Mark S. Bonham Centre for
Sexual Diversity Studies


The Sexual Representation Collection Presents: Susanna Paasonen and Jenny Sundèn

October 17th 2018 at 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Faculty of Information, 140 St. George Street, Room 417

Susanna Paasonen presents “NSFW, or, Sex as Risk”

The Internet slang term and social media tag NSFW—“Not Safe/Suitable for Work”— is widely used in Anglophone contexts (and beyond) to organize and regulate sexual content and pornographic imagery, often in connection with humor. Zooming in on the tag that functions as both a warning and a lure, this talk examines the logics of content classification and filtering connected to it. More specifically, it asks how the boundaries of risk and danger become drawn in connection with sexuality on online platforms, and on Facebook in particular, as well as what other avenues remain available for considering the distribution of risk and harm online. Refusing the default association of sex and risk, upon which the marker NSFW more or less playfully operates, I argue for shifting focus onto considerations of consent in the circulation of sexual content, as well as for highlighting the value of sexuality in and for people’s lives as these intersect with social media.

Susanna Paasonen is Professor of Media Studies at University of Turku, Finland. With an interest in media theory, sexuality, and affect, she is the author of Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography (2011), Many Splendored Things: Thinking Sex and Play (2018), and Not Safe for Work: Sex, Humor and Risk in Social Media (with Kylie Jarrett and Ben Light, 2019), as well as co-editor of Working with Affect in Feminist Readings: Disturbing Differences (2010, with Marianne Liljeström) and Networked Affect (2015, with Ken Hillis and Michael Petit). 

Jenny Sundén presents “Play, Secrecy, and Sensitive Data: On Networked Intimacy and Public Sex”

Based on a new materialist analysis of ‘vibrant matter’ (Bennett 2010) to understand the disobedience of sexual objects in toy-based play, in this presentation I investigate the politics of thinking digital technologies as operating partly beyond human forms of agency and control. I use as my core examples privacy breaches and data leaks in the world of networked sex toys – such as a vibrator which allegedly audio recorded its clients’ play sessions without express permission – to engage with questions of intimacy and privacy in digital networks of humans and nonhumans. In particular, the discussion focuses on the consequences of new forms of publicness for how we can understand sexual intimacy and sexual play. What does it mean to be have an intimate moment when connected to a device, a medium, and a network that is by definition public, corporate, and promiscuous (cf. Chun 2016)? And how could we imagine other ways of being intimate and exposed – yet safe – in public digital networks?

Jenny Sundén is Professor of Gender Studies at Södertörn University, Sweden. Her work is situated in the intersection of digital media studies, feminist and queer theory, and affect theory, and she currently works on questions of technological brokenness, disruption, and delay. Her articles appear in Ada; Configurations; European Journal of Cultural Studies; Feminist Media Studies; First Monday; Games and Culture; Lambda Nordica; Somatechnics, and Transformations.

This event is presented by the Sexual Representation Collection, hosted by the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, and co-sponsored by the Centre for Ethics.

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