Throughout the research period, I will post research findings in an academic format to show off my fancy knowledge. This Research Findings report details the amazing stuff I discovered about online sex education for queer women using my own brain to analyze the content.
Learning about sex online is like taking a class where pretty much everything you were required to know on the test is available, but fun and with personal anecdotes and the ability to interact with the publishers of your textbook. The Internet has revolutionized the way we learn about the world, and for queer women it provides a completely different environment for learning about sex.
Through a content analysis of Autostraddle articles, I was able to derive some critical commonalities among them. I’d like to share them with you now. Is that okay?
In general, I observe that sex education online is overall sex-positive and sexually affirming in its approach. Although this is contingent on the outlets I observed, it is worth pointing out that while sex ed in high school may be based in fear about pregnancy and STDs, information strictly about reducing harm, and the “emotionality” of having sex, online writers are ready to accept that young people are actually having or are interested in having sex. They are similarly not about to shame young people for that, and instead show them respect regardless of their choices related to sex.
Autostraddle writes quite regularly about sex and relationships, and their sex-positive nature can be observed probably from space. In their article “How to Have Lesbian Sex for the First Time: A NSFW Sunday Special,” sex is portrayed as something based purely in pleasure, not with a specific purpose or with any particular emotional weight attached:
“We’ve gotten at least five billion questions via email and formspring from lesbians of all ages who haven’t had lesbian sex and are worried they don’t know “how.” Well, listen: enjoying sex isn’t about memorizing 16 positions or knowing the best angle to fuck from, enjoying sex is half-animal half-heart and only rarely has it got anything to do with your rational brain, or cognitive reasoning, or anything a person could tell you or anything you could read on the internet.
“And whereas it’s true that one day you’ll be more confident and experienced than you are now, it’s also true that your body was born knowing how to have sex like it knows how to eat and knows how to walk. Your first time doesn’t have to be a big deal, some of us don’t even remember our first times. Alternately, if you want it to be a big deal, it can be. But ultimately every woman is different — totally, completely, entirely different — from the next. So what could we tell you, really?” (The Team).
Online education also varies strongly from offline education because of an increased capacity for interaction, dialogue, and feedback, and the aspect of anonymity to spark more questions. Online audiences outnumber the average classroom by far, and when spaces are anonymous they are seen as being better platforms for trickier subjects. As indicated in the quote above, many Autostraddle readers have asked the editors directly through the anonymous platform Formspring about very specific sexual questions – proving not only that the format of sex education on the Internet is inherently audience-driven, but also that the anonymity creates a unique space for talking about sex (The Team).
Some of Autostraddle’s most popular articles by comments and views are sexual in nature or educationally focused on sexual health. Questions range from explicit and physically based to emotional and experience based. The following are questions from the aforementioned article on lesbian sex:
“So, uh. I’m stuck on the pre-game section. I’ve tried every masturbation “guide” there is and touching ‘down there’ has pretty much the same effect as touching my cheek – none. Is there some kind of magic solution for that? It’d be nice” (M).
“I actually know absolutely nothing about queer safe sex! :0
“I’ve never heard of a dental dam or using latex gloves or any of the stuff that’s showing up in these comments. What kind of resources are out there for people who only have high school health classes to go on?” (Alex).
Autostraddle also addresses these concerns through direct advice-giving on Formspring and allowing readers to lend advice through the Formspring Friday segment.
Considering sex education in the classroom is sometimes less than desirable and less than comfortable, the Internet is revolutionizing how information is made available to young people and how young queer people are learning to talk about sex. Plus, nobody’s sex education teacher ever made the “is it sex” chart:
Images without credits are always found innocently via Tumblr. Please let me know if any are yours!
Alex. “Comment.” Autostraddle. 14 November, 2011.
M. “Comment.” Autostraddle. 14 November 2011.
The Team. “How to Have Lesbian Sex for the First Time: A NSFW Sunday Special.” Autostraddle. 13 November 2011. Autostraddle.com.