual and otherwise, closer than they would have been without it.

    In conclusion, technology is awesome and sexy.

    Except for these newfangled “book” things. Ever since the printing press, no one has any appreciation for the spoken word anymore. What is it with kids these days, anyway?

    1. 3.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      I find that texting in particular has unquestionably enriched my sex life.

      Oh yes. :D

      Except for these newfangled “book” things. Ever since the printing press, no one has any appreciation for the spoken word anymore. What is it with kids these days, anyway?

      Seriously! Nobody has any appreciation for memorizing entire plays and epics anymore! These kids, too lazy to commit anything to memory, carrying everything around all written-down-like.

      1. 3.1.1

        :D, Miri. Nearly 2400 years ago, Plato imagined in his dialogue Phaedrus someone having these objections to writing: (1) it will make everybody’s memory atrophy, since they can consult writing rather than their memories, and (2) writing will give people the appearance of understanding that they don’t really have.

        Plato’s society had acquired writing a few centuries earlier, or more properly, had re-acquired writing. So writing could well have been controversial in his day, especially among those who liked to memorize big epics.

        Some ancient people were averse to writing. The Druids, that Celtic priestly guild, had done lots and lots of memorization, and the only written accounts of them are by various Greek and Roman and Irish authors. So did they refuse to write down their lore to make memorizing it the admittance price to their club?

  4. 4

    Excellent, excellent post.

    I just want to dwell on this part for a second more:

    It’s much less risky, especially for women who know they’ll get blamed if they’re assaulted while meeting with a partner.

    If women choose to seek sexual gratification from a stranger in person, they run two very real simultaneous risks, physical and psychological: being fucking attacked. A stranger may rape them, and anyone who finds out about it– including the stranger– may judge them.

    If a woman chooses to seek sexual gratification from a stranger online, the former risk is gone and the latter risk is greatly reduced, almost eliminated provided the interaction is effectively anonymous.

    I can’t help but be– perhaps irrationally– angry at Jacoby for overlooking the importance of this. She is, in effect, slut-shaming every woman who has ever engaged in cyber sex by concern trolling about how fulfilling it is or isn’t for them. Since when is it even her business? There are few more obvious ways to go wrong than to assume you know what someone wants and then lecturing them about how they’re failing to get it.

    1. 4.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Yes. I actually wish I’d devoted more space to this because I think it’s a huge missing puzzle piece here. The Internet levels the playing field somewhat by making gender a bit less relevant, including when it comes to putting yourself at risk.

      What’s weird is that people often moralize about how dangerous it is to meet people online because they might learn private information about you. This is a risk, but it’s a much greater risk in person.

  5. 5
    Brian Engler

    I suspect generational disparity is involved, as it is in many technology-based issues. Clearly, though, age differences alone don’t explain all possible viewpoints. Privilege and proximity have been mentioned already.
    This sounds like an interesting basis for a panel at WIS3, if parties would be willing. Susan, Miri — who else? Maybe you should raise it with the organizers at CFI.

    1. 5.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Heh, actually, a “women on the Internet” panel would be extremely useful and interesting in general. :)

      1. 5.1.1
        Brian Engler


      2. 5.1.2

        I’m a woman on the internet *coughhintcough* :-p

    2. 5.2

      I agree that in Jacoby’s case, it’s likely that the generational thing is a contributor. She’s 68. The first cell phones capable of sending texts with embedded photos appeared in the year 2000 or thereabouts.

      That’s a lot of water under a lot of bridges — I think one’s sexual preferences and kinds are pretty much defined in your teen-aged years, yes?

      1. 5.2.1

        kinks. not kinds. preview is your friend.

  6. 6

    On sex, there seems to be this idea some people have that certain acts are *real sex* and everything else is an inferior substitute. That seems silly to me, like someone saying certain foods are *real foods* and others are just inferior substitutes

    Watching a cooking show on TV isn’t cooking. Pressing one’s nose up against a bakery window may be enticing and may involve mouth-waterfing, but it isn’t eating.

    I think that Ms. Jacoby was dwelling on feeling puzzled about online sex in which the two separated parties don’t touch each other. For people who grew up before the internet, the idea of “sex without touching” could seem strange or empty. (Of course, that misses the point that each participant may well be touching xirself.)

    To be clear, I think Miri’s blog post here is more useful and more complete than Ms. Jacoby’s op-ed piece. The op-ed reminds me of a lot of the complaining articles in the food community about how oh-so-dreadful it is that people sometimes eat frozen food that is heated up in a microwave, instead of devoting time and energy to a more elaborate ritual. Why my ancestors would have never dreamed of such a thing. Oh, my!

  7. 7

    Going to disagree with the title, since I can’t with the actual post. Cybering is sad (for some) when it’s only not in person because of geography and economics.

  8. 8
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Although being physically with people, especially if sex is involved, obviously has huge advantages, interacting with people online also has huge advantages that Jacoby is ignoring, especially for people who are shy or picky.

    Or have fantasies that can’t be feasibly, ethically, or physically indulged in meatspace, for that matter. Cybersex roleplaying seems to be quite decently popular, ironically enough.

  9. 9

    Susan Jacoby’s tech-phobic views are exactly why I haven’t read any of the longer form stuff she’s written, including her book. Generational excuses only go so far… my [not at all inherently tech-savvy] 72-year-old grandmother has learned to actually use and enjoy many of the mediums her grandkids use to communicate, including video chat, facebook, online social games, and texting. Obviously I don’t expect anyone to actually go that far and adopt these things for their own use, but if a random high-school-educated retiree is capable of trying to see tech tools from the perspective of her digital-native grandchildren, then one would think a highly educated person who makes their living having and espousing opinions could be bothered to try and see these things from more than just her own limited perspective.

  10. 10
    keresthanatos...I am my Evil Twin

    A very thought provoking piece of writing. However, the sadest thing personally about online sex is also the sadest thing personally about RL sex,….. I AIN’T GETTIN’ ANY (well sad for me anyway). You young ones do what comes naturally, as long as it does not harm anyone.


    1. 10.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      Thanks, keresthanatos! Since you’re a first-time commenter, I’m going to point out politely that I like for folks to keep their comments relevant to the topic at hand, and as sad as your current dry spell is, it’s not really relevant to this discussion. We’ve had a bad history here with guys leaving comments complaining about their (lack of) sex lives, so please don’t do it. That said, good luck to you.

  11. 11
    Patrick Smythe

    Sometimes when my partner and i have sex we watch each other masturbate without touching each other at all. This is pretty similar to cybersex, I would have thought, and a lot of fun.

    1. 11.1
      Raging Bee

      And I’m sure someone in Jacoby’s camp will find a way to call that “sad” too.

      As others have noted already, the generatinal-divide excise only goes so far. The problem is not that Jacoby is not tech-savvy, it’s that she’s really not sex-savvy.

    2. 11.2
      Raging Bee

      Sorry, that’s “generational-divide EXCUSE.”

  12. 12
    Greta Christina

    I’m reminded of people who complain about how modern life is so atomized and disconnected, everyone emails and Facebooks and texts and it’s so impersonal and distant. Not like in the old days.. when we talked on the telephone.

    Seriously. I have seen this idea seriously proposed. m-/

    See, here’s the thing. People will use whatever technology is available to connect with one another. Sexually, and otherwise. We will use Skype, texting, instant messaging, chat rooms, email, tape recordings, the telephone, ham radio, letters… hell, I bet people were using stone tablets to talk dirty to each other. Each of these means of connection has advantages and disadvantages. Different advantages and disadvantages will be more or less important to different people; we will all have different cost-benefit analyses.

    So where does this compulsion come from to look at the ways other people are connecting sexually, think, “I would not enjoy that”… and leap to the conclusion, “They must not enjoy it either, and they are therefore doing it for sad sad reasons.”? Especially without bothering to, you know, talk with the people who are connecting in this way, and find out why they do what they do and why they like it? I can’t even.

    And for the record: yes, I’ve done cybersex in my time. It was a great way to be adventurous about connecting sexually with lots of different people, in a way that felt physically safe.

    1. 12.1
      Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

      I’m reminded of people who complain about how modern life is so atomized and disconnected, everyone emails and Facebooks and texts and it’s so impersonal and distant. Not like in the old days.. when we talked on the telephone.

      Seriously. I have seen this idea seriously proposed. m-/

      I’ve encountered this, sort of, and I can’t help taking it a bit personally. I HATE talking on the phone. It is intrinsically stressful and distracting – to the point where I wonder if phone speakers produce something like infrasound that I’m sensitive to. Or maybe it’s just that phone calls always seem to come when I’m in the middle of something, and are rarely explicit about whether they’ll be long enough that it’s more convenient for me to abandon it and then have to start again. It occupies one hand no matter what, there are almost always connection problems or people speaking too softly or people pretending that any air movement at all makes it impossible to hear me (and I live in a state where the weather forecast is basically “FUCK YOU” eight months of the year), and I am very, very very easily visually distracted, especially by words on anything, and conversations always seem to drag on and on and on. It has both the “no time rethink and compose a response” aspect of face-to-face discussions and the “no body language feedback” aspect of online interactions, only worse because almost no one “says” emoticons while doing it. I can probably count on my fingers and toes the number of phone conversations I’ve had in my life that I seriously enjoyed and didn’t want to end. Trying to have sex over it would be a nightmare. In fact, I may well have one tonight. x.x

      Ditto for all the “how could anyone enjoy THAT?” sex-shaming (and usually slut-shaming and kink-shaming) garbage – explicit, in the mild form of jokes that take for granted that no one really does, to the rhetoric that takes the same for granted. Blech. >.>

      1. 12.1.1

        I don’t like phone calling either — it seems to me like a rude interruption, and it’s easier to keep track of what people were saying when it’s in writing. That’s true even of text chat, which I like, and which I recommend as a real-time alternative to phone calls or online counterparts like Skype. BTW, Skype also does text chat.

    2. 12.2

      I can’t help but be reminded of the recent XKCD, bemoaning ‘The Pace of Modern Life.’ http://xkcd.com/1227/

      It’s much easier to wax nostalgic and critique new manners of communication and connection than to stop and consider that ‘the way you do it’ might not be ‘the only way to do it.’ It’s a persistent hobgoblin of human cognition which I think all people fall victim to at some point or another – whether it’s critiquing modes of communication, sexual expression, or in this case, a combination of the two. While the tendency might not be easily vanquished, one hopes someone like Jacoby will recognize her own biases and try to be a bit more thoughtful the next time around…

  13. 13

    There’s a slight problem with her drawing an analogy between virtual sex and virtual food. Virtual food will not stop you being hungry, but virtual sex can still get you off.

    I am sure I have seen some research somewhere (I have this problem of reading a lot of things, filing interesting facts then completely forgetting the sources) that for the most part people do online/mobile interactions in addition to meat space interactions they would already do anyway (or to facilitate meat space interactions). I have certainly found this to be true. I came relatively late to mobile phones, but I find I communicate more with my spouse now than I did before. I have not substituted texting for actually talking to him. I text him about things I would not bother phoning him about, or would likely forget by the time I saw him again.

    1. 13.1
      Raging Bee

      Sorry, that’s “generational-divide EXCUSE.”

    2. 13.2
      Raging Bee

      Virtual food will not stop you being hungry, but virtual sex can still get you off.

      Also, virtual sex can still provide an emotional connection — and in fact it could provide a BETTER emotional connection, without the limiting constraints of bodily needs or frustrations. Isn’t that what people want from sex — an emotional connection and gratification, not just fucking a body? People say that a lot these days, and not just college-educated people either; so I’m really surprised that someone of Jacoby’s caliber could miss that much-talked-about basic point about sex.

      PS: My above comment should have been in response to #11. Sorry, I blame the demons of masturbation for that non-tech-savvy mistake.

  14. 14

    I find it interesting that she seems to be so worried about women in these regards, but seems to accept that somehow less-than types of relationships (in her view) are the norm for men…? That, to me, kind of adds to the slut-shaming vibe.

    1. 14.1

      Or else she thinks that online sex is yet more sexual exploitation of women by men. That may explain why she is much more concerned about women than about men in online sex; she may think that men don’t need as much protection as women do.

  15. 15
    John Horstman

    This “technology is evil” thing again? I think there’s a TV Trope for that (yup).

    Also, I’d like to point out that self-objectification is impossible. Objectification is rendering someone or something as an object; in order to do so (in order to render anyone as anything), one must be an agentic subject. One cannot render oneself without agency, because the act of objectification is itself agentic – the objectifying subject is necessarily an agent, not (exclusively) an object. Jacoby appears to be conflating sexualization with sexual objectification. Sexualization can, of course, be problematic in some contexts, but it’s not necessarily bad (while I would argue that denying someone’s agency – objectifying someone – is always bad). This isn’t unique to her, of course – it’s a really common problem, made more irritating by how common it is. (It is entirely possible that Jacoby’s hypothetical man or dog is objectifying the hypothetical woman, and vice versa, but the woman is pretty much already put into a position where others might potentially objectify her by existing in a sexist and/or rape culture, so engaging in technology-mediated sexual activity isn’t particularly different on the potential-for-others-to-objectify-one count than simply existing.)

    1. 15.1
      Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

      I once heard an actually coherent, substantive definition of “objectification.” You’d think the exact wording would have stuck with me, because after years of being used to refer to “things with sexual overtones that involve one or more women and would make me the speaker personally uncomfortable,” having a coherent, substantive definition offered is basically earth-shattering, but it was something very close to “Using someone to fulfill your wishes, without regard for their own needs or desires.”

      There are branches from that under which “self-objectification” is coherent – doing things you hate because you think you’re Supposed To, for instance – but it’s pretty much never used that way.

      (while I would argue that denying someone’s agency – objectifying someone – is always bad)

      Dismissing someone’s ability and right to make their own sexual decisions, including ones the observer might prefer not to make, for instance.

  16. 16

    I’m late to the discussion, but I’m glad Stephanie linked to this post today so that I didn’t miss it.

    Although it’s clear to me that you’re right and Jacoby wrong about this issue, I can sympathize with her thinking. In fact, ten years ago, I might have agreed with her. That was before I admitted to myself that I was kinky, and it had never occurred to me that the internet could be a useful, even invaluable, source for exploring my sexual desires. Like you, I have really good friends I’ve only met once or twice in meatspace, largely because there aren’t all that many people into my kinks in or near my hometown. So while I haven’t exactly sexted, I’ve communicated on-line about all manner of things I ever thought I’d tell anyone else, I’ve flirted, and I’ve used the internet to converse until I felt safe enough to set up riskier, in-person meetings.

    If I weren’t kinky, I don’t know that I would ever have stumbled into this world, although I suspect I would have had to, sooner or later. If you haven’t seen it, I can understand why it’s so puzzling. And like all other parts of society, male entitlement often casts a long shadow, with men seeming, at least in kinky spaces like FetLife, to be much more inclined to send unsolicited crotch shots than women are. But in this, as in sex in meatspace, the issue is consent, not the activity in question. If Weiner’s sending pictures of his member to women who don’t want to see it, that’s a problem. If it’s consensual, then it’s none of our damned business.

    1. 16.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      What’s interesting is that Jacoby doesn’t even address men in this situation. She doesn’t claim that their higher propensity for sending unsolicited dick pics is “sad.” Only women seeking sexual gratification online is “sad.”

  17. 17

    Maybe she means the sad part is seeking online gratification with someone whose ego is as large as Weiner’s appears to be? But, yeah, if a feminist is going to criticize this phenomenon, it makes no sense to leave men out of the picture entirely!

  1. 18
    How Funny Is That? » Almost Diamonds

    […] You mean he thinks Greta and Jen and Miri and I are all prudes? How funny is […]

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