Sexual exploration in the ‘Digital Age’
: How the internet informs the sexuality of young people in contemporary Britain

  • Elena Golemeeva

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Nowadays sex has become increasingly public, with not only the visibility of different sexualities, but with the salience of sexual themes in popular culture. Arguably, the Internet has brought the biggest shift in how young people think and learn about sex and sexuality. This has brought new anxieties and concerns accompanied by a political call for parents and educators to police young people’s technology-mediated sexual behaviors. The focus on overemphasising the negative consequences of the Internet, however, is inevitably shutting down important conversations and positive outcomes associated with it. This investigation seeks to contribute to the debate by turning directly to young people to explore technology-mediated sexual behaviors through their own experience and understanding. The research followed a qualitative approach for the purpose. The first phase, focus groups, were concerned with the overall role the Internet play in the personal and social lives of young people including for sexual purposes. The results from four focus group discussions revealed that on a daily basis young people use multiple online platforms to maintain supportive relationships, for self-expression, to stay informed on important contemporary topics (including sexuality), and for recreation (e.g. gaming). This led the study to the second phase, individual interviews, in order to explore how the Internet informs participants’ sexuality among other sources. Findings indicated that young people use multiple sources to make sense of their emerging sexuality, but conversations with peers/romantic partners and engagements with the Internet were ranked as the most meaningful. In addition, interviews indicated that young people are not passive consumers of online practices and they have the ability to critically evaluate the impact of online engagement such as viewing porn or sexting. Overall, what became evident through young people’s stories is that, although amplifying experiences, the Internet and technology-mediated practices are just another context for
societal and cultural habits to be displayed and there is an urgent need for more overreaching sexual education.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMaria Ioannou (Co-Supervisor), Jason Roach (Co-Supervisor) & Jo Woodiwiss (Co-Supervisor)

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