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Sexy and They Know It: Sex Blogging and Jezebel

In addition to critiquing and altering its form, like discussed in the previous post, there has been a long history of the keeping of female’s body issues and sexual desires under wraps. However, new digital media, like Jezebel, are providing an outlet for these sexualized discussions. All of these different blogs promote a greater understanding and dialogue about women’s health and issues that have been traditionally taboo, from birth control, abortion to sexual desires and experience.

For sex blogs, it is often described that the Internet as one of true place that a woman can express her sexual wants and desires (Muise 2011: 416). Most of the dialogue on women and sexual desires is very heteronormative, and rests on the cultural standards that women should not talk about wanting or liking sex (Muise 2011:412). However, this is changing increasingly as culture becomes more sexualized and dialogue about women’s issues increased in media (Attwood 2009:7) These blogs are more “masculine” and “aggressive” as “they resist the sexual passivity that characterizes traditional feminine discourses” (Muise 2011: 416). Many of the blogs about women and sex on the internet are written in a single narrative format, and include accounts heteronormative to the point where many think they are written by men (Attwood 2009: 8). This is because socially these women are seen as writing male fantasies, and it is easier to imaging these pieces being male originating them imaging that females would express their feelings in such a way (Muise 2011: 412). The “entitlement to sexual pleasure” expressed in these blogs is “ consistent with a masculine version of sexuality” (Muise 2011: 414)

While there are some of these more personal account of sexual activity on Jezebel, there is less of an emphasis on personal encounters.  In a female targeted equivalent to the NCAA tournament, Jezebel held a “March Madness” bracket to compare chocolate to sex, with different types of chocolate and different sex positions as the competitors (Missionary Sex won over Brownies in the final round) At first, this aspect of Jezebel was more prominent, especially earlier in the site with very sexually open writer Tracy Egan who posts under the pseudonym Slut Machine. Egan posted details about her sex life. This sexual content reached its full saturation at the time of the  “Thinking and Drinking” incident, (which is described more here) when Egan and Moe Tkacik gave a very sexually charged speech, and said many things that people deemed highly offensive (Wazyn 2010: 11). During the event, which was ticketed and live-streamed, they demeaned rape victims (Egan: I think the reason I haven’t been raped, is cause I’m like smart) and downplayed the importance of safe sex (Tkacik: “Pulling out always works for me,” Egan: “ And I know this is irresponsible to say, it’s the most fun way not to get pregnant”(Wayzn 2010:12).

More recently, the sexual nature of Jezebel has been toned down. Egan, who now has a toddler, is more prone to write posts like this one about motherhood, on “How I Went from Being a Heartless Bitch to a Sappy Cry-Baby” (Egan 2012) There are still pccasionally personal accounts of sexual tales (such as this women who sold her underwear online to people with fetishes) However, looking at the bottom of these posts show that many of them have been aggregated from around the internet, originally sourced to other blogs.  The “sex” in Jezebel still has some element of actual sexual encounters, but has  evolved beyond the smaller scale personal blogs.

Sources:

Attwood, F. “Intimate Adventures: Sex Blogs, Sex `blooks’ and Women’s Sexual Narration.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 12.1 (2009): 5-20. Print.

Egan, Tracie. “How I Went from a Heartless Bitch to a Sappy Cry-Baby.” Jezebel. 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5901791/how-i-went-from-a-heartless-bitch-to-a-sappy-cry-baby&gt;.

Helmsley, Fiona. “I Sold My Panties Online, and My Mom Found Out.” Jezebel. 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5881749/i-sold-my-panties-online-and-my-mom-found-out&gt;.

Muise, Amy. “Women’s Sex Blogs: Challenging Dominant Discourses of Heterosexual Desire.” Feminism & Psychology 21.3 (2011): 411-19. Print.

Stewart, Dodai. “March Madness Sex vs. Chocolate: We Have A Winner!” Jezebel. 3 Apr. 2012. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. <http://jezebel.com/5898770/march-madness-sex-vs-chocolate-we-have-a-winner&gt;.

Wazny, Katelyn M. “Feminist Communities Online: What it means to be a Jezebel.” B Sides 8 (2010): 1- 23.

“Celebrity, Sex, Fashion [and cute puppies]. Without Airbrushing.”

The role of advertisers plays an important role in the format of Jezebel’s page. The organization of Jezebel  reveals important information about the content categories. Denton’s goals to emulate traditional media was  reinforced with a redesign of the front page of Jezebel,and the other Gawker Media holdings to look more like the front page of a magazine or tabloid (Denton 2010). In an article published on Gawker’s life advice/organization blog Lifehacker, Denton explained how the different changes are a result of media convergence, blurring the lines between digital communications and traditional media (2010). The format allows the editors to differentiate, and highlight certain articles or categories as more important or popular (Denton 2010). In fact, much of the redesign was based on the intrinsically linked process of drawing viewers and advertisers (Denton 2010). This reflects further Jezebel as a profitable media enterprise, which could have an unknown effect on the content present and could effect how the material may be edited to cater to drawing in the most advertisers. However, this cannot be proven without thorough content analysis at the scale this blog cannot complete.

Specifically for Jezebel, each article is tagged with a different label, which indicates the content of the article.  Underneath the highlighted article on the main page there are headlines for other articles divided by some of the more popular labels. Along the side of the page is a traditional blog view, which shows the label and article title. Some of the labels are features such as “Dirt Bag” and “Rag Trade” which are published regularly, while others are adjusted to more current issues such as “Pill Baby Pill” which covers issues with the current debate about birth control.

The blog defines itself as describing “Celebrity, Sex and Fashion for women.”  These three categories loosely divide most of the content on Jezebel. The “celebrity” indicates content that focuses on gossip and celebrity news, including a feature called “Dirt Bag” which lists celebrity gossip, and “Snap Judgment” which shows pictures of celebrities, and asks commentators their opinions.   One common celebrity article is “midweek madness,” which analyzes the celebrity tabloid magazine covers for the week, playfully mocking the focus on celebrity pregnancy (Mascia 2010). The “sex” content focuses on issues related to women, including women’s health news, personal relationship and motherhood anecdotes, accomplishments by women in news and similar content. The “fashion” category harkens back to Jezebel’s proclaimed roots as an alternate to traditional women’s magazines, (Holmes 2007) and takes up a smaller portion then the other two categories.  There are segments such as “Rag Trade,” which outline news about designers and the fashion world, snf “Photoshop of Horrors”, which shows egregious use of Photoshop in advertising, as well as reviews of fashion shows (Mascia 2010). However, as a member of Gawker empire, the payment of the writers is driven by page views (Grigoriadis 2007). This leads to a de facto fourth category, composed of labels such as “squee” and “aww” which, as their titles suggest include videos of cute children, adorable animals and other videos which are going viral from websites like YouTube and Vimeo. These videos  are what Denton describes as “palette cleansers” – softer pieces to dilute the snark that may driver advertisers away. (Denton 2010) All of this content is compiled to form what Jezebel views as what women want to hear about.

Works Cited:

Denton, Nick. “Why Gawker Is Moving beyond the Blog.” Lifehacker. Gawker Media, 30 Nov. 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. <http://lifehacker.com/5701749/why-gawker-is-moving-beyond-the-blog&gt;.

Grigoriadis, Vanessa. “Gawker and the Rage of the Creative Underclass.” New York News & Features. New York Magazine, 14 Oct. 2007. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. <http://nymag.com/news/features/39319/&gt;.

Mascia, Jennifer. “A Web Site That’s Not Afraid to Pick a Fight.” NYTimes.com. New York Times, 12 July 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0CEEDB103BF931A25754C0A9669D8B63&gt;.

McCarthy, Amy. “Self-Righteousness, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Celebrity Gossip: Why Jezebel Is Ultimately Bad For The Feminist Movement.” Feminists for Choice. Feminist for Choice, 8 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://feministsforchoice.com/self-righteousness-gwyneth-paltrow-and-celebrity-gossip-why-jezebel-is-ultimately-bad-for-the-feminist-movement.htm&gt;.