As a result of failures in the healthcare profession, and perhaps also in sexual health education, women are facing barriers when attempting to express, control, and explore their own sexuality. In response to the constraints of medical and educational discourses of sexuality and the disregard of female perspectives in traditional forms of health communication, some women are seeking out alternative sites for communicating about sexuality. This major research paper focuses on the expression of knowledge and experience regarding women’s sexuality, sexual practices, and sexual health in online spaces. To evaluate the potentially beneficial and damaging effects of exchanging knowledge online, the construction, negotiation, and legitimization of expertise will be considered through a theoretical lens focused on sexual storytelling and dominant feminist and health discourses.
This study provides an inductive qualitative discourse analysis of three publicly available websites: girlonthenet.com, carasutra.co.uk, and sluttygirlproblems.com. The discourses of both authors and readers are analyzed through a coding scheme derived from a number of sources from the relevant literature. The broader categories of coding
allow for an understanding of how expertise is constructed, while the subcategories within these headings enable analysis of the ways in which expertise is legitimized, enforced, and policed between experts and non-experts. This particular categorization of expertise is considered through a perspective that prioritizes the personal sexual narrative as a valid form of sexual knowledge exchange, while assessing the validity, value, and influence of this knowledge on women and their individual sexuality, sexual practices, and sexual health.