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How Sex Changed the Internet


Chapter 1: The Internet Was Built on Sex

Oliver Wainwright, “Designers on acid: the tripping Californians who paved the way to our touchscreen world,” The Guardian, May 11 2017.

Messages from Ward Christensen to Andrei Scheinkman and Steve Culver, BBS: The Documentary, November 1993.

OC Weekly staff, “This Sister Oughta Be Famous,” OC Weekly, May 6, 1999.

Audrey Watters, “How Steve Jobs Brought the Apple II to the Classroom,” Hacker Education, February 25 2015.

Allucquère Rosanne Stone, “Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?” Cyberspace: First Steps, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991.

Kevin Driscoll, “Social Media’s Dial-Up Ancestor: The Bulletin Board System,” IEEE Spectrum, October 24 2016.

Kevin Ackermann, “The Old Puppet Masters: Content Moderation on Computer Bulletin Board Systems,” Georgetown University, August 12, 2020.

Katie Hafner, “The Epic Saga of The Well.” Wired Magazine, May 1, 1997.

Logan Wagner, “On-Line Sex: At a Virginia Beach Computer Bulletin Board Company, Business is Pleasure,” The Virginian Pilot, November 27, 1994.

Scott Sayare, “On the Farms of France, the Death of a Pixelated Workhorse,” The New York Times, June 22, 2012.

Author interview with Stacy Horn, January 2021.

Chapter 2: Cyber-Utopia, Censorship, and Tinysex

Henry Hardy, The History of the Net, Sept 28, 1993.

David Auerbach, “The First Gay Space on the Internet,” Slate, August 20, 2014.

Dan Greening, net.moss archive, Aug 23, 1985.

Author interview and correspondence with Mike Godwin, 2021.

George Duncan, Sara Kiesler, Mary Shaw, Carnegie Mellon University internal memorandum, “Report of Committee of Inquiry on A Study of Marketing Pornography via Computer Networks,” to Paul Christiano, August 1, 1995.

Author interview and correspondence with Richard Bartle, 2021.

Julian Dibbell, My Tiny Life, Holt McDougal, 1998.

Chapter 3: Graphic Images: The Internet Opens Its Eyes

Lawrence G. Roberts, “Picture Coding Using Pseudo-Random Noise,” IRE Transactions on Information Theory, Volume: 8, Issue: 2, February 1962.

Ken Knowlton, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Scientist,” YLEM Journal, Jan/Feb 2005 25 No. 2.

Janelle Brown, “Playmate Meets Geeks Who Made Her a Net Star,” Wired Magazine, May 20, 1997.

Linda Kinstler, “Finding Lena, the Patron Saint of JPEGs,” Wired Magazine, January 31, 2019.

T.L. Andrews, “Silicon Valley’s gender gap is the result of computer-game marketing 20 years ago,” Quartz, February 16, 2017.

CNET News Staff,“Comdex Bans X-Rated Titles, AdultDex Debuts,” CNET, November 14, 1995.

Peter H. Lewis, “The Executive Computer; Multimedia (Especially the X-Rated) Stars at Comdex,” The New York Times, November 21, 1993.

Bart Ziegler, “Banned by Comdex, Purveyors Of Porn Put On Their Own Show,” The Associated Press, November 14, 1995.

Michel Marriott, “Virtual Porn: Ultimate Tease,” The New York Times, October 4, 1995.

Michael Stroh, “Hi-tech sex world shows its face; Role: When leading computer corporations convene, porn providers set up nearby, seeking business -- and respect,” Baltimore Sun, November 23, 1999.

“AdultDex Lures Entrepreneurs Cashing In on Internet Porn,” The Wall Street Journal, November 19, 1997.

Carolyn Said, “Sex Sells on the Internet / AdultDex is the other meeting in town,” SFGate, November 19, 1997.

Peter H. Lewis, “Multimedia excitement pervades Comdex show,” Baltimore Sun, November 22, 1993.

Earl Paige, “Arrest Aids X-Rated Trade Show Producer,” Billboard, December 20, 1997.

Chapter 4: Webmasters of Their Own Domains

Author interviews and correspondence with Jen Peterson and Dave Miller, 2021.

Michael Learmonth, “Caity's Closet,” Metro, November 11-17, 1999.

Michael Learmonth, “The Naked Truth,” Metro, November 11-17, 1999.

“First Come, First Served,” Forbes, July 10, 1998.

Brad Stone, “An E-Commerce Empire, From Porn to Puppies,” The New York Times, May 18, 2008.

Steve Silberman, “Porn Patrons Billed, Unfulfilled,” Wired Magazine, May 19, 1998.

Lewis Perdue, EroticaBiz: How Sex Shaped the Internet, iUniverse, 2002.

Frederick S. Lane, Obscene Profits, Routledge, 2000.

Chapter 5: A Brief History of Online Dating

The Week Staff, “The Financial Times' profile: 5 takeaways,” The Week, January 10, 2015.

“What Online Dating Was Like In The 1960s,” FiveThirtyEight, August 12, 2015.

Stephanie T. Tong, Jeffrey T. Hancock, Richard B. Slatcher, “Online dating system design and relational decision making: Choice, algorithms, and control,” Personal Relationships, Volume 23, Issue 4, December 2016.

Joan Ball, Just Me,, 2014.

Mar Hicks, “The Mother of All Swipes,” Logic Magazine, July 01, 2017.

Matthew Brace, “Tragic end for romantic hero who was a loser in love,” The Independent, June 3, 1997.

Nadja Sayej, “The Creator of the First Online Dating Site Is Still Dating Online,” Vice, June 16, 2016.

“10 Quick Questions with Andrew Conru,”, March 30, 2010.

Chris O’Brien, “The Prisoner of,” Wired Magazine, August 1, 2003.

Sara Ashley O'Brien, “81-year-old eHarmony founder on gay marriage and Tinder,” CNN, February 12, 2016.

Laura Stampler, “Inside Tinder: Meet the Guys Who Turned Dating Into an Addiction,” Time, February 6, 2014.

Charlotte Alter, “Whitney Wolfe Wants to Beat Tinder at Its Own Game,” Time, May 15, 2015.

Abby Phillip, “Read the most surprising allegations from the Tinder sexual harassment lawsuit,” The Washington Post, July 1, 2014.

Chapter 6: Porn 2.0 and the Camgirl Revolution

SF Weekly Staff, “Web Rouser,” SFWeekly, March 31, 1999.

Reply-All, December 14, 2014.

Thomas E. Weber, “Meet the Man Who Gave The Net Its Eyes and Ears,” The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 1996.

Ana Voog, “I Was One of the Most Famous People Online in 1998—Then I Disappeared,” Vice, June 22, 2018.

Maria Seminerio, “Star of Jennicam responds to attack,” ZDNet, March 26, 1998.

Laura Sydell, “Live From San Francisco, It's Justin Kan's Life,” NPR, April 11, 2007.

Virginia Heffernan and Tom Zeller Jr., “The Lonelygirl That Really Wasn’t,” The New York Times, Sept. 13, 2006.

Elizabeth Bernstein, Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity, and the Commerce of Sex, The University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Angela Jones, ‘“I Get Paid to Have Orgasms’: Adult Webcam Models’ Negotiation of Pleasure and Danger,” Signs, Volume 42, Number 1, Autumn 2016.

“How Much Do Cam Girls Make?,”, 2022.

Matilda Boseley, “'Everyone and their mum is on it': OnlyFans booms in popularity during the pandemic,” The Guardian, December 22, 2020.

Chapter 7: The Digital Fig Leaf: Sexual Censorship Online

Alex Kennedy, “This St. John's seed company's onions are too sexy for Facebook,” CBC, October 5, 2020.

David Gilbert, "Leaked Documents Show Facebook’s Absurd 'Breast Squeezing Policy',” Vice, December 1, 2020.

Anne Barnard, “New York Investigating Facebook’s Safety Rules,” The New York Times, September 25, 2007.

Sharon Noguchi, “Protests mount over Facebook ban on breast-feeding photos; bigger turnout online than in Palo Alto,” The Mercury News, December 27, 2008.

Samantha Cole, “Facebook and Patreon Are Making It Harder to Find Sex Educators,” Vice, July 24, 2018.

Jon Christian, “From ‘Preggers’ to ‘Pizzle’: Android’s Bizarre List of Banned Words,” Wired Magazine, December 2, 2013.

Chris Morris, “Google bans porn from its ad network,” CNBC, July 2, 2014.

“Starbucks to block porn on free wi-fi in US,” BBC, November 29, 2018.

Samantha Cole, “Sex Workers Say Porn on Google Drive Is Suddenly Disappearing,” Vice, March 21, 2018.

Tina Horn, “How the Financial Sector Is Making Life Miserable for Sex Workers,” Vice, July 14, 2014.

Jason Koebler and Samantha Cole, “Apple Sucked Tumblr Into Its Walled Garden, Where Sex Is Bad,” Vice, December 3, 2018.

Salma El-Wardany, “Like Our Society, Instagram Is Biased Against Women Of Colour,” Refinery29, December 10, 2020.

Manisha Krishnan, “A Fat Influencer Says Instagram Is Censoring Her Account—And She’s Paid Thousands to Restore It,” Vice, March 11, 2021.

Danielle Blunt, Emily Coombes, Shanelle Mullin, and Ariel Wolf, “Posting Into the Void: Studying the Impact of Shadowbanning on Sex Workers and Activists,” 2020.

Lita Lecherous, “What Do Sex Workers Lose When Our Social Media Accounts Are Shut Down?,” Peepshow Magazine, March 12, 2021.

“Chase closing accounts of porn stars: Report,” CNBC, April 26 2014.

Chapter 8: Sex Sells: Classified Ads

Author interview with Savannah Sly, 2021.

Author interview with Kaytlin Bailey, 2021.

Claire Cain Miller, “Craigslist Blocks Access to ‘Adult Services’ Pages,” The New York Times, September 4, 2010.

Peter C. Hennigan, “Property War: Prostitution, Red-Light Districts, and the Transformation of Public Nuisance Law in the Progressive Era,” Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, 2004.

Jeffrey Davids, “ Manifesto,” February 11, 2008.

Danny Cruz, “Male Sex Workers Condemn Raid on,” SWOP-USA, August 28, 2015.

Steve Weinstein, “The Queer Issue: The Rise of Rentboys.” The Village Voice, June 23, 2009.

Keegan Hamilton, “OldestProfession2.0: A new generation of local ‘providers’ and ‘hobbyists’ create a virtual red-light district,” The Riverfront Times, June 4, 2008.

Melissa Gira Grant, “Online critics accuse CEO Dave Elms of rape,” ValleyWag, May 12, 2008.

Edward Duncan, “Troubled Elms Leaves Erotic Review,” AVN, March 4, 2009.

Brad Stone, “Under Pressure, Craigslist to Remove ‘Erotic’ Ads,” The New York Times, May 13, 2009.

Graham Snowdon, “Jim Buckmaster: Craigslist put up an ad for a programmer. It got a chief executive,” The Guardian, October 6, 2011.

Jim Salter, “Mo. girl sues Village Voice Media over sex ads,” The Seattle Times, September 17, 2010.

Eric Stewer, “The Rise and Fall of RedBook, the Site That Sex Workers Couldn't Live Without,” Wired Magazine, February 24, 2015.

Sydney Brownstone, “A Popular Seattle-Area Sex Worker Review Site Has Been Seized by Authorities,” The Stranger, January 6, 2016.

Melissa Gira Grant, “How the Feds Took Down,” Vice, August 26, 2015.

Alan Feuer, “Owner of Is Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison,” The New York Times, August 2, 2017.

Jen Doll, “Village Voice HQ Is Being Protested for ‘Facilitation of Sex Trafficking’,” The Village Voice, November 16, 2011.

Elisabeth Nolan Brown, “Secret Memos Show the Government Has Been Lying About Backpage All Along,” Reason, August 26, 2019.

Chapter 9: Plug and Play: Internet-Connected Sex Toys

Penelope Green, “Betty Dodson, Women’s Guru of Self-Pleasure, Dies at 91,” The New York Times, November 3, 2020.

Margalit Fox, “Dell Williams, Founder of Sex Boutique, Dies at 92,” The New York Times, March 14, 2015.

Dennis Waskul and Michelle Anklan, “‘Best invention, second to the dishwasher’: Vibrators and sexual pleasure,” Sexualities, August 6, 2019.

Ilana DeBare, “Good news for Good Vibrations - it's being sold,” SFGate, September 27, 2007,

Author interview with Lisa Palac, 2021.

Lisa Palac, The Edge of the Bed: How Dirty Pictures Changed My Life, Little, Brown Book Group Limited, 1989.

Christopher Trout, “Teledildonics gave me the gift of long-distance sex with a stranger,” Engadget, July 2, 2018.

Kyle Machulis, “How Shit Works—Teledildonics,” Metafetish, June 12, 2005.

Craig Bicknell, “Sexing the Big Apple,” Wired Magazine, April 17, 1999.

Mike Brunker, “Sex toys blaze tactile trail on Net,” NBC, March 23, 2004.

Anna Jane Grossman, “Single, white with dildo,” Salon, August 30, 2005.

Hallie Lieberman, Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy, Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Chapter 10: Algorithms, Monopolies, and MindGeek

Author interview with Angie Rowntree, 2021.

Author interview with Colin Rowntree, 2021.

Author interview with Brandon Reti, 2021.

Chris Morris, “Meet the New King of Porn,” CNBC, January 18, 2012.

“Naked capitalism,” The Economist, Sep 26, 2015.

Author interview with Patrick Keilty, 2021.

Patrick Keilty, “Desire by design: pornography as technology industry,” Porn Studies, July 3 2018.

Angela Jones, "For Black Models Scroll Down: Webcam Modeling and the Racialization of Erotic Labor," Sexualities & Culture, May 15, 2015.

Jessie Sage, “What Being Labeled a 'Big Beautiful Woman' Means to Porn Performers,” Vice, June 5, 2018.

Samantha Cole, “Why Doesn't the Porn Industry Accept 'Big Handsome Men?',” Vice, April 20, 2021.

Jessie Sage, “Black, Queer, and ‘Super-Size’ BBWs Challenge What Society Sees as ‘Acceptably Fat’,” Vice, July 31, 2018.

Chapter 11: consider the “Cybersex Addict:” A Virtual Sexual Education

Author interview with Josh Grubbs, 2021.

Edwin McDowell, “Some Say Meese Report Rates an ‘X’,” The New York Times, October 21, 1986.

Dana Putnam, “Initiation and Maintenance of Online Sexual Compulsivity: Implications for Assessment and Treatment,” CyberPsychology & Behavior Vol. 3, No. 4, July 5, 2004.

Al Cooper, “Sexuality and the Internet: Surfing into the New Millennium,” CyberPsychology & Behavior Vol. 1, No. 2 January 29, 2009.

Al Cooper, Sex and the Internet: A Guide Book for Clinicians, Taylor & Francis Ltd, 2002.

Author interview with David Ley, 2021.

Nicole Prause et. al., “Sexual desire, not hypersexuality, is related to neurophysiological responses elicited by sexual images,” Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, July 16, 2013.

Joshua Grubbs et. al., “Pornography Problems Due to Moral Incongruence: An Integrative Model with a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, August 3, 2018.

Marc Ramirez and Trevor Hughes, “'Stand Up, Fight Back': Atlanta rally decries anti-Asian violence, mourns spa shooting victims,” USA Today, March 20, 2021.

“Elliot Rodger: How misogynist killer became 'incel hero',” BBC, April 26, 2018.

“For incels, it's not about sex. It's about women.” Southern Poverty Law Center, May 4, 2018.

Ashifa Kassam, “Woman behind 'incel' says angry men hijacked her word 'as a weapon of war',” The Guardian, April 25, 2018.

Kris Taylor, Sue Jackson, “‘I want that power back’: Discourses of masculinity within an online pornography abstinence forum,” Sexualities, January 30, 2018.

“White Haze,” This American Life, September 22, 2017.

Angela Nagle, “Goodbye, Pepe,” The Baffler, August 15, 2017.

Chapter 12: Rated M for Mature: Sex in Online Gaming

Author interview with Shine, 2021.

Author interview with Richard Bartle, 2021.

Simon Parkin, “The man who made a game to change the world,” Eurogamer, October 30, 2014.

Allucquére Rosanne Stone, “Sex and death among the disembodied: VR, cyberspace, and the nature of academic discourse,” The Sociological Review, May 1994.

Author interview with Wagner James Au, 2021.

Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer, “The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat,” Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, July 2008.

Dennis D. Waskul and Justin A. Martin, “Now the Orgy Is Over,” Symbolic Interaction, December 22, 2011.

Emanuel Maiberg, “Why Is 'Second Life' Still a Thing?” Vice, April 29, 2016.

Nick Yee, “The Surprisingly Unsurprising Reason Why Men Choose Female Avatars in World of Warcraft,” Slate, May 13, 2014.

Author interview with Karen Gault, 2021.

Audrey L. Brehm, “Navigating the feminine in massively multiplayer online games: Gender in World of Warcraft,” Frontiers of Psychology, December 4, 2013.

Laura Kate Dale, “How World of Warcraft helped me come out as transgender,” The Guardian, January 23, 2014.

Diana Tourjée, “'Will You Fist Me?': World of Warcraft Players Respond to New Chat Abuse Policy,” Vice, July 15, 2016.

Kim LaCapria, “Did Minecraft Introduce ‘Sex Mods’?” Snopes, October 25, 2016.

Burt Helm, “Sex, lies, and video games: Inside Roblox’s war on porn,” Fast Company, August 19, 2020.

Patricia Hernandez, “Animal Crossing fans are using the game for Tinder dates,” Polygon, April 15, 2020.

Rosa Mikeal Martey et. al., “The strategic female: gender-switching and player behavior in online games,” Information, Communication, and Society, Volume 17, 2014.

Chapter 13: Faking It: Deepfakes, Deep Problems

Samantha Cole, “AI-Assisted Fake Porn Is Here and We’re All Fucked,” Vice, December 11, 2017.

Joseph Cox, “Most Deepfakes Are Used for Creating Non-Consensual Porn, Not Fake News,” Vice, October 7, 2019.

Chapter 14: Fuck the System: Crime and Legislation

MTV News Staff, “Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee Lawsuit Thrown Out,” MTV, April 9, 1997.

Clyde Farnsworth, “200 Prostitutes of Lyons in Siege at Church,” The New York Times, June 7, 1975.

Samantha Cole, “Craigslist Just Nuked Its Personal Ads Section Because of a Sex-Trafficking Bill,” Vice, March 23, 2018.

Samantha Cole, “Furry Dating Site Shuts Down Because of FOSTA,” Vice, April 2, 2018.

“Documenting Tech Actions,”

Samantha Cole, “People Are Threatening to Report Sex Workers to the IRS in #ThotAudit,” Vice, November 26, 2018.

Danielle Blunt and Ariel Wolf, “Erased: The Impact of FOSTA/SESTA & the Removal of Backpage,” Hacking//Hustling, 2020.

Caty Simon, “On Backpage,” Tits and Sass, April 25, 2018.

Author interview with “Jane,” 2021.

Melanie Ehrenkranz, “We Need to Study the Effects of Revenge Porn on Mental Health,” Gizmodo, June 22, 2018.

Author interview with Emily Jones, 2021.

Author interview with Karlijn Seegers, 2021.

Samantha Cole, “'War Against Sex Workers:' What Visa and Mastercard Dropping Pornhub Means to Performers,” Vice, December 11, 2020.

Chapter 15: The Future of Fucking Online

Author interview with Kyle Machulis, 2021.

Mel Slater et. al., “First Person Experience of Body Transfer in Virtual Reality,” PLOS One, May 12, 2010.

Robin Rosenberg, “Virtual Superheroes: Using Superpowers in Virtual Reality to Encourage Prosocial Behavior,” PLOS One, January 30, 2013.

Author interview with Marisa Rosa Grant, 2021.

Franki Cookney, “Cam Site Traffic Is Booming As People In Quarantine Look For Sexy Companionship,” Forbes, March 31, 2020.

Author interview with Mike Stabile, 2021.

Lavender Baj, “Fact Check: No, OnlyFans Is Not Banning Porn,” Gizmodo, August 4, 2021.

Author interview with Anna Lee, 2021.

Dean Takahashi, “Oculus Rift gets more virtual reality porn with Red Light Center,” VentureBeat, January 15, 2015.

Kari Paul, “What It's Like to Be the First VR Cam Girl,” Vice, August 3, 2015.

Allison de Fren, “Fembot in a Red Dress,” 2015.

Ry Crist, “Hello Harmony: RealDoll sex robots with 'X-Mode' ship in September,” CNET, August 25, 2018.

Post by @brickdollbanger on Instagram, June 12, 2021.

Tomasz Frymorgen, “Sex robot sent for repairs after being molested at tech fair,” BBC, September 29, 2017.


This is an incomplete list of books not specifically cited in this text, but that have heavily influenced, informed and evolved my thinking on sex and the internet.

HARD CORE by Linda Willams

BROAD BAND by Claire Evans




WE TOO: ESSAYS ON SEX WORK AND SURVIVAL edited by Natalie West and Tina Horn


PORN WORK by Heather Berg


PLAYING THE WHORE by Melissa Gira Grant

CYBER RIGHTS by Mike Godwin



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