“Teenagers Get Undressed on the Internet”

Young People’s Exposure of Bodies in a Swedish Internet Community

Malin Sveningsson Elm 1
  • 1 Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Media and Communication Studies, Karlstad University, Sweden


During recent years, Swedish media have paid attention to young people’s presentations of self in Internet communities, claiming that these presentations are often sexually provocative. The present study aims at investigating young men’s and women’s presentations of self in Sweden’s largest Internet community, focusing specifically on how bodies are displayed. This is done through quantitative and qualitative content analyses of the photos of 88 users. Results show differences in what parts of their bodies the young men and women show: women tend to focus on faces, while men focus on torsos. Results also contradict the image depicted by the media, as very few photos in the sample can be described as provocative. One explanation offered here concerns the specific Internet community’s lack of anonymity, meaning that the interaction is steered by the same mechanisms and social pressures at work in offline environments.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Ahrnstedt, P. (2007, March 23) ‛De misshandlas, filmas och hånas på Youtube’, PC för alla, http://www.idg.se/2.1085/1.99244

  • Ambjörnsson, F. (2004) I en klass för sig. Genus och sexualitet bland gymnasietjejer. Stockholm: Ordfront.

  • Balsamo, A. (1995) ‘Forms of Technological Embodiment: Reading the Body in Contemporary Culture’, in M. Featherstone & R. Burrows (eds.) Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk: Cultures of Technological Embodiment (pp. 215-238) London: SAGE.

  • Balsamo, A. (2000) ‘The Virtual Body in Cyberspace’, in D. Bell & B.M. Kennedy (eds.) The Cybercultures Reader (pp. 489-503) London: Routledge.

  • boyd, d. (2001, 21-22 June, 2001) Sexing the Internet: Reflections on the Role of Identification in Online Communities. Paper presented at the Sexualities, Medias, Technologies, University of Surrey.

  • boyd, d., & Heer, J. (2006, January 4-7, 2006) Profiles as Conversation: Networked Identity Performance on Friendster. Paper presented at the Hawai’i International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-39), Persistent Conversation Track., Kauai, HI.

  • Bäckman, M. (2002) ‛Från last till lust. Om sexualitetens individualisering’, in L. Gerholm (ed) Lust, lidelse och längtan. Kulturella perspektiv på sexualitet (pp. 17-41) Stockholm: Natur och Kultur.

  • Bäckman, M. (2003) Kön och känsla. Samlevnadsundervisning och ungdomars tankar om sexualitet. Göteborg: Makadam.

  • Cohen, S. (1972) Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. London: MacGibbon & Kee.

  • Daneback, K. (2006) Love and Sexuality on the Internet. Gothenburg: Gothenburg University.

  • Drotner, K. (1991/1996) At skabe sig – selv. Ungdom, aestetik, paedagogik (2 ed.) København: Gyldendal.

  • Dunkels, E. (2005) ‛Nätkulturer – vad gör barn och unga på Internet?’, Tidskrift för lärarutbildning och forskning (1-2), 41-49.

  • Ekmark, M. (2004, August 22) ‛Minderåriga viker ut sig på internet’, Dagens Nyheter, http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=147&a=302301&previousRenderType=6

  • Enochsson, A. (2005) ‛Ett annat sätt att umgås: yngre tonåringar i virtuella gemenskaper’, Tidskrift för lärarutbildning och forskning (1-2), 81-99.

  • Ess, C., & Jones, S. (2003) ‘Ethical Decision-making and Internet Research: Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee’, in E.A. Buchanan (ed) Virtual Research Ethics: Issues and Controversies (pp. 27-44) Hershey: Idea Group Publishing.

  • Goffman, E. (1959/1990) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin Books.

  • Gram, M., & Richardt, L. (2006) “All Eyez On Me” – unge pigers seksualiserede iscenesaettelser på Arto’, Social Kritik (105).

  • Göthlund, A. (1997) Bilder av tonårsflickor. Om estetik och identitetsarbete. Linköping: Linköping Studies in Art and Science.

  • Haraway, D. (2000) ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’, in D. Bell & B.M. Kennedy (eds.) The Cybercultures Reader (pp. 291-324) London: Routledge.

  • Hayles, K.N. (1999) How we Became Posthuman. Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

  • Hernwall, P., & Lundmark, S. (2006) The Body as a Marketplace – Body Ornaments and Body Modifications as Expressions of a New Relation to the Self and the Body? Paper presented at the 9th Nordic Youth Research Information Symposium NYRIS 9.0, January 12-14, Södertörn.

  • Herring, S. (1994) Gender Differences in Computer-Mediated Communication: Bringing Familiar Baggage to the New Frontier. Paper presented at the American Library Association annual convention, June 27, Miami.

  • Hirdman, A. (2004) Tilltalande bilder: genus, sexualitet och publiksyn i Veckorevyn och Fib aktuellt. Stockholm: Atlas.

  • Hirdman, A. (2007) ‛Visuellt genus – Internet, självbilder och mediala representationer’, in Unge, køn og pornografi i Norden – Mediestudier (pp. 255-327) Copenhagen: Nordisk institut for kvinde- og kønsforskning (NIKK)

  • Kendall, L. (1996) ‘MUDder? I Hardly Know’er! Adventures of a Feminist MUDder’, in L. Cherny & E. Reba Weise (eds.) Wired_Women. Gender and NewRealities in Cyberspace (pp. 207-223) Seattle: Seal Press.

  • Knudsen, S.V. (2007) ‛Betydning og brug av Internettet. Om gratis pornografi og selvpraesentationer på Internettet i Norge’, in Unge, køn og pornografi i Norden – Mediestudier (pp. 159-254) Copenhagen: Nordisk institut for kvinde- og kønsforskning (NIKK)

  • Liljeström, M. (1990) ‛Institutionaliserad heterosexualitet och undersökning av könssystem’, Kvinnovetenskaplig tidsskrift, 4(19), 18-29.

  • Lipton, M. (1996) ‘Forgetting the Body: Cybersex and Identity’, in L. Strate, R. Jacobson & S.B. Gibson (eds.) Communication and Cyberspace. Social Interaction in an Electronic Environment. Cresskill, New Yersey: Hampton Press.

  • McRae, S. (1996) ‘Coming Apart in the Seams’, in L. Cherny & E. Reba Weise (eds.), Wired_Women. Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace (pp. 242-264).

  • Merskin, D. (2005) ‘Making an About-Face. Jammer Girls and the World Wide Web’, in S.R. Mazzarella (ed.) Girl Wide Web. Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity (pp. 51-67) New York: Peter Lang.

  • Mifflin, M. (1997) Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. New York: Juno Books.

  • Monaghan, L. (2000) ‘Creating “The Perfect Body”: A Variable Project’, in M. Featherstone (ed.) Body Modification (pp. 267-290) London: SAGE.

  • Mulvey, L. (1975) ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen, 16(3), 6-18.

  • Månsson, S.A., & Söderlind, P. (2003) Sexindustrin på nätet. Aktörer, innehåll, relationer och ekonomiska flöden. Stockholm: Egalité.

  • Nakamura, L. (2000) ‘Race in/for Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet’, in D. Bell & B.M. Kennedy (eds.) The Cybercultures Reader (pp. 712-720) London: Routledge.

  • NordicomSveriges Internetbarometer 2006 (2007) MedieNotiser, 2. Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet.

  • Paasonen, S. (2007) ‘Online Pornography, Normativity and the Nordic Context’, in M. Sveningsson Elm & J. Sundén (eds.), Cyberfeminism in Northern lights. Gender and Digital Media in a Nordic Context. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  • Sevick Bortree, D. (2005) ‘Presentation of Self on the Web: An Ethnographic Study of Teenage Girls’ Weblogs’, Education, Communication & Information, 5(1), 25-39.

  • Siibak, A. (2006, 28 June – 1 July, 2006) Romeo and Juliet of the Virtual World: Visual Gender Identity of the Most Rremarkable Youngsters in Estonian Dating Web Site Rate. Paper presented at the CATAC’06, Tartu, Estonia.

  • Siibak, A. (2007) “I wanna be Your Flower!” Visual Gender Identity of the Most Remarkable Women in Estonian Dating Website Rate. Paper presented at the 3rd Christina Conference on Women’s studies and 4th European symposium om Gender and ICT, Helsinki.

  • Skeggs, B. (1997) Att bli respektabel. Göteborg: Daidalos.

  • Stern, S.R. (1999) ‘Adolescent Girls’ Expression on Web Home Pages. Spirited, Sombre and Self-conscious Sites’, Convergence, 5(4), 22-41.

  • Stern, S.R. (2002) Virtually Speaking: Girls’ Self-disclosure on the www. Women’s Studies in Communication, 25(2), 224-253.

  • Stern, S.R. (2004) ‘Expressions of Identity Online: Prominent Features and Gender Differences in Adolescents’ World Wide Home Pages’, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 48(2), 218-243.

  • Stone, A.R. (1991) ‘Will the Real Body Please Stand Up? Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures’, in M. Benedikt (ed.) Cyberspace: First Steps. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  • Stone, A.R. (1995) The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age. Cambridge: MIT Press.

  • Svahn, M. (1999) Den liderliga kvinnan och den omanlige mannen. Skällsord, stereotyper och könskonstruktioner. Stockholm: Carlsson.

  • Sweetman, P. (1999) ‘Anchoring the (Postmodern) Self? Body Modification, Fashion and Identity’, Body & Society, 5(2-3), 51-76.

  • Sveningsson Elm, M. (2006) ‘Young Men’s Gender- and Identity Work in a Swedish Web Community’, in M. Consalvo & C. Haythornthwaite (eds.), AoIR Internet Annual Volume 4. New York: Peter Lang.

  • Sveningsson Elm, M. (2007a) ‘Doing and Undoing Gender in a Swedish Internet Community’, in M. Sveningsson Elm & J. Sundén (eds.) Cyberfeminism in Northern lights. Gender and Digital Media in a Nordic Context. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  • Sveningsson Elm, M. (2007b) Young People’s Presentations of Relationships in a Swedish Internet Community. YOUNG, 15(2)

  • Sveningsson, M. (2001) Creating a Sense of Community. Experiences from a Swedish Web Chat. Linköping: Linköping Studies in Art and Science.

  • Sveningsson, M. (2003) ‘Ethics in Internet Ethnography’, in E.A. Buchanan (ed.) Virtual Research Ethics: Issues and Controversies (pp. 45-61) Hershey: Idea Group Publishing.

  • Sveningsson, M., Lövheim, M., & Bergquist, M. (2003) Att fånga Nätet: Kvalitativa Metoder för Internetforskning. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

  • Söderhjelm, S. (2002, 9 October) ‛Tonåringar klär av sig på Nätet. Pornografiska bilder på Lunarstorm och andra sajter’, Aftonbladet.

  • Thiel, S.M. (2005) IM me’, in S.R. Mazzarella (ed.) Girl Wide Web. Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiating of Identity (pp. 179-202) New York: Peter Lang.

  • Turkle, S. (1995) Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster.


Journal + Issues