Sex, weblogging, and power

A few years back sex was introduced into weblogs in a major way and we went all shivery with anticipation about the freedom we had to explore our sexuality online–through pseudonyms or not, as the case may be. Women incorporated semi-nude glamour shots of themselves into their blog designs; or posted photos of their breasts covered in wet, white t-shirts (all in a good cause of course). The men joined in at one point, posting photos of their penises laid out on tables in various states of arousal, like sausages ready to be sliced for pizza. We were like the kids (both boys and girls) in the Klub Howz looking through girlie magazines and imagining the possibilities.

Sex had an impact on weblogging, of that there is no doubt. When Technorati first created its Top 100 list, based on links scraped from weblog pages, many of us noticed that a) there were few women; and b) what women there were tended to be associated with sex in some way. At the time, the list was heavily skewed to the Suicide Girls, with a slight aside into sites like Wonkette’s.

However, when I went to write this essay and dropped back into Technorati’s Top 100 to get some statistics, I was rather amazed at what I found: not only was sex not a significant indicator of popularity in the list, neither politics nor technology were, either–not cleanly, and with strong enough representation to stand on their own, as in “If you want to be a top blogger you must…”

Among the women in the list, several were part of group weblogs, such as BoingBoing and Corante. Though Corante does have a disproportionate number of men weblogging as compared to women, there is such a strongly sexless feel to the site that not even having Chris Locke, aka Rageboy, as a rare commentator can break through all that lab-coated dispassionate goodness. And while it’s true that BoingBoing has somewhat bought into the ’sex sells’ mindset lately, I’ve never heard of the site referred to as ’sexy’; nor do lonely men and women turn into the site on Saturday nights in order to indulge their fantasies. Lordie, at least I hope not.

You could point to Wonkette as a weblog that uses sex, but her popularity seems to be related more to her access of insider information combined with a voyeuristic interest in watching her fast paced and rather fashionably seedy lifestyle than anything directly related to sex. As for that other ‘bad girl’ of Washington DC, Jessica Cutler is fast becoming Jessica “who?”

No one can say that Dooce is about sex, though she writes frankly and baldly about most aspects of her life, as if it were continuously under a 10,000 watt bulb; Michele from A Small Victory is known more as a gun-totin’, “better red than dead” mom then a sex kitten.

As for the men on the list, ’sex’ is most likely not the first word that pops into your mind when you hear their names. No, not even instasex.

Sex and sensuality, as threads among many in a weblogger’s works, can add to the seductiveness of their writing and other offerings. Sex for the sake of sex, though, doesn’t hold attention when it’s stripped of all context of life; not once we were past that first heady moment of discovering our sexual freedom in this medium.

Somehow, in the space of a couple of years, the concept of ’sex sells’ quickly grabbed a foothold in weblogging and then just as quickly slipped down the slope along with other sure fire ways of becoming famous.

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