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Websex - What's the harm?

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Nathalie Emmanuel Nathalie Emmanuel | 15:52 UK time, Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Nathalie Emmanuel


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.

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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.


  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting show really interesting must admit dont agree with the semi bullying of that peter lad. I would do that to the 5 boyfriends who cheated on me. Justice.

  • Comment number 2.

    the show did take a different stance from what other shows on the same subject are like. guess what will be.. will always be.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why is it seen as necessary to place so much attention on sex ??

    The need for sex diminishes the more secure we feel in our selves, and that security can be found in many ways; the hormones this program calls 'sex hormones' are not just for sex, they are for our creativity. It is all a question of choice and what you want to do with your free will. Turning yourself into an erogenous zone leaves little care for actually making the world a better place to live in.

    Human beings have evolved through the formulation of social mores that allow for creative development beyond the use of sex for ego pampering and narrow self-esteem. The business world, and indeed all the corruption that is in it and in politics, thrives upon the fact that the general populace is busy satisfying insatiable needs and wants. In that respect, sex is the biggest panacea, and so long as people's attention can be drawn to it as a quick fix for their insecurities nothing substantial will improve in the world.

    Dictators, rapist, murderers, and pedos use it for the same purpose...narrow minded self-esteem to boost deep anxieties about life, like insecure chimpanzees.

    Sex at it's best really is about making children and providing for them. The simpe act, without all the ego-pampering and preening, is very pleasurable for any couple that loves one another, and ensures partners are committed to nurturing a family in an atmosphere of trust. With that we can create societies that care for everyone, rather than societies made of human erogenous zones wired up to some artificial matrix.

    I'm hoping for some programs that will help our children to grow up and see their potential as citizens of the world, not mere intellectual erogenous zones.

  • Comment number 4.

    Would anyone be able to tell me where that park is in birmingham that Raf took natalie it was called the Valley? Would really appreciate it. Thanks :)

  • Comment number 5.

    Raf should be given his own fly on the wall documentary..there is loads of potential for his misoginistic adventures.

    Great programme which I have blooged about in detail


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