Liquid stigma? Mobile media and commercial sex

Authors: Emilia Ljungberg*,
Topics: Communication, Sexuality
Keywords: digital labor, commercial sex, sharing economy, apps, startups
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Edgewood AB, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The paper analyzes the role of mobile digital media in the shifting meanings of sex, work and sex work. The analysis centers on the app Ohlala that claims to connect their users for so called paid dating. Through discourses about new media technologies, startup culture and the “sharing economy” paid dating is presented as a kind of remunerated non-work, blurring the boundaries of work and leisure as well as those of commercial sex and unpaid romance. The paper analyses how Ohlala constructs respectability by making use of the discourses of new mobile media, but most of all how the female users navigate the notion of stigmatized non-work through their construction of ambivalent and temporary identities. Despite the growing mainstreaming of commercial sex, not least through digital media, scholars and social commentators of digital culture have often overlooked commercial sex, with the exception of online pornography. Yet the analysis of how various actors use digital media to manage and define commercial sex brings new dimensions to longstanding debates about online identities, labor, sexuality and gender in neoliberal late modernity.

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