illustration by River Juno, published in "Tumblr" (2021, Tiidenberg, Hendry and Abidin)

Rethinking sexuality: A geopolitics of digital sexual cultures in Estonia, Sweden and Finland

(2020 - 2023, funded by The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies). 

The Internet has for decades been imagined as a safe space for sexual exploration. But with the current popularity of social media, platform politics moderating sexual content are growing increasingly tight. In December 2018, Tumblr issued a ban on adult content, joining Facebook and Instagram in their strict policies. While motivated as actions against child pornography and human trafficking, these purges also result in a dismissal of LGBT, queer and kink communities who rely on digital networks for sexual self-expression and belonging. It is thus crucial to ask how human sexual rights—including the rights to bodily integrity and sexual pleasure free from discrimination—can be reconciled with a social media economy ruled by conservative, U.S.-specific notions of appropriate content, as well as what other avenues may remain available.

Our project thus aims to investigate digital sexual cultures on three local online platforms in Estonia, Sweden and Finland devoted to communities around nudity and kink from three co-constitutive perspectives:

 (1) digital platforms as intermediaries shaping and constraining sexual cultures and their public visibility, 

(2) negotiations of sexual norms and hierarchies, 

(3) national self understanding and discourses of sexuality. 

In which ways do these platforms shape marginalized or non-normative sexualities? How are notions of sexual liberation and oppression; normalcy and deviance; privacy and publicness; pleasure and play embodied and imagined in these digital sexual cultures? How are these emergent sexual cultures experienced in relation to hegemonic (neoliberal, national, Nordic, post-soviet) self-understandings?

Jenny Sundén, Project Lead, PI Sweden
Susanna Paasonen, PI Finland
Katrin Tiidenberg, PI Estonia

Events organized:

  • Workshop: “Sexual histories in Estonia, Finland and Sweden” 2020
  • Workshop: “Geographies of digital sexualities” 2021
  • Symposium: "Rethinking Sexuality in Nordic and Post-Soviet Contexts" 2022


Sundén, Jenny, Susanna Paasonen, Katrin Tiidenberg & Maria Vihlman (2022) “Locating sex: Regional geographies of sexual social media”. Gender, Place & Culture. For the special issue “Remapping desire: Bringing back sex within geographies of sexualities”. Guest editors: Cesare Di Feliciantonio and Valerie De Craene.

Are, Carolina and Susanna Paasonen (2021) “Sex in the Shadows of Celebrity.” Porn Studies,

Paasonen, Susanna & Jenny Sundén (forthcoming) “Objectionable nipples: Puritan data politics and sexual agency in social media”. in Patrick Keilty (eds.) Queer Data. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.  

Tiidenberg, Katrin (2021) “Sex, power and platform governance”. Porn Studies.

Spišák, Sanna, Elina Pirjatanniemi, Tommi Paalanen, Susanna Paasonen and Maria Vihlman (2021) “Social Networking Sites’ Gag Order: Commercial Content Moderation’s Adverse Implications for Fundamental Sexual Rights and Wellbeing.” Social Media + Society, 

Sundén, Jenny, Katrin Tiidenberg, Susanna Paasonen & Maria Vihlman (2021) “Space, place and location in sexual social media”. Panel presentation at AoIR2021: Independence. The 22nd Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers. Virtual Event, October 13-16. Retrieved from 

Sundén, Jenny, Katrin Tiidenberg & Susanna Paasonen (2020) “Platformed sex lives”. Panel presentation at AoIR2020: Life (online): The 21th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers. Virtual Event, October 27-31. Retrieved from

Pilipets, Elena and Susanna Paasonen (2020) “Nipples, Memes and Algorithmic Failure: NSFW Critique of Tumblr Censorship.” New Media & Society,