I received an ARC of How Sex Changed the Internet and the Internet Changed Sex: An Unexpected History by Samantha Cole from the publisher a few months ago. It’s hard to resist a title like that. It came out already in November 2022, so if this book review piques your interest, I recommend picking up a copy.
Summary of How Sex Changed the Internet
Cole thoroughly delineates the history of computers and how they’ve been used to move conversations about sex and dating forward. She brings it full circle at the end, connecting where we are today with how it began. She poses questions about where we may go in the future and the possibilities of shaping our culture’s relationship with sex with the technology of the Internet.
She opens with the scenario of ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor, and how UCLA students created the first long-distance connection. Through each chapter, she takes you on a journey that follows message boards and chat rooms to online dating, porn sites and sex work online.
Pull quotes and sidebars add depth with definitions of technical jargon and Internet speak. Insets of related stories breathe life into the more academic narrative, weaving it back and forth between humorous, heartfelt and educational.
Feminism, Race and LGBTQ+ Issues
Cole takes a firm stance in how she presents the symbiotic history of sex and the Internet. She doesn’t simply present the facts in what many nonfiction writers would consider an objective way. Her analysis makes clear that marginalized groups are the most affected by the government’s overreach on the Internet.
She touches on how vulnerable groups use the Internet to find a community where they cannot in the real world. However, she only scratches the surface on this topic, so it could have gone more in-depth with that analysis.
Likewise, she discusses how the Internet and computer technology opened up the world for talking about sex and sexuality. But statements like, “One of the most basic drives humans have is sex,” miss the nuance of queerness. It excludes asexuality/aromanticism.
Despite these shortcomings in the text, it still does a fairly good job of connecting these issues with the rise and evolution of the Internet.
Rating for How Sex Changed the Internet
Overall, Cole adds a sense of humor to what could have been a dry, academic read. I found the comprehensive inclusion of the technical side only made the subject more fascinating.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars