Websex - What's the harm?
Like most people, the internet is a big part of my life. So when I found out that BBC Three wanted me to look into how the web is changing the most important but private part of our lives – our sex life - I jumped at the chance to be involved.
Facebook, Twitter, the internet... I use them all the time. So I thought what I'd find out would be nothing more than I already know. People chatting, flirting, maybe sending the odd picture - isn't that about as far as it goes? How wrong I was!
Working on Websex – What's the Harm? has opened my eyes to a completely new world where just about anything goes when it comes up to hooking up with the opposite (and also the same) sex online.
One of my earliest fears - apart from what I might 'see' if you know what I mean - was that nobody would be willing to talk to me about what they did online. Let's face it, would you? I'm not sure I would!
But with a lot of perseverance I was able to meet up with a load of really interesting young people who opened my eyes to this world. Young people like 18 year old Raf from Birmingham. For the last two years he's been using every social networking platform he can lay his hands on just to target girls, with surprising results.
And there was Caragh, who uses technology for a different reason. Bullying at school tore her confidence to shreds, and it only came back when she discovered that the computer in her bedroom unlocked a whole new world...
Talking to them made me wonder how many people like Raf and Caragh are out there. A bit of digging told me there wasn't much research into the use of smartphones and the web for flirting and sex.
So I hooked up with Professor Andy Phippen who was running a study on what 16-24 years olds were doing online and what he discovered shocked me. An amazing 80% of those asked have used either a smartphone or the web for some kind of sexual contact.* This is the first time anyone's ever had any kind of figures about how widespread websex is.
But that's not where the shocks ended for me. Do you know your so-called 'private' conversations and images can be copied and posted onto websites for anyone to see - no matter how intimate they are? I didn't until doing this programme. Or that there's a whole load of websites where young people strip off for complete strangers? Again a whole new world for me.
Websex - What's the Harm? was a real eye opening experience to say the least, but I'm really proud of it. It's lifted the lid on a world that I sort of knew existed, but not to the extent that it does. I was genuinely shocked with what I discovered... and I can't wait to see what you think about it.
*Source: Use of Technology in Relationships by Young Adults, Prof A Phippen for UK Safer Internet Centre. Sample: 865 self-selecting individuals reporting age 16-24
Websex - What's the Harm? is on Tuesday 9 January at 9pm.