Wednesday 22 September 2010

Topic 1.3 - Dating, Intimacy and Sexuality

Pascoe, C.J. (2009). Intimacy in Mizuko, I et. al. Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Available from

This week we were asked "How far would a partner/spouse have to go online before it is considered cheating? Up to what point is flirting online acceptable? How 'real' is cybersex?"  We were also asked to discuss dating, romance and intimacy in the context of the Internet, drawing on this week's reading by Pascoe.

I've been using the Internet since the early to mid 1990's and I know many people who have met somebody in some type of "online" way, although none who were teenagers so Pascoe's article provided a different perspective for me.  He uses the example of teenagers to break down courtship practices into four different areas - meeting, flirting, going out and breaking up - and argues that new media tools have changed the ways that these things occur.  People can now look up others online, utilise shared contacts to facilitate a meeting and flirt using online social networks which allow for "controlled casualness".  These networks are both private realms away from adults, and also public arenas that allow other members of the social network to view what is happening.  Once a courtship reaches the "couple" stage, social media can be utilised to display affection and to reinforce a relationship in the eyes of others, and if it gets to the "breakup" stage then there is often a public element of "sweeping up the digital remainders" of the relationship.  At the same time, however, individuals can also use these same networks to monitor others, which increases the vulnerability of those being monitored.

I found Pascoe's article interesting but not necessarily compelling.  While it may indeed be true that teenagers prefer to meet in person first and then go online to conduct the "flirting" stage, in my own experience, admittedly not with teenagers, many people nowadays also meet online first and then develop a relationship later.  While new media tools have certainly allowed all of these activities to be conducted in new ways, ultimately I don't believe that meeting somebody online is greatly different from meeting anywhere else, and I don't think relationships should be viewed any differently either, so the first two questions of this week's question is interesting to me from the perspective that the word "online" could be taken out and the question would be the same.  At the end of the day, if one person's behaviour hurts the other then it's not appropriate, whether it's conducted online or offline.  Flirting is flirting and cheating is cheating, no matter where it happens.

The question of cybersex is also interesting.  While the physical side of things doesn't seem to be a factor, I imagine that actually getting into that situation with another person would involve finding/meeting somebody who was willing and probably also some online flirting, ultimately leading to the grand event.  In other words, there would have to at least be some mental energy devoted,and possibly also an emotional connection.  So I would consider that getting to that point with somebody other than your partner/spouse would be just as hurtful to them as any other form of cheating.

Overall, it is evident that the Internet and people's everyday lives are becoming more intertwined, to the point where "online" and "offline" relationships are not necessarily distinguishable anymore.



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