We first became enthralled by Audacia Ray’s new book because it boasted a cover with numerical code arranged in the form of an ass. Bloody brilliant, if you ask us. Of course, the inside worked for us as well. Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads and Cashing In on Internet Sexploration is a seriously painstaking peek into the way that women have/are using the internet to explore their sexuality and in some instances getting paid to do so. Ray, a former sex worker, covers the gamut in her interviews — sex bloggers, online escorts, online daters, cammers, and more.
In the following Q&A, the author, emailing from New Amsterdam where she was due to give a talk at the Summer Institute on Sexuality and Culture (among other things, we presume), chats about her favorite sex blogs, how she answers questions about what she does for a living, and porn websites that may or may not be demeaning to women.
Q: If somebody asked what you did for a living, what exactly would you tell them? Would it change depending on who asked the question?
A: I’m always straight-forward about what I do for a living: I’m an editor, writer, researcher, blogger, curator, and filmmaker who works in sex. I usually like to leave the conversation kind of open-ended and let people ask questions if they have them or gloss over it if they don’t want to know.
Q: I'm wondering what prompted you to write this book. Has there been very much research done into this sort of thing?
A: Most of the books about sexuality and the internet so far tend to be either kind of fluffy how-to’s about hooking up and using technology for naughtiness, or really heavy-hitting clinical studies of Internet sex addiction (though the jury is still out on whether the latter actually exists). I wanted to write a book that was a critical analysis of what’s happening with female sexuality online — both good and bad — but I also wanted it to be fun and readable. I think it’s also significant that I am part of many of the communities I write about — that’s definitely an added dimension to the whole thing.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your academic background.
A: I just finished my MA in American Studies at Columbia University this spring. I also have a BA in Cultural Studies from Eugene Lang College. I got pretty fascinated with sexuality when I was an undergraduate, though some of my academic interest was a bit of a cover for my naughty side. That said, I love both information about sex and sex itself.
Q: Do you think that the internet gave birth to the sexy nerd thing going on right now?
A: The Internet didn’t create the sexy nerd, but it definitely opened up the possibilities for her. It’s kind of weird and funny to me that knowing a lot about computers and the Internet has actually become a cool thing.
Q: What are two of your favorite sex blogs?
A: I don’t read as many personal sex blogs as I used to. These days two of the sex-related blogs that I look at the most are Dirty Found ( http://dirtyfound.typepad.com) which is basically an online collection of dirty pictures, notes and drawings that people find and send in. Also, the blog by filmmaker Tony Comstock, The Art and Business of Making Erotic Films (http://www.comstockfilms.com/blog/tony/)
Q: What do you think about websites like Bang Bros, and other sites that are demeaning to women?
A: This is a bit complicated because there are really two dimensions to porn and the degree to which it is demeaning — there is what you see (the performance) and there is what you don’t see (the production). Just because a scene looks demeaning doesn’t mean that the woman participating felt demeaned or that the male performers or production company were nasty and abusive to her off-camera. People like doing and watching all kinds of sex. On the other hand, there is definitely ugly stuff that happens in the porn industry, and that shouldn’t be downplayed.
Get ready to talk dirty with Audacia this Thursday, June 7th, at the Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St, Brookline |7 pm | free | 617.566.6660.