Past exam questions

The essay question for this section is set on the fan fiction topic, and there will not be an exam question on the fan fiction material.  The exam will offer a choice between questions on general issues of internet eroticism and on sexuality in computer games. Please note that the emphasis on different forms of social media has shifted over the years, so earlier papers may focus on slightly different internet spaces.

Previous years’ papers include questions on the vampire as an erotic symbol; this section has obviously been removed from the course from 2012 onwards, and replaced with the section on video game romance.

 


June paper 2017

EITHER:

Can sexting someone outside an established relationship be considered infidelity? Why? What issues does this raise for notions of identity, projection and embodiment?

 

OR:

Are there men so insecure that they’re offended by fictional gay men coming onto their fictional avatars? Surely at worst it’s just a nice compliment and you can then politely set them straight, if that’s not an unfortunate choice of words.
(Ben Croshaw, Extra Punctuation)

What questions of identity, engagement and cultural constraint might be raised by the presence of homoerotic romance options within video games?

 


June paper 2016

EITHER:

Are you more or less adventurous via sext compared to IRL?

Man A: I think the same? Man B: Definitely more adventurous in sext.  Man C: I’d say I’m about the same. 

Would you ever sext with someone you’d never met in person?

Man A: No I would not. Man B: Sure, isn’t that what the Internet is basically built on? Man C: Of course. That’s the whole point. 

In sext pics, do you prefer full nudes or like, tease-y pics?

Man A: Full nudes. Man B: Tease-y nudes are better — full nudity is best discovered in person. Man C: I like flattering nude pictures, so whatever that ends up being, I’m down.

Do you have a policy about keeping or deleting any nudes you exchange? 

Man A: There was a mutual agreement that we wouldn’t keep nudes, but I had some screenshots of texts before my phone died. Man B: In high school, I’d always delete them. But now I usually keep them unless the girl asks me to delete them. Man C: I have a file on my computer called “All My Friends” it is a pretty comprehensive catalog of nudes dating back to at least my freshman year of college. 

Above is an extract from a Cosmopolitan article interviewing three men (all in their early 20s) about their experiences with sexting. What do these differing responses reveal about issues of intimacy, identity, power and gender which are inherent in sexting?

OR:

I, the player, suddenly also had a weird attachment to Anders, once he and my avatar became lovers. I delighted in his every embarrassed smile when the other party members brought up our relationship. I eschewed all flirty conversation options with everyone else, because I didn’t want to break his little heart. At the end of the game, Anders played a rather large part in a significant story event that I won’t spoil, but it tested our relationship to the limit, I tell ye that.
… I suppose it’s a significant point in a game’s favor that it can provoke this kind of emotion, but I wonder how much of it was intended by the developers and how many blanks were filled in within my crazed mind alone.
 
(Ben Croshaw, Extra Punctuation)

The constraints of the medium reduce the depiction of a video-game romance to minimal, often stilted elements. Using the player experience described above as a starting point, discuss the possibilities for imaginative projection and engagement which might be offered by a game’s romance framework, both its actual gameplay elements and its absences.  


June paper 2015

EITHER:

Look at me. I’ve suddenly become a sex blogger overnight. A whole legion of Internet-goers know about my deepest thoughts; thoughts that my closest friends don’t know. I’ve suddenly been sucked into that world that I was comfortably orbiting throughout my adolescence while fantasizing about being a stripper; now I am a stripper, or at least a strip-blogger, stripping away my humanity and getting down to the good stuff in my soul. … Suddenly, my sexual side has an outlet; I’m a real, complete person, but unfortunately, I’ve split myself in half: Me, in the real world, a complete eunuch (in the female sense), and Leticia, in the blogosphere, masturbating for a crowd at the drop of a hat. How do I reconcile these sides of myself?
(Letitia McKenzie, January 2004)

The quote above characterises a sex-blogger’s experience in images of alienation and damage as well as satisfaction. Using Letitia’s comments as a starting point, discuss the construction of the body in online interaction, in terms both of the dangers and the excitements of disembodiment.

OR:

Discuss the ways in which the demographics, particularly the gender demographic, of computer game players might influence the games’ representation of sexuality and the structure of in-game romantic and sexual relationships.


Supplementary exam 2014

EITHER:

Then there’s the old conundrum: Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth. … I write with a mask on, and it’s tremendously liberating – so liberating that I would be absolutely horrified at the thought of someone I didn’t trust deeply being able to link these accounts to my precious everyday identity. This is why my “mask” and the descriptions of activities sometimes have to blend into each other: I almost always lie about times and places, and no genuine names have ever graced the pages of this blog. … It’s simple: The mask is there because I have something to lose. I use it because it offers the excitement of telling a truth without the usual truth-consequences.
(MonMouth, April 2005)

In the light of the quote above from sex-blogger MonMouth, what is the erotic appeal of the internet’s ability to conceal identity? What are the compensations, in erotic terms, for social media spaces such as Facebook which link expression to real-world identity?

OR:

… how these work is that [the hero] has a date with one of his lady friends, and then seduces them by looking into their eyes a lot and strategically looking away when you want to play hard to get. And also you need to get your own blood flowing by sneaking crafty looks at her tits and thighs whenever she’s not looking. Then you give them free shit until they agree to a shag. … It’s not painting a great picture of either half of this exchange, is it? .. But when you’re trying to turn seduction into a win/lose minigame with understandable mechanics, the participants coming across as weird is kind of inevitable.
(Ben Croshaw, Extra Punctuation)

How far do you think the mechanical and goal-oriented aspects of computer game romance, as outlined by Ben Croshaw above, undermine its potential to foster engagement and identification?


June paper 2014

EITHER:

With reference to two or three different platforms for virtual interaction (email, instant messaging, Facebook, blogging, Twitter, etc.) discuss the extent to which they offer opportunities for persona play, and how far that in-persona interaction can be eroticised.

OR:

This is how games get inside of you: … love stories in which you have to choose… When a game does this well, you lose track of your manipulation of it and its manipulation of you, and instead feel inserted so deeply inside the game that your mind, and your feelings, become as seemingly crucial to its operation as its many millions of lines of code. It is the sensation that the game itself is as suddenly, unknowably alive as you are… It [is] a full-body experience.
– Tom Bissel, Extra Lives.

In the light of Bissel’s comments above, discuss the potential for romantic and sexual interactions in computer games to foster the gamer’s experience of absorption and identification.


Supplementary exam 2014

EITHER:

With reference to two or three different platforms for virtual interaction (email, instant messaging, Facebook, blogging, Twitter, etc.), discuss the extent to which they offer an experience of power to the user, and how far that empowerment can be eroticised.

OR:

What are the aspects of contemporary gamer culture which limit or problematise the depiction of sexual relationships in computer games? Your answer should pay some attention to issues of gender politics and representation as well as technical and cultural constraints.


June paper 2013

EITHER:

Many social spaces on the internet seem to offer to a greater or lesser degree a promise of privacy and the ability to project the self in essentially unreal terms. In a comparison between Facebook and one other kind of social media (email, instant messaging, bulletin boards, blogs, Twitter, etc), discuss the potential freedoms and dangers of sexual expression within these spaces.

OR:

Game sex has a far way to go before it can look natural. For a while, it’s going to be like watching two mobilized mannequins blindly press against each other to no avail. (Gamernode review)

Given the limitations (both technical and cultural) on the visual depiction of sexual acts in computer games, why are romantic and sexual relationships increasingly a feature in games? What do they add to gameplay which is enough to overcome the unreality and constraint which characterises the actual visual representation of a sexual encounter in the game environment?


Supplementary paper 2013

EITHER:

With reference to two or more kinds of social media (chatrooms, email, instant messaging, bulletin boards, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc), discuss the ways in which the essential interactivity of these unreal spaces could be harnessed to erotic ends. When sexuality is concerned, what are the opportunities and the potential dangers offered by the internet as a responsive space requiring active rather than passive participation?

OR:

What are the particular kinds of opportunities offered for sexual depictions and interactions in single-player and multi-player games? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each gaming medium in pursuing erotic ends?


June paper 2012

EITHER:

With reference to two or more kinds of online interaction (net.sex, chatrooms, email, bulletin boards, blogs, MMORPGs, Facebook, Twitter, etc), compare and contrast the ways in which these different formats for expression respond to the unreality of the body in internet communication. What are the implications for erotic interaction in these responses?

OR:

A computer game romance is necessarily constrained and highly channelled in the options it offers a player. Given the limitations of this interaction, what are the possible rewards of romantic and erotic interaction in a computer game? In particular, why would this aspect of gaming be worth the extra development costs to the game development company? You should support your comments with some reference to specific computer games featuring a romance option.


Supplementary paper 2012

EITHER:

With reference to one or more particular kinds of online interaction (net.sex, chatrooms, email, bulletin boards, blogs, MMORPGs, Facebook, Twitter, etc), discuss the tension between the private and the public in using internet interactions towards erotic ends.

OR:

With some reference to particular computer games which offer a romance option, discuss the function of computer game eroticism in player experiences of identity and identification.


June paper 2011

EITHER:

The popularity of blogging is on the wane in the last couple of years, as interest shifts to services such as Facebook and Twitter. However, it could be argued that Facebook and/or Twitter are not particularly appropriate contexts for sexual expression. Why? In contrast, and with detailed reference to a sex blog of your choice, discuss the inherent qualities of blogging which makes it a particularly powerful forum for eroticism.

OR:

Why are so many works of fan fiction based on film or TV texts rather than novels?  Discuss the particular importance of film as a medium in the construction of erotic fan fiction, supporting your answer with detailed analysis of fan fiction based on a specific film or television canon text.

(NB please note that you may not use “Mortal Instruments” as your main example in this question, although you may refer to it in passing).


Supplementary paper 2011

EITHER:

With close reference to a particular sex blog or blogs, discuss the tension between truth and fiction in the description of highly personal sexual acts.  What are the factors which encourage and discourage invention rather than truthfulness in this context?

OR:

Is fan fiction necessarily a transgressive response to a text? Do you think that the erotic appeal of fan fiction relies on its transgressive aspects, and if so, why is this kind of transgression erotic? Support your answer with detailed reference to the fan fiction of any canon text.

(NB please note that you may not use “Mortal Instruments” as your main example in this question, although you may refer to it in passing).


June paper 2010

EITHER:

Let’s forget for a moment that I have had to deal with my entire family knowing that I write an explicit personal sex diary; the contents of this, publicly thrust into their faces. Let’s cast aside the knowledge that all my friends are now aware of the most intimate details of my sex life. Let us ignore the many phone calls I have had from work colleagues; their divulging that the erotic content of my life is now primary gossip on the film set.

Let us put that to one side, so that the personal reality of my current situation is made absolutely clear: I have been in hiding for the last seven days, scared to go out, because I don’t want to be confronted by the journalists pursuing me…
(Girl with a One Track Mind, Friday August 11 2006)

The above quote can be found in the response of “Abby Lee”, the sex blogger who writes Girl with a One Track Mind, to the revelation of her real-world identity without her permission. Given the negative experience she describes, what would motivate her to write a highly personal sex diary and publish it on the Internet in the first place? Your answer should deal with the tension between public and private on the Internet, and should refer to details of specific sex blog entries (not necessarily Abby Lee’s) to support your argument.

OR:

With detailed reference to one or more specific examples of slash fan fiction you have read, attempt to account for the appeal of slash to a largely female fan fiction writing and reading community. Why is the homoerotic such a focus of attention to the female fandom? How much of this appeal do you think is about the homoerotic for its own sake, and how much of it is about a specifically transgressive interaction with a favourite text?


Supplementary paper 2010

EITHER:

Blogging as an online activity relies heavily on the blogger being able to create and sustain a relationship with their readers/commenters. Why would this particular kind of internet interaction be desirable or enabling to sex blogging in particular? You should support your answer with detailed reference to a particular sex blog or blogs.

OR:

With close reference to one specific work of erotic fan fiction, or the erotic fan fiction of a particular canon text, discuss the extent to which it relies on the online fan fiction community as a safe space for the expression of identification and desire.


June paper 2009

EITHER:

Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth. Yes, but if he’s wearing a mask, how do you verify this supposed truth-telling? (MonMouth)

With detailed reference to one or more specific sex-blogs, discuss the tension in sex-blogging between confession and anonymity. What kinds of problems and possibilities are created by the description of intimate sexual experiences behind the mask of the sex-blogger? What happens when the mask is removed?

OR:

Many examples of erotic fan fiction either add sexual elements to a text which does not include these elements in canon, or greatly exaggerate sexual subtexts present in the canon. In a detailed analysis of one or more examples of erotic fan fiction, suggest why the writer has chosen this particular text to eroticise: what do the writer’s choices reveal about both the lacks and the opportunities they perceive in the canon text?
(NB you may not use “Mortal Instruments” as your main example in this question, although you may refer to it in passing).


June paper 2008

EITHER:

Characters in the popular MMORPG World of Warcraft have been known to take part in online weddings. What would be the specifically erotic potential in playing a fantasy character within the sword-and-sorcery group adventure/quest environment of World of Warcraft? What would the MMORPG interface offer a player that real-life sexual interaction does not: conversely, what are the dangers and drawbacks of erotic interactions in a MMORPG?

OR:

If fan fiction is the literature of spaces, what kind of spaces in the canon text are most appealing to a writer of erotic fan fiction? What kinds of pleasure does the filling of these spaces offer the writer? You should illustrate your comments with detailed reference to the fan fiction of a specific film, television or literary text. You may not use “Mortal Instruments” as your main example in answering this question.


June paper 2007

EITHER:

Why do you think the internet’s abstracted spaces appeal to participants in net.sex? What additional possibilities for erotic interaction are offered by forums such as MUDs and MMORPGs? Your answer should pay some attention to issues of identity, power and play.

OR:

Given the demographic of fine-fiction writers and readers, i.e. predominantly female, what is the erotic appeal of slash fan fiction?


June paper 2006

EITHER:

Is rape possible in cyberspace? Why? Your answer should touch on issues of the real and unreal in the online construction of identity.

OR:

Discuss the fan fiction concept of a “Mary Sue” specifically in terms of its ability to embody and explore desire.


June paper 2005

EITHER:

Discuss the erotic possibilities offered by anonymity, persona and identity play in the construction of sexual relationships online.

OR:

Fan fiction is the literature of spaces, the writer projecting an individual expression into the margins and lacunae of the text.

With close reference to one specific work of fan fiction, or the fan fiction of a particular canon text, discuss the ways in which the fic’s author(s) exploit(s) gaps and possibilities in the original story to specifically erotic effect.
(NB you may NOT use “Mortal Instruments” as your example in this question).


Supplementary paper 2005

EITHER:

Is infidelity possible through a textual relationship? Why? Discuss, paying some attention to the implications your conclusions have for the reality of online sex.

OR:

With particular reference to one specific work of fan fiction, or the fan fiction of a particular canon text, discuss fan fiction’s potential to explore a particularly transgressive notion of the erotic.
(NB you may NOT use “Mortal Instruments” as your example in this question).


June paper 2004

EITHER:

Vampires and the erotic

BUFFY: See, this is what I hate about you vampires. Sex and death and love and pain, it’s all the same damned thing to you.
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 7, “Conversations with Dead People”).

Discuss the particular erotic and imaginative space offered by the vampire’s symbolic conflation of desire and violence. You should illustrate your answer with detailed reference to a specific vampire text, in literature, film or any other medium.

OR:

Cybersexuality

Discuss the possibilities and pitfalls in the entirely textual construction of an erotic relationship between two real people. How does the Internet enable this kind of relationship? Is it “real”? Why?

OR:

Fan fiction

“The gaze of the camera is the gaze of the lover.” Why should the medium of film, particularly, give rise to a powerful tradition of erotic fan fiction? Support your answer with detailed reference to the fan fiction of a particular film or TV text.


Supplementary paper 2004

EITHER:

Vampires and the erotic

In the moonlight opposite me were three young women, ladies by their dress and manner. … All three had brilliant white teeth, that shone like pearls against the ruby of their voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear.
(Bram Stoker, Dracula).

With detailed reference to a particular vampire text in any medium, discuss the symbolic problems presented by the figure of the female vampire.

OR:

Cybersexuality

Is there such a thing as “the body” in an online erotic relationship? Your answer should refer to issues both of the real and of the abstract body.

OR:

Fan fiction

With detailed reference to the fan fiction of a particular text (TV series, film, etc), discuss the phenomenon of slash fan fiction. Why does it exist? What particular imaginative and erotic function does it fulfil?


June paper 2003

EITHER:

Vampires and sexuality

The thick symbolic armour beneath which Eros hides is no other than a system of conscious or unconscious shields that separates desire from the representation of it.
(Italo Calvino)

With particular reference to one vampire text (in literature, film or any other medium), and to Calvino’s statement, discuss the ways in which the figure of the vampire offers possibilities for the representation of transgressive desire.

OR:

Cybersexuality

Net.sex in text mode plays into an “ascii unconscious”, the mutual spelling out of desires, commands and positions; the fantasies that usually accompany any sex suddenly appear “real” and generated between you and your partner.
(Alan Sondheim)

In the light of the above, discuss the problems and potentials inherent in the Internet’s apparent ability to embody sexual fantasy via textual interaction. Your answer should take note of issues of the body, identity and play.

OR:

Internet fan fiction

With specific reference either to the Mary-Sue phenomenon or to slash fan fiction, discuss fan fiction’s ability to offer a space for the expression of a highly personalised erotic. You should illustrate your answer with detailed reference to the fan fiction of one particular canon text (literary, film or TV).


Supplementary paper 2003

EITHER:

Vampires and sexuality

With particular reference to one or two vampire texts in any medium (literature, film, TV), discuss the figure of the female vampire as a complex site of the erotic.

OR:

Cybersexuality

…there’s an odd inversion at work. On a naïve level in real life, one begins with the real… On the Net, it’s the opposite. One begins with the text of the other, which is directly coupled only to text and exchange of texts – and out of this one constructs a real…
(Alan Sondheim)

In the light of the above, discuss the problems and potentials in expressing sexuality through online textual interactions. How far are such interactions “real”?

OR:

Internet fan fiction

With particular reference to the fan fiction of a particular text (novel, TV series, etc), discuss fan fiction as a vehicle for the expression of an individual and personalised erotic. How far does such an expression require transgression of the boundaries set by a particular canon text, and why?


June paper 2002

EITHER:

Vampires and the erotic

“Pornography involves an abstraction of human intercourse in which the self is reduced to its formal elements. In its most basic form, these elements are represented by the probe and the fringed hole, the twin signs of male and female in graffiti…”
(Angela Carter).

With detailed reference to one vampire text of your choice (in literature, film or any other medium), discuss the figure of the vampire as a representation of sexuality in terms of the above quote.

OR:

Internet sexuality

Using a specific example for illustration (e.g. Star Trek slash, Tolkien slash, etc), discuss the phenomenon of slash fan fiction as an aspect of the Internet’s ability to offer a communal space in which to enact forbidden erotic desires.


Supplementary paper 2002

EITHER:

Vampires and the erotic

Rosemary Jackson has commented that “the literature of the fantastic … is all that is not said, all that is unsayable through realistic forms.” With detailed reference to one vampire text of your choice (in literature, film or any other medium), discuss the figure of the vampire as the site of an erotic of the forbidden or corrupt.

OR:

Internet sexuality

“The Internet offers unparalleled opportunity for the invention of sexual personae and the free play of desire.” Discuss the structures of EITHER chat-room sexual encounter OR erotic fan-fiction narratives in terms of this statement.

Comments are closed.