Social Science Research Council Research AMP Mediawell

The Discourse of Practice: Online Q&A as Normalizing Gender and Sexual Behaviors

Tsuria, Ruth
International Journal of Communication

This article examines the negotiation of sexual practices through online discourse within a global religious community. Online questions and answers (Q&A) are analyzed while considering the technological affordances of the websites where these discourses take place as well as the discursive strategies. A total of n = 60 Q&A and n = 81 comments from three Jewish religious websites in the U.S. and Israel were collected and analyzed. These Q&A discuss issues of masturbation and touch between the sexes. It is argued that changes in the practices of the discourse—the fact that it is now online—shift elements in the concepts discussed in the discourse. Though the technological affordances allow taboo questions to be asked and enable a participatory discourse, this discourse is then used by rabbis and users to promote a strict approach toward sexuality and for peer regulation. Thus, this online discourse enforces traditional, and even fundamental, religious sexual practices.