Sexual Agency & Subjectification Online

Posted: August 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

Feona Atwood goes beyond common discourses related to the sexuality of females and brings forward new femininities, under which women are creating new forms of culture online. Showcasing sexual agency in new media forms such as online blogs, chat rooms and communities, women are constructing themselves in a “legitimized” sexual manner. The author looks at how these technological developments have made a proper space for certain women to create new forms of sexuality and femininity. No longer are we in a world where prostitutes and cam girls are seen as immoral choices but rather accepted by the female participants as embarked upon as actual occupations or professions.

The author shows that these women are not objectified but rather the exposure of their bodies is seen as a status symbol as women are actively engaging and desiring these depictions. This provides these women with empowerment and choice as they themselves want to be portrayed in that manner. The author mentions how the possession of a sexy body is presented as a woman’s key source of identity. This further adds to the social construction and importance of “beauty” to the female body. I could not and cannot picture or ever even think about this type of cultural production as a form of work!

I do not understand how this form of cultural production is important or how it contributes to the use of technology by certain women. Does this not go to show that women are using the Internet in ways that demean them or their status? Can we say that women are only good for consuming the Internet in terms of shopping or just providing pleasure to lustrous eyes through various forms of porn?

It was hard to read this and critically analyze since the examples and characters described made me uncomfortable. This is probably due to the fact that I see the traditional feminist concept of objectivity of the female body first. It was very surprising to know that most of the women who participate in this type of media are active and intelligent as they can easily spend hours talking about topics from gardening to even history. In the article a sex worker for Furry Girl gives us some personal information but we cant judge or even guess what circumstances led her to start such work. What factors would have led these women take up such type of work besides not having a stable source of income? Also websites on which these cam girls provide their services range from gothic style to vegan that further cater to different consumers of such content.

Women challenge the norm of their sexual passivity and compliance, where sexual activity is a source of strength and independence, not some sort of oppression. Women who dress in a certain way choose to do so in order to facilitate a strong confident personality, so when men look at them it is not seen as powerlessness.  I agree with the author as how the image of female celebrities also contributes to this discourse, as the concepts of success and admiration are attached to their body.

The following article shows the personal experience and circumstances of an ex-hooker who was later was fired from her public school teaching position due to choices made in the past. She was harassed by the people around her and even by the media, but kept her ground as her past defined who she was. She expressed how being labeled as a prostitute automatically grants them certain stereotypes that are costly. After being fired from her teaching job, she has taken up a position where she teaches adults of different backgrounds about memoir writing. She states that, “Whether if your are a prostitute or a public school teacher, each character is an individual, unique and complex.”

Do you think that there are women who actively take this occupation seriously and see this form of work through technology as empowerment?


  1. I believe when technologies like phones and the Internet were created for use, they were not intended for female use. Like we discussed in class this Monday, women have moved from seeing these mediums as prohibitive tools to using them as tools for empowerment as well as mundane tasks.
    Attwood writes that, “Camgirls present themselves as cultural producers, challenging the representation of women as technologically inept and as passive sexual object. They take on power relations of looking, defying objectification and experimenting with ways of refusing, commanding and controlling the spectators’ gaze.” In other words, women have come a long way from being objects of Scopophilia and are taking power from objectors.
    In response to your question on whether Camgirls are actually empowered through their profession, I believe that there are some women who do take their jobs seriously and use it as a form of empowerment. However, I don’t think it applies to most of them. The structures of patriarchy are so pervasive that we have come not to recognize them. As feminists taken this course, majority of the things we address and recognize comes from our exposure and experiences to discourses and history that affect the female gender. On the other hand, average women do not bother or recognize the structures of patriarchy therefore like most cam girls; they do not associate their profession with female empowerment. While their activities on camera can be interpreted as contributive to female empowerment, I do not believe it is their intention to do so. Therefore, women empowerment through technology exists but does not apply across the board to all women, and also because acknowledging such an idea negates the fact that there are women who are being abused through the same mediums.

    Moyo A.

  2. Amber Kandola says:

    I don’t really agree with what Camgirls do or support it in any way, however when answering whether or not I believe Camgirls see their work as empowering and take their occupations seriously – I answer yes. These girls choose to create these websites and choose to perform, discuss, post pictures, etc (specifically referring to the Camgirl sites discussed in Attwood’s article). They take their occupations seriously because to them it is a job. They get paid, they get fans, they get requests. These girls take seriousness in their work to provide their viewers what they want, but by using their choices, limits and controls. I believe the Camgirls mentioned in Attwood’s article do in fact have the intent to empower themselves. They are providing entertainment through their own means and therefore take pride in what they do. Referring back to the article, Attwood states that through these sites, these women create a mode of self-presentation which is “proud and shameless and which attempts to give new meaning to bodily display and sex commerce.”She goes on to say that “sexual display is both personalized and politicized.” I believe by this she means that the Camgirls create their sites that display what they want and ultimately send a political message that they think is necessary to portray. For instance, Furry Girl uses alt porn in a political way as she challenges typical ideas of beauty and substitutes it with alternative images, thus ultimately empowering those who don’t follow the ideal beauty image. Attwood also states that these Camgirls “express themselves and have a say in how they are presented.” I believe this helps empower these girls because self expression is always a form of empowerment, as someone feels pride in who they are and empowered by what they choose to do. In addition, just to get some insight into the lives of these Camgirls I found a blog that addresses the question asked by Z. Shad, and may help change the minds of some readers:

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