Time was when the mere mention of internet dating was made in hushed, mumbled tones over cocktails with one's best friend, trying to explain what it was, never mind the questions, judgmental comments and valid concerns about axe murderers and crazies.
There are those who still shy away from the online world, still those whose dating repertoire doesn't include at least one Yahoo, Match, Nerve or AFF date, but they are apparently fewer and farther between. Women account for an increasing percentage of Internet users, and since the Internet is for porn (okay, maybe that's just MY Internet) and ladies like the shopping, it stands to reason that more and more women are using their PCs to shop for dates.
I've had my fair share of Internet dating, which coincided with blogging about sex and eventually working for a porn site. Couple that with inadvertent networking and you have the birth of a community of women bloggers connected not by geography or even life experiences, but by the mere fact that we are comfortable sharing private details of our lives online. It is a unique phenomenon, this community of writerly women.
Audacia Ray, my friend and self-proclaimed "intrepid pervert and smutmonger" wrote a book about ladies getting online called Naked on the Internet: Hookups, Downloads and Cashing in on Internet Sexploration. I read this book (hell, I'm in this book), and now I'm going to tell you why you should, if you haven't already, run out and buy the thing.
If you read either of my blogs with any regularity, you already know that I heart Audacia Ray. She is one of my closest friends in this community of online ladies, and someone whom I admire greatly. If you read Dacia's blog, you also know that she is damn smart and usually manages to sound cool even when she's juggling many deadlines and running on no sleep. Really, what's not to love? She's hot, clearly smart, emotionally open in that bloggy way, and incredibly busy. I don't know any other grad students who manage school, thesis writing, book deadlines, porno productions and self-promotion, let alone blogging, while managing some semblance of a personal life.
My personal life–and therefore leisure time–is spare these days, so my reading list takes a hit. I only read things which truly interest me and from which I might learn new things. I AM a woman on the Internet. You might think that a book about women and the Internet would fall into the "I'll read it when I get around to it" camp, but here's the great thing: I learned a ton while reading this book.
Topics range from online dating to lady sex bloggers, the Internet as a resource for sexual health information to cyberdildonics. It's a lot of information–perhaps too much for some–but organized in such a way that the reader could skip around if they wanted, instead of reading it straight through. I like that in a book.
Ray, as intimidatingly smart as she is, is so deft at relating to her readers on a personal level, making the seasoned Waking Vixen reader smile and nod at her use of parenthetical asides which serve to clarify and amuse. Some of the topics covered are complicated and require trust on the part of the reader that Ray will guide them through the twisty-turns and out the other end of the chapter. Chapters 4 and 5, about female-produced independent porn and sex workers, respectively, are such chapters. As a former sex worker, Editor in Chief of $pread Magazine and a porno writer and director, she brings forth a lot of information and manages to make it interesting and accessible to the reader who's had virtually no exposure to the ins and outs of sex work and porn.
Reading NOTI (I know, it's a great acronym, right?), I tried to imagine myself a first year Women's Studies major, encountering an academic discussion of women-produced Internet porn for the first time and I was struck by the sheer volume of knowledge. It's this, combined with the fact that Ray doesn't interject many of her own opinions about the content, letting the women's experiences speak for themselves which puts her, I think, in the company of Women Who Affect Change. My sophomore-at-Bennigton self wants to host a coffee shop reading and have this book title tattooed on her inner forearm.
This is not a "you've read the blog, now read the book" phenomenon. Ray uses her academic prowess to amass the real life experiences of women across the Internet and then makes them accessible to the reader. Naked on the Internet is not the personal story of Audacia Ray, though in a way, it is. She has the fortune of being present at this stage of the Internet and the shifting paradigm of sexuality in America, and of having been involved in so many aspects of Internet sexuality. As I write this, Dacia is in Amsterdam, a keynote speaker at the C*lick Me Netporn Festival, the initial inquiry for which she received via her MySpace.
Buy the book. Bring it with you to one (or all) of Dacia's upcoming promo events, listed on the front page of Waking Vixen. Tattooing yourself is optional.