The co-construction of cybersex narratives

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This article discusses the linguistic practice of cybersex and how it is discursively constructed. The analysis is based on naturally occurring, private cybersex conversations from an online community that is not sexual in scope or purpose. It is argued that cybersex participants co-construct narratives that differ from both standard dialogic and polyphonic narratives. Additionally, participants shift between first-, second- and third-person reference forms. It is reasoned that the distinct narrative and style shifts serve as communicative functions in co-constructing a cybersex scene. Although participants rely on mutual engagement and linguistic reciprocity, there are notable gender differences in who constructs the narrative’s ‘complicating action’ and who supports it through linguistic attentiveness (e.g. backchannelling) and responsiveness (e.g. mirroring). Ultimately, it is argued that although cybersex narratives are co-constructed, they are also reflections and reifications of heteronormative ideologies of sex and gender, particularly with respect to sexual agency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-479
Number of pages16
JournalDiscourse & Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2015


  • Cybersex
  • discourse
  • discourse analysis
  • feminist linguistics
  • gender
  • heteronormativity
  • narrative analysis
  • narratives
  • person reference
  • sex talk
  • sexual agency
  • sexuality
  • story-telling
  • style shifts


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