Virtual Connections: Sexuality Meets the Internet
As online networks devoted to dating and social interaction grow, they present sex researchers with a new and challenging arena of study. This January, The Kinsey Institute paired a panel discussion with a short-term art exhibit to explore the intersection of technology and sexuality.
The panel discussion Virtual Connections: Sexuality and Relationships Online featured Indiana University professors Michael Reece (Director, Center for Sexual Health Promotion), Brian Dodge (Associate Director, Center for Sexual Health Promotion), and Bryant Paul (Department of Telecommunications). Dr Reece and Dr Dodge discussed the construction of online chat rooms as ‘public spaces,’ the potential of the internet to allow sexual minorities to form communities, and the difficulties of conducting sex research in online spheres. Dr Paul elucidated the ways in which the anonymity of the internet, or its perception as anonymous, allowed for an evolution of sexual identity in ways that may require sex researchers to reformulate the fundamental categories they currently use in their research. Video of the panel is available to watch online on The Kinsey Institute website.
In the Kinsey Institute Gallery, iGuy (HeLovesMeHeLovesMeNot.com) by artist Robb Stone featured a collection of photo and text-based collage that explores the erotic world of online social networking. All artworks were made specifically for this show and include actual images from websites such as Manhunt and Craigslist, where gay men can post profiles and look for potential partners.
In his artist statement, Stone explained that the images grew from his own experiences visiting adult sites. “I found something both compelling and very poignant about the images I was seeing. It's interesting to see how a male-oriented perspective lends itself to extreme objectification... I wanted to have a show that was informative--in that it would show what an adult profile looks like--and had some general critique about the cultural systems that come into play 'online'. At the same time I wanted the artwork to function as erotica, to be--without critique--a window into this 'way of seeing'. “
Stone suggests that iGuy (HeLovesMeHeLovesMeNot.com) is a further exploration of the concept of “the gaze” and the marketing of desire traditionally applied to imagery of women in the discourse of art and cultural theory. “I suggest that this Gaze, this way of seeing, is not only evident, but reaches an apotheosis in the way that gay men ‘look’ at each other on the internet. . . .For a period of time I observed myself and others within the framework of this construct known as ‘online dating’. What I found was a social order in which the pornographic supersedes the personal. . . . Within these online worlds very little importance is given to individuality or to personal interests. What I see is a kind of looking that tries to not see too much.”
At the iGuy (HeLovesMeHeLovesMeNot.com) exhibit opening, Stone also announced that he would be donating a portion of the proceeds of sales to the Kinsey Institute. The entire exhibit was purchased anonymously by an art collector who plans to present the exhibit at an international art event in Miami in December 2008.
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