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Tech by VICE

This Photographer Is Exploring the Mechanics of the Nude Selfie

Dora Papanikita's project 'Sex In the Digital Age' focuses on how technology has changed sex, and how we create sexual images.

by Chris Bethell
03 January 2019, 9:45am

All images by Dora Papanikita

Photographer Dora Papanikita believes that smartphones have altered how we communicate sexually – a belief I'm sure many of you smartphone users would agree with. For her, technology has shifted our needs for – and means of – receiving satisfaction, as well as allowing us to engage in sexual relationships with people on the other side of the world.

Her project Sex in the Digital Age focuses on the female side of these relationships and explores how sexual expression has changed with the advent of apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. I spoke to her to find out more.

VICE: How did you become interested in this topic?
Dora Papanikita: I've been wanting to make work about this for a while, and after having conversations with some of my friends I was inspired to start working on it. There was one story in particular, though – my friend was in an exclusive relationship with someone who lived in the same city as them, but they never met up. Their relationship was through their smartphones. It just shook me how technology has affected not only our regular lives, but even our sex lives.

The project also goes a bit further to talk about the nude selfie – is it a booster for self esteem? Is it something girls enjoy doing or not? How does it affect the sexual communication between a couple, especially when there is distance between them?

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How do you think technology has affected our generation's communication?
Technology has created constant communication within our generation. I think that's the first thing. Basically, these days you can't really miss someone, if that makes sense? You can hear their voice, see their face and read their words every day. Distance is becoming smaller and smaller; it doesn't matter if your friend or your love is in another city or even another continent. You can still communicate in the same way.

Social media has also created a culture of knowing what everyone is doing at any time, which can cause problems, because then, when you speak, you don't really have much to say – you know what they've been up to. The smartphone has also affected sexual communication as it allows you to interact with your partner or whoever in a sexual way, no matter what the distance is between you. You can no longer even really miss your partner in a sexual sense. Smartphones just make it all so easy.

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Is there any reason that you've only focused on women in your project?
It wasn't really for a particular reason – I just wanted to focus on one side of the communication. Also, because I'm a girl and the stories that I have learned are the ones I want to tell, I haven't really had this conversation with boys.

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Do you think this technology is a positive or negative force on people's relationships?
I think both. Technology is great and we are so involved in it. If you took our phones and our wifi away, we wouldn't know how to function. But I think it's about how you use it. I think for sexual communication in a couple, it's fine, it's nice, it's cute, it works. Just don't overdo it because it is also a lot of information at the same time.

This is something that came with the smartphone: an abundance of images thrown at us constantly, all day long. Keep it a bit special; if you're sending sexual images to each other all day, every day, you'll become desensitised to it. But that's like everything – we are so tired of seeing photography and clothing and people and everything. It's good at bringing people together, but I think it can also cause people to become tired of each other quickly. To miss someone is an important thing.

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