Sex Media and Sex Cultures

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New research area on sex media and sex cultures

Sexuality is fundamental to how we understand ourselves and our place in the world. Yet, rather than being something that is exclusively internal to us, sexuality is deeply informed by the cultures and media ecologies of which we are part. Sex Media and Sex Cultures at TEMA G brings together researchers working on the roles of media and culture in shaping modern and contemporary sexualities.

Sex and sexualities are ubiquitous presences in contemporary media cultures and public discourse, from concerns surrounding the effects of easily-accessible online pornography, to ongoing (and age-old) anxieties about “good” sex and “bad” sex, fears of “sexualisation” and “objectification,” or the growing availability of a plethora of sex technologies: pornography, sex toys, sex robots, sexual performance drugs (Viagra, Cialis, etc.), hormone replacement therapies, antiretroviral drugs, recreational drugs used in sexual contexts (GHB, methamphetanie, cathinones, etc.), online sex work (OnlyFans, JustForFans), dating and hook-up apps (Grindr, Recon, Tinder, Hinge, Scruff, etc.)

Understanding sex cultures through media infrastructures

The Sex Media and Sex Cultures research area at Linköping Univeristy ‘s Gender Studies department approaches sex cultures and their media infrastructures as pillars of modern and contemporary subjectivities and identity formations. In doing so, we centre the roles and affordances of different media and processes of mediation in producing, disseminating, and sustaining different sex cultures and, thus, different sexual subjects. Importantly, we do not restrict our understanding of “media” and “mediation” to the kinds of artefacts more traditionally associated with our modern and contemporary mediascapes: film, print media, television, digital media, etc.). Instead, we understand the material body itself as belonging to media assemblages whose processes of mediation not only reproduce but create embodied sexual subjects. Considered as part of media assemblages and inseparable from the technologies that constitute it, the body itself affects emotions, desires, self-perception, and connections with the world, shaping how we understand these interactions.

Critically examining sex cultures

The research we carry out in Sex Media and Sex Cultures navigates the complex political and ethical nature of our modern and contemporary sex cultures, including those that are often marginalised or overlooked, such as queer sex cultures. Whether seen as hegemonic or counterhegemonic, associated with power or resistance, or framed as liberating or oppressing, we examine sex cultures critically, interrogating the terms under which they are constituted, narrated and disseminated, the ideas behind them, the infrastructures sustaining them, and the ways in which they inform and shape us as embodied sexual subjects. Sex cultures can and often do reproduce wider systems of power and knowledge. Yet, they can also—often simultaneously—function as laboratories for experiments with one’s body and one’s self, with the ways in which we relate to ourselves and to others, interrogating the boundaries between the one and the many. As existential laboratories, sex cultures can change how we see ourselves, either by making us retreat inwards into the perceived safety and stability of our identities at the expense of others, or by encouraging us to be more open to different people and ideas and of our ethical being-in-the world.