gender, sexuality, families
This page points to writing about gender, sexuality and
ties in digital environments.
It covers -
Much of the writing about gender online is disappointingly
thin, overly polemical or postgrad chatter. As with studies
of class, the most valuable insights are often buried
within larger works.
Kimberly Cook and Phoebe Stambaugh's dogmatic 'Tuna Memos
& Pissing Contests: Doing Gender and Male Dominance
on the Internet' in Everyday Sexism in the Third Millennium
(London: Routledge 1997) claim that "the problem
for women is that men got there first", so that cyberspace
reflects male socialization and interests.
We are underwhelmed by Zillah Eisenstein's Global Obscenities:
Patriarchy, Capitalism, and the Lure of Cyberfantasy
(New York: New York Uni Press 1998) or Dale Spender's
glib Nattering on the Net: Women, Power & Cyberspace
(Sydney: Spinifex 1996).
Sadie Plant's Zeros & Ones: Digital Women &
the New Technoculture (London: Routledge 1997) is
less jolly, perhaps more incisive. Lynn Cherny & Elizabeth
Weise edited Wired Women: Gender & New Realities
in Cyberspace (Seattle: Seal Press 1996) which we
found less doctrinaire than women@internet: Creating
New Cultures in Cyberspace (London: Zed 1999) edited
by Wendy Harcourt, The Spectralization of Technology:
From Elsewhere to Cyberfeminism & Back (Maribor:
MKC 1999) edited by Marina Grzinic and Tracy Kennedy's
thin Women & the Internet: Feminist Experiences
in Cyberspace thesis.
Jenny Sundén & Malin Sveningsson Elm edited
the inward-looking Cyberfeminism in Northern Lights:
Digital Media and Gender in a Nordic Context (Cambridge:
Cambridge Scholars Press 2007).
Among the extensive literature on online gender bending
High Noon on the Electronic Frontier: Conceptual Issues
In Cyberspace (Cambridge: MIT Press 1996) edited by
Peter Ludlow has thoughtful essays - now available online.
Dibbell's My Tiny Life centres on digital transgender
and transgression. Judith Donath's paper
Identity & Deception in the Virtual Community,
Lori Kendall's Hanging out in the Virtual Pub: Relationships
& Masculinities Online (Berkeley: Uni of California
Press 2002) and Amy Bruckman's paper
Gender Swapping on the Internet are useful academic
Allucquere Rosanne Stone's The War of Desire &
Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age (Cambridge:
MIT Press 1995) is a wild ride through postmodernism,
complete with chapters on 'Sex, Death & Machinery:
How I Fell In Love With My Prosthesis' and 'Cyberdaemmerung
At The Atari Lab'.
We recommend instead David Hakken's Cyborgs @ Cyberspace?
An Ethnographer Looks To The Future (London: Routledge
1999). True believers may enjoy Love and Sex With
Robots: the Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships
(London: Duckworth 2008) by
David Levy or the problematical paper
by Alvin Cooper, Coralie Scherer, Sylvain Boies &
Barry Gordon on Sexuality on the Internet: From Sexual
Exploration to Pathological Expression.
Jenny Wolmark's Cybersexualities (Edinburgh: Edinburgh
Uni Press 1999) is one of the better studies of 'virtual
eros'. Julie Wosk's Women & the Machine: Representations
from the Spinning Wheel to the Electronic Age (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Uni Press 2001) offers a perspective.
This site includes detailed profiles about online
dating services and other 'social
The adult content sector is explored in a supplementary
profile elsewhere on
It was inevitable that the net - like previous media such
as the telegraph, bicycle and automobile - should be blamed
for the decline of morals and breakdown of the family.
That is evident in works such as Infidelity on the
Internet: Virtual Relationships & Real Betrayal
(Naperville: Sourcebooks 2001) by Marlene Maheu &
Rona Subotnik and in some of the more alarmist claims
by gurus such as Mary Anne Layden
about "a sexual holocaust" - so much for what
happened at Auschwitz or the Russian steppes in 1942!
- and net-induced "soaring demand" for prostitution.
Maheu warns that
Infidelity occurs when a partner in a committed relationship
uses the computer or the Internet to violate promises,
vows, or agreements concerning sexual exclusiveness.
by Beatriz Mileham of the University of Florida - alas
based on a sample of only 86 people in a 'flirting' forum
- concluded that "the internet will soon become the
most common form of infidelity, if it wasn't already".
So much for television or the 'golf widow'. Partners supposedly
betrayed by virtual infidelity, even though in most
cases no physical contact had taken place.
research appears to claim that chat rooms are the fastest
rising cause of relationship breakdowns. She is quoted
as commenting that
cyber sex there is no longer any need for secret trips
to obscure motels. An online liaison may even take place
in the same room with one's spouse
Infidelity Check site proclaims that the net has
a haven for Internet infidelity and destructive behavior
resulting in the break down of family and intimate relationships
that are so important to the fabric of our society.
Many spouses and couples have turned to strangers in
chat rooms and Internet
pornography for companionship and turned away from their
family and friends.
breathlessly warns that 'cybersex' is "as addictive
as crack cocaine", so that -
of divorce litigation is caused by online affairs
46% of men believe that online affairs are adultery
percent of Internet users become hooked on cybersex.
devote three hours each week to online sexual exploits
70% of time on-line is spent in chatrooms or sending
email; of these
interactions, the vast majority are romantic in nature.
of such claims stand up to critical examination. They
are typically unsourced or based on problematical surveys
(small samples from potentially unrepresentative populations
and uncertain methodologies). They are inconsistent with
independent large-scale studies of online behaviour.
We have suggested elsewhere
on this site that an enthusiast can have great fun by
extrapolating, confusing correlation with causation or
simply massaging data to support a particular interpretation.
A skeptic, looking at key social indicators in Australia
and OECD states, might thus wickedly conclude that the
net has strengthened the family - illegitimate births
are down and divorce rates have not increased significantly
over the past two decades (and indeed in Australia have
declined over the past three years).
Discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual affinity
remains entrenched in advanced economies - and in much
law - often because it is not recognised or is considered
to be trivial.
Points of entry to the Australian regime include the Australian
Law Reform Commission's 1994 Equality Before the Law:
Justice For Women report; Patricia Easteal's Less
Than Equal: Women and the Australian Legal System
(Chatswood: Butterworths 2001); The Hidden Gender
of the Law (Leichhardt: Federation Press 2001) by
Reg Graycar & Jenny Morgan; the federal Human Rights
& Equal Opportunity Commission 2007 It's About
Time: Women, men, work and family report and Same-Sex:
Same Entitlements report; Discrimination Law
and Practice (Leichhardt: Federation Press 2004)
by Chris Ronalds & Rachel Pepper.
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