Digital Articulations of Sexuality and Gender: An Introduction
In a post-human society where bodies dance, blend, and flirt with the digital world in previously unimaginable ways, we find digital media a fruitful space for interrogating the (not-so-) subtle shifts in sexual identity across the intersections of gender, class, race, celebrity, religion, spirituality, body type, beauty, and other markers of difference. Emergent digital technologies offer new, innovative ways to perform, understand, and witness sexual identity online. Identity intersections chaperon those experiences and, in turn, dictate the ways in which we perceive, mark, and perform sexuality. In digital spaces, even those designed explicitly for sexual purposes, other facets of identity infiltrate and influence participants’ experiences. It would be dismissive of us to engage articulations of sexuality and gender without simultaneously investigating how sexuality and gender intersect with other identity categories and systems of power.
This special section highlights scholarship in the areas of sexual identity across a range of intersecting identities in digital media and technology. Articles in this special section examine various digital media platforms including youtube, digital exports, mediated films for training purposes, and television. They examine the specific ways in which people use digital media to challenge, redefine, and perpetuate dominant constructions of sexuality and desire, as well as insert bodies, sex, and sexual performances into virtual spaces. Our goals for this special forum were to (1) unpack the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality within digital media contexts; (2) focus on the processes of experiencing sexuality within social and digital media spaces; (3) examine the queer potential of social media; and (4) offer a comprehensive understanding of sexuality and digital media from various methodologies, critical perspectives, and areas within communication, gender, sexuality, and media studies.
The first essay, “GLOing Depictions of Sexual Minorities: Sex & Sexuality in Gay- and Lesbian-Oriented Media” by Bradley Bond examines the history of gay-and lesbian- oriented (GLO) media and offers a content analysis of the sexual depictions. Bond posits that LGB sexualities are depicted as the sexual social norm in GLO media, suggesting that GLO media exposure may positively influence the sexual socialization of LGB adolescents.
The second essay, “Exporting Indian Masculinity” by Murali Balaji interrogates the commodification of Indian male sexuality through sites like YouTube. Balaji highlights how the cultural production of hetero-normative Indian masculinity has changed in the digital era and why commodification of the sexualized Indian male body has become transnationally viable via the digital articulation of a homogenized version of Indian masculinity that seemingly erases cultural borders and regional differences, replacing them with a Eurocentric ideal of how Indian men should look.
In her article, “The Bed Intruder” News Video Goes Viral: Antoine Dodson as Internet Celebrity and Commodity, Riché Richardson explores the internet sensation Antohine Dodson and the ways in which class, race, education, and geography affect virality on the internet. Her essay offers implications for Antoine Dodson’s media construction by drawing on critical work from areas such as queer studies and the digital humanities to examine how race, region, masculinity, and sexuality made him an internet phenomenon overnight.
Finally, Bruce Drushel investigates the 1962 surveillance operation of a public restroom that resulted in the arrest of 18 men on sodomy charges. “Homosexual Depravity” On Film or Social Media Camp: The Evolving Framing of a Men’s Room Sex Sting, examines the frames constructed for the news story, the sponsors, and the how the frame elements perpetuate temporal constructions of “gay,” “homosexual,” and “queer.” He argues that these temporal constructions, and their contestations, could not exist with the democratizing influence of new media outlets.
Amber Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages and Communication at Prairie View A&M University. She may be contacted by e-mail at aljohnson at pvamu dot edu or by phone at (936) 261-3708.
Jake Simmons is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Mass Media at Angelo State University. He may be contacted by e-mail at daniel dot simmons at angelo dot edu or by phone at (325) 942-2031.
© 2014 Amber Johnson and Jake Simmons, used by permission