Digital sexual health - Designing for safety, pleasure and wellbeing in LGBTQ+ communities
Intimate digital media – like dating apps and sexual health platforms – are rapidly changing the way people navigate their private and intimate lives. However, little is known about how this media use supports or undermines the capacities of LGBTQ+ people to meet their sexual health information needs, ranging from negotiating safe, pleasurable sexual experiences, to accessing culturally appropriate sexual health services. Research on sexual health for LGBTQ+ people often focuses on ill-health and discrimination. We focus instead on safety, pleasure and wellbeing (as central to national and global definitions of sexual health), and explore the rapidly growing field of ‘sextech’ as promising tools to enable health and help destigmatize marginalized sexual identities. Sextech is a fast growing multi-million industry including everything from educational platforms for health information and consultation, to sexual wellness apps for self-tracking and sharing sexual health data, to smart sex toys.
These emergent digital technologies have significant potential for the field of sexual healthcare in ways that require new knowledge. Building on an international collaboration involving a research team in Sweden and Australia – including partnerships with local sexual health professionals, governmental agencies, LGBTQ organizations and sextech designers – we develop an empirically grounded, theoretically inventive framework for future sexual health intervention. We use innovative participatory and future-oriented methods to advance the scholarly discussion of digital sexual health, as well as provide practical, strategic recommendations to our Partner Organizations on the future planning and implementation of digital health promotion targeting diverse LGBTQ+ communities. By bringing together users and sextech developers, we also explore new forms of safe processing of intimate data in digital health initiatives, as well as ethical and inclusive tech design for LGBTQ+ people.