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Media anthropology … (5): sexual practices

September 13, 2008

Another central arena of social intercourse sidelined to date by media anthropologists is sex.  We need to do something about this, for the implications of this neglect are not only academic, they also have fundamental practical ramifications, not least for the ongoing efforts worldwide against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. I haven’t done a Google Book search for this term through key media anthropological texts but my guess is that it wouldn’t throw up too many instances. One exception that springs to mind is the fascinating preliminary work by Bart Barendregdt (2006) and colleagues at Leiden on mobile phone porn in Indonesia (pornoaksi).

For example we know precious little about what people in different cultures do with media before, during and after sex. And I would want to know to what extent new media are contributing to what appears to be the rapid diversification of sexual practices around the globe – arguably a major cultural revolution in the history of our species. Are people – at least in affluent countries – now ’empowered’ by the internet and mobile devices to find and interact (in the flesh and/or at a distance) with sexual partners interested in highly specific practices? Do they then go onto to modify such practices and transmit them to geographically dispersed others who in turn will do the same, in a process analogous to the free software movement? How are practitioners in restricted social universes such as BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination/ submission, and sadomasochism, Weiss 2006) using media as part of their sexual, social, political and PR practices? And so on.

See Media anthropology, 15 year on (4) here


Barendregt, B. 2006 Between m-governance and mobile anarchies: Pornoaksi and the fear of new media in present day Indonesia. Paper to the EASA Media Anthropology Network e-Seminar, 28 November – 5 December 2006 (see also e-seminar on this paper).

Weiss, M.D. 2006. ‘Working at Play: BDSM Sexuality in the San Francisco Bay Area’ Anthropologica 48, 229-245


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