Sunday, July 21, 2013

The E Word That Shall Not Be Read: Adult Content and Censorship on Social Platforms

What happens when there are some words we can’t say?  I’m not talking about George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television”, many of which he pointed out you eventually were able to say.  No I’m talking about sex, erotica, penis, vagina, dick, gay, etc..

All those words that apply to our ‘bits and pieces’ and what we do with them personally, publicly, academically, and fictionally.  What happens when we, adults, can’t say those words?  They become whispers.  They become secrets.  They take on a shady quality and many people are hurt because of this censorship.

 As someone who has mostly come out of the closet, someone who wrote and plans to write gay interest fiction and erotica I am bothered by this new disregard for something that is a part of nature.  But it isn’t just business, my way of making money, not that I’ve made much.  It’s something else.  

I know what it was like to be in the closet, to hide that part of myself from people that I felt was my nature.  I know what it was like to have to deal with the phobia and out right personal hatred of something that could not be said.  As members of the LGBTQ community we still fear violence towards people who are openly homosexual or perceived as homosexual and/or differently gendered.

For all of the ‘pop culture’ progress, for all of the advances of civil rights, violence is a real thing for all minorities.  There were the numerous cases in NYC and around the U.S. plus what is happening in Africa, even the absurd, seemingly satirical protests of shirtless men in France had/has the possibility of mob violence.  And for what?  For being perceived as being different.

I believe that the way to decrease this personal violence is to have open conversations, to be able to use words expressively to communicate common emotions.  This is something that should be protected by the First Amendment but is increasingly being jeopardized and regulated by social media after years of positive gain.

While in some way there is the potential to say Google, Tumblr, Facebook, and any other social media outlet corporation (corporate person) has the right to control the use of the product, what is posted and shared, there is no equality because these corporations (corporate people) have made themselves the largest, most successful entities and by default the gatekeepers of society.  

They have done this mostly by buying out the competition.  This censorship feels hypocritical because, respectively, the internet and internet corporations grew with adult content’s help and that the largest consumers of porn are not the people you might think.  I point to two resources for this statement.  The study “Red Light States: Who Buys Adult Entertainment”.

Of all of the censorship battles I find myself as a user bothered by two specifically and that’s Tumblr and Blogger.  

What I find problematic about Tumblr’s argument of only censoring spam is that the whole site is essentially curated spam.  Sometimes I log into Tumblr and the first picture is a cute, young man who is probably naked.  Sometimes it is a violent, real image such as wound that I didn’t plan on seeing that day.  And sometimes, most often, it is related to a commercial product such as a movie or television show (Teen Wolf) usually created by a fan.

Similarly Blogger made the same argument about pornographic sites that had been created to drive traffic to paid adult entertainment, protecting users from... entertainment?  I don’t know, I’m not sure.  It sounds like Google and Yahoo! (Tumblr) are doing us a favor because it keeps us from having to pay?  

No, it targets the act of paying for sex, or in this case viewing the sex act, which unfortunately is the best, most accessible form of sex education for many people.  I’m not going into the argument of sex education and safe sex here but you know what I’m referencing.

In many ways I felt like we were getting over this fear as a society because porn has become a more known, more accepted part of American (U.S.) society.  To me porn models are increasingly recognized as being human.  They are recognized as personalities and to me this has improved their lives.  They are not only more successful but seemingly healthier.  There seems to be a decreasing stigma about careers in porn.

Adult content is something we, adults, use.  Often it makes us feel better by relieving stress.  So why is there increasing censorship?  

Because there is an decreasing expectation that parents will monitor their children’s use of the internet and an increasing fear that what the child may see will harm them irreparably.  It is about prolonging innocence and virginity.

I’m an adult.  The whole point of getting old was that I got to do fun things.  We have sex, we curse, and we have experiences not meant for children.  There are big risks and big rewards.

We live in an adult world. I’m not talking here about getting a job, buying a car, paying a mortgage world, that’s all fan fiction.  No, I’m talking about people going hungry, people being homeless, and people being exploited.  I’m talking about civil and national wars.  None of which doesn’t stop if we stop talking talking about it.  

Look to the Roman Catholic Church where it can be documented that possibly for the last hundred years sex abuse went unreported.  The victims of which had to live in silence, ashamed and fearful of their secret that the one institution they were encouraged to trust betrayed them.  Because of what had been done to them they were no longer virgins, no longer pure.

Secrecy and lack of expression of knowledge/education hurts people.  We end up misinformed and fearful.  We think we are alone.  We think no one has the same problem, no one understands, and no one can have sympathy for us.  

Instead we should share our experiences.  We should not be shamed by them.  We should teach children to be resilient.  My grandparents had a fatalistic view of the world because of the Great Depression, poor healthcare, and the scarcity of resources.  Their wounds became scars that they kept all of their life.

For me I am about healing.  I am about recognizing the danger of the world and existence and embracing uncertainty.  We do this through communication.  For me there are many great ventures that seek to decrease these boundaries for adults.  Three that come to mind are Sex Nerd Sandra, Risk!, and Make Love Not Porn.  

Sex Nerd Sandra is a podcast on Nerdist who tries to raise awareness and education about sexual activity for all people.

Risk! is another podcast and traveling performance of speeches performed by comedians, amateurs, and celebrities.  The topics cover the spectrum of human experience from birth to death.

Make Love Not Porn is not actually what it sounds like and is a website for amateur couples to broadcast their sessions of sex for others to view as one part education and one part entertainment.  

These projects give me hope, I had hope, about the changing attitudes about sex, the body, and freedom of speech.  I feel as if I had been lulled into a sense of comfort in thinking just because someone made something, shared it, that it would continue.

But these things are not inevitable.  We have to fight for them.  It is too easy these days, on too many fronts, to think that progress of civil rights was going to happen anyway (gay marriage), that it was meant to happen.  Think about how many hundreds of years we lived under censorship.  Think about how many hundreds of years of the African Slave Trade.  Think about how many hundreds of years women didn’t have the right to vote (Women’s Suffrage).  

There is great power in naming things and controlling the use of names.  For a more analytic understanding I point to Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault but for me I will link the sacred and the profane.  For me I liked the story I heard about why the early Jewish people didn’t speak the name of their god/God.  The story as I understood it was that these people believed to know something was to know its name and to use its name was to have power over it.

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