Are Anonymous Mobs Reliable Sources for Sex Advice?
A bit of advice for anyone who worries about their sex life: dont sweat it, because you're not alone.
According to Richard Rubin, the founder of a new website called ReallyWorried.com, British people spend an average of one hour and 46 minutes every day fretting over their problems. Thats 27 days a year, and a total of over five years in a normal British lifespan. Rubin, an ex-marketing executive who released those figures as part of something called the "2007 Worry Index"a professional online survey he commissioned for the launch of his site this past Juneexpects the numbers are similar for Americans. Peoples top hang-ups, he says: personal health, cost of living, and, of course, sex.
Where there's worry, there's a need for advice. Enter ReallyWorried.com. Users can post their concerns there, then others who've experienced similar problems can respond, Rubin says, with their nuggets of real knowledge and wisdom. The site gives its regularsmostly womenan immediate support network, whether their worry is paying the mortgage, interviewing for a job, or disliking sex with their husbands.
The idea behind Rubins site is a compassionate oneor, as he puns, a ".compassionate" onebut shouldnt people talk to advice professionals instead of turning to the internet masses with their concerns? Though hes wary of anyone who makes money by solving problems ( I went to see a psychologist once, and the first thing she asked was how much I could pay. He adds, "Personally, I don't make a cent from my site.")
Rubin admits there are times when ReallyWorried.com is just an instructive stepping stone, not the definitive source. For example, if you woke up one morning and, God forbid, you found a lump in your breast, what would you do? he asks. Of course, youd go see a doctorbut first youd type it into Google, and there would be millions of sites, and that would panic you. On my site, someone could tell you where to go.
That stepping-stone approach may work for informal medical advice, but sex advice is a whole other story. In Rubin's eyes, hes replacing the old crap concept of writing to a sex expert. Lets say Im worried my wife is getting screwed by the gardnener, he posits, so I'm going to write to someone at a magazine who might pick it up in eight weeks time. By that time, the gardner has been fucking my wife and she's pregnant and she's left me, the writer will say, 'Oh don't worry lovely, blah blah blah.' What good is that? ReallyWorried.com users get faster feedback, and from more people. Its the Web 2.0 approach to sex advice: everyone contributes, and everyone gains. But does user-generated content really work when it comes to expertise? Or will visitors give advice just to hear themselves talk?
Take, for example, the most read post on ReallyWorried.com: "I am really worried about having anal sex." The post reads: Two months ago my boyfriend and I decided to adventure and we did anal the first time. It was absolutely amazing. Now that's all we ever do. I'm not complaining, but Im worried that maybe its unhealthy." The second piece of "advice" this user received? "I cant understand why anyone would want to do this." Then there's the woman who was "really worried about oral sex." She wrote, I am extremely self-conscious whenever my fiancé performs oral sex on me. I always feel it must be gross. In response, another user wrote, Of course its gross. Have you tasted that stuff? The best thing you can do is make sure youre clean and be grateful. Advice like that from inexperienced or biased users could do more harm than goodespecially since users are less likely to get a second opinion on a taboo topic.
However, Rubin thinks ReallyWorried.com is perfect for sex questions since youre behind a computer screen. No one sees your face. No one knows who you are. Even users who arent worried about sex can enjoy the sex questions, he thinks. If youre British, you dont talk about things like anal sex, he says. Like grandmas who are on the site who worried about, I don't know, their clothes not drying. Suddenly they see [the post about] anal sex. They cant help but have a look at it!
Previously in Click Me: Have the Cybersex Experts Ever Had Cybersex?
Click Me runs on villagevoice.com on Mondays. Got a question about cybersex? Write to your friendly cyberhood sexpert Bonnie Ruberg to ask advice or to share stories about sex and the internet: bonnie [at] heroine-sheik [dot] com.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.