Mediated intimacy: Sex advice in media culture

Barker, Meg-John; Gill, Rosalind and Harvey, Laura (2018). Mediated intimacy: Sex advice in media culture. Sexualities, 21(8) pp. 1337–1345.



The bold argument of Mediated Intimacy (Barker et al., 2018) is that media of various kinds play an increasingly important role in shaping people’s knowledge, desires, practices and expectations about intimate relationships. While arguments rage about the nature and content of sex and relationship education in schools, it is becoming clear that more and more of us – young and old – look not to formal education, or even to our friends, for information about sex, but to the media (Albury, 2016; Attwood et al., 2015). This is not simply a matter of media ‘advice’ in the form of self-help books, magazine problem pages, or online ‘agony’ columns – though these are all proliferating and are discussed at length in the book. It is also about the wider cultural habitat of images, ideas and discourses about intimacy that circulate through and across media: the ‘happy endings’ of romantic comedies; the ‘money shots’ of pornography; the celebrity gossip about who is seeing whom, who is ‘cheating’, and who is looking ‘hot’; the lifestyle TV about ‘embarrassing bodies’ or being ‘undateable’; the newspaper features on how to have a ‘good’ divorce or ‘ten things never to say on a first date’; the new apps that incite us to quantify and rate our sex lives, and so forth. These constitute the ‘taken for granted’ of everyday understandings of intimacy, and they are at the heart of Mediated Intimacy.

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