Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
cross-cultural communication, computer-mediated communication, experiment, online anonymity, sex talk
In this study, we examined the roles of anonymity and social closeness in predicting young women’s perceptions of “sex talk” (i.e., communication about sexual interests, enjoyment, and experiences) and intentions to post such content in cyberspace. We also examined cultural differences among Asian, Latina, and European Americans. A total of 466 undergraduate women from the three cultural groups participated in the online experiment. Participants were randomly assigned to either a low anonymity condition (i.e., Facebook) or a high anonymity condition (i.e., an anonymous online forum) where they were exposed to identical sex talk stimuli. The main findings showed that greater anonymity increased both the level of perceived appropriateness of sex talk posted by other female users and participants’ intentions to post sex talk online themselves. Compared to European American women, Asian and Latina Americans reported greater intentions to post sex talk online and perceived other female users’ sex talk posts as more appropriate. The results of this study prompt educators and practitioners to help young women strategically manage their impressions of sex talk online while being sensitive to women’s cultural backgrounds. They also suggest the need for further support from practitioners, educators, and parents to construct safe spaces for young women to engage open conversations about sexual matters in the digital space.
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