Toward the end of my freshman year, I started a weekly tradition with a group of friends: wine night. Every Thursday, seven or eight of us would find a box of Franzia and huddle in a small bedroom to drink it. Even though wine night came with its own surprises, there was always one thing I could count on happening — talking about sex.
There was a fun mystery to discussions at wine night. Every week someone would confess something new, and, for the most part, it seemed to be that the less sober someone was, the more likely they were to reveal something “scandalous” they’d done in the realm of sex. Everyone was different, though. There were people in the group who needed a lot of alcohol-fueled persuasion to confess, while others in the group would barely have a sip of wine and casually confess how many times they masturbate a day. I definitely wasn’t the most comfortable one in the room.
As social media invades real-life social interactions, we have become more comfortable in sharing those intimate moments with anyone on our followers list. Wine night is a small group and sharing experiences happens on a smaller scale, but sites such as Twitter and Instagram has made sharing these moments not only bigger, but easier.
The hashtag #aftersex recently began trending across multiple social media platforms. #Aftersex is just what it says: people take post-coital pictures of themselves, usually in bed with the person with whom they supposedly just had sex. After further investigation, I found out there are three Twitter accounts devoted to posting after-sex selfies. On Instagram, there are more than 33,000 posts with the hashtag. Some of the pictures are obviously jokes, but others are pretty convincing.
These photos are a little uncomfortable for me to look at — at least those that actually seem to be after-sex selfies. It’s such an intimate, private moment shared in a very public space. One #aftersex photo pictures a guy covering a girl’s breast with his hand. The caption says, “Y’all cuddle after sex, we take selfies.” Many of the other photos are PG-13 style, shoulder-up selfies of couples captioned with only “#aftersex.” People posting these photos seem to be empowered by them. The smug looks on their faces not only hold that “I-just-had-sex glow,” but they say, “I just had sex, and now I’m sharing it with the whole world.”
For me, it is hard enough sharing my experiences with eight friends in person, much less posting a photo of the actual experience online. On the other hand, this hashtag has sparked an Internet firestorm from social media users purporting that it desensitizes sex to an extreme.
This isn’t the only time people have shared their sex lives on social media in mass form. In 2012, Swedish DJ Gurgîn Bakircioglu asked listeners to describe their sex lives on Twitter using a film title. At the time, the hashtag #describeyoursexlifewithamovietitle became the second-most tweeted topic on Twitter, and participants submitted entries such as “Gone in 60 Seconds,” “Love Actually” and “No Strings Attached.”
Behind the veil of a computer screen, I can see how sharing these experiences would become a bit easier. It’s intimidating at wine night when six or seven faces are watching and waiting for a confession and I can’t choose a filter or use a spell-checker. When it comes to sharing sexual escapades, social media can give us the power to share our sexual experiences when we want and how we want. No wine needed.