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Sexy Messy: A Digital Sexual Cultures Symposium

17 May 2023 @ 9:30 am - 5:00 pm AEST

Sexy Messy Symposium

This symposium seeks to move beyond research and discussion about the neat categorisations found within sex (and gender) research by exploring how digital sexual cultures can be sites of hope, complexity, and contestation.

Sexy Messy is an online symposium about digital sexual cultures that is aimed at Higher Degree Researchers (HDR) and Early Career Researchers (ECR). We want this symposium to be the beginning of an ongoing network for collaboration, connection, and care amongst HDR and ECR’s who research digital sexual cultures.

Just like the physical act of sex itself, participating in, understanding, and navigating digital sexual cultures can be messy. Norms within these sites can be confusing, comforting, and educational. Here, identities, desires, and the search for information and intimacy intersect with platform governance, surveillance, and commercial interests. Participation in digital cultures can afford users the safety to explore different ways of being, feeling, and connecting (Tiidenberg and van Nagel 2020). However, the affordances of these spaces often enable racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and violence (Albury et al, 2021; Carlson, 2020). Similarly, while everyday data cultures and algorithms can open us up to new possibilities, they also shape and restrict how our gender and sexual identities and desires appear in digital spaces (Burgess et al, 2022; Farrell, 2021).

As researchers, we want to explore how digital sexual cultures can be sites of hope, complexity, and contestation. We invite research that sits with, rather than shuts down, this messiness and imagines a messy (but hopeful) future for digital sexual cultures. Attending to the ‘messy’ does not deny the severity of violence that occurs within digital sexual cultures, nor does it mean ignoring the ‘bad’ in search of the ‘good’. Rather, it asks us to consider the complex affective and embodied experiences that resist neat categorisation and push beyond normative and disciplinary boundaries. What insights do the ambivalences and ambiguities of digital sexual cultures offer into shifting gender and sexuality norms and practices? How can we imagine and do research that better opens up the productive possibilities and tensions for knowing, doing and feeling in digital sexual cultures? How do we hold space for considerations of risk and violence, whilst also attending to the diversity of experiences, identities, and desires?

Keynotes within this symposium include:


The event will run on Zoom and a private discord server between 9.30am– 5pm (AEST) on 17 May 2023. To improve accessibility, keynotes (and some submitted presentation) will be taped and made available to registered participants after the conference.


View the Symposium Program for more information about the event.

A face-to-face social event is planned in Naarm/Melbourne following the conclusion of the symposium. We will send details closer to the event but (weather permitting) the event will be outside at a wheel-chair accessible venue.


This symposium is aimed at HDR and ECRs, to foster ongoing collaboration, connection, and care for emerging and early-career researchers of digital sexual cultures.

If you’re interested in attending, please register to attend.


This event is supported by Prof Kath Albury’s ARC Future Fellowship ‘Digital and data literacies for sexual health policy and practice’ (FT210100085) and the ARC of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S).


If you have any questions, please contact


17 May 2023
9:30 am - 5:00 pm AEST
Event Category: