Feb. 7, 2011 at 3:00 PM ET
Is it possible to talk about the Internet and sex without everybody totally freaking out? Maybe so, according to a couple of recent articles taking the middle ground on the hot-button conversation.
Despite the hyperbolic "Drowning in Porn" cover title, New York Magazine"s three articles on the subject are "surprisingly smart, thoughtful, and hysteria-free — even when discussing the affects that the prevalence of porn has on the youth of today," Gawker’s sex blog Fleshbot recently observed.
Most recently, U.K. Observer Internet columnist Aleks Krotoski pointed out, "The accessibility of online porn can lead to sexual enlightenment." Krotoski goes on to emphasize the importance of non-hysterical discussions on the topic:
It is true that one in 10 websites features pornographic material, and also that you need only to barely scratch the surface of the upstanding face of the Web to find communities gathered around all kinds of debased kinks. But when it comes to reflecting on the impact of online sex on our offline lives, there needs to be less sniggering and fewer accusations about social corruption. The politics of sex are being transformed by the Web.
Writing for a U.K. paper and all, Krotoski cites British "experts" on the topic of the Internet and sex, but it all pretty much applies to the U.S. as well. For example, "British culture has been fascinated by talking about sex for a very long time," Professor Feona Attwood told Krotoski. (Dr. Attwood is an academic and editor of Porn.com, a collection of research from specialists in this field.)
"But pre-Web, we had a much more puritanical view of what the possibilities were," Dr. Attwood said. "Older media are dominated by a view of sex as scandalous and dangerous, and its whole depiction of sex has been pretty predictable." That’s pretty much true for Americans. too.
Petra Boynton, a sex educator and online relationship agony aunt (that’s what Brits call advice columnists – isn’t it adorable?) confirmed that Internet aside, she still gets the same old questions — dudes worried about their junk (I’m paraphrasing) and ladies a’dither about relationships. She said she doesn’t see a lot of evidence for the Internet wrecking those relationships, either: "Places like Facebook haven't caused an outbreak of infidelities," she told Krotoski. "It simply enables people to meet up and form relationships."
Here in the U.S., America’s top "agony aunt" Dan Savage regularly tells readers of his syndicated Savage Love column and podcast listeners, that the Internet is an excellent source for those who previously thought they were alone in sexual interests.
The Internet is also a lifesaver for teens who have nowhere else to turn for advice on their own emerging sexuality, as Savage’s It Gets Better Project shows.
In a recent public appearance moderated by brother Bill Savage, a senior lecturer in English at Northwestern University, Dan did acknowledge that Internet porn can lead to unrealistic expectations. Brother Bill concurred: "Learning about sex through pornography is like learning how to run a cigar factory by watching Carmen."
More about the annoying way we live now: