Online Moralities and Sexual Reputation

website-project.jpgResearcher(s) (CIMS)

Burcu Korkmazer

Supervisors (CIMS)

Sofie Van Bauwel

Co-Supervisors (CIMS)

Sander De Ridder

Funded by

Research Foundation Flanders (FWO, 2017-2021)


This research project will focus on sexual morality and ethics in digital youth cultures. Within these youth cultures, we can note that online reputations are seen as one of the central dynamics of internet sociality. Young people are using social media as tools to create the ultimate impression of their selves, or in other words: to create a ‘good’ online reputation. Loss of this online reputation is risky and can harm the mental well-being of these youngsters. It is also remarkable that good online reputations are mostly in favor of the dominant group (heterosexual Western), so that not conforming to particular gender, sexual, ethnic and religious norms can cause peer group exclusion. These particular norms consist of traditional moral orders, but there are only very few in-depth explorations on the meaning of these moral orders for young people themselves, including the meanings they attach to a ‘good’ online sexual reputation.

Therefore, the aim of this project is to address (1) what it means when reputation is becoming more media-related than before in youth cultures, (2) how these media-related reputations introduce particular sexual politics in youth cultures and (3) how society responds to these changes.

In order to achieve these research objectives, we will use a qualitative research design as we will provide an in-depth investigation of moral order in everyday life contexts. The project will start with a general literature review, including a database of popular press articles and news items dealing with issues on young people’s online sexual reputations. After the conceptualization of the theoretical framework, the project will conduct an ethnographic study, combined with visual research methods. The following research phase will include individual interviews using narrative interviewing techniques. This project will explore the moral values of media-related reputation as negotiations of sexual politics.