Friday, October 13, 2006

ALL THAT SEX --on YouTube and elsewhere on the web

Somehow people start to associate between sexual predators, pornography and Internet.

Youths have a lot of concerns over their sexuality. Adults have too. Both adults and youths are mostly concerned with their performance -- if they are attractive enough, beautiful enough, skilled enough… People are also often concerned about the object of their desire, about what they enjoy and like, about their identity, being queer, kinky or however different. Sexuality is an area of human behavior where most people seem to have some kind of insecurity. Safety is one of them, but not the only one. We should address all of those issues, not only the safety issue.

Micfri says America is obsessed with sex, at least he said it to be true for men, and he could tell it since he himself is a man and apparently had a direct experience with the issue. A French youtuber, by the name “koopatrizzle” posted a video response to Micfri. In his vlog he argues that not only America but the whole world is obsessed with sex and, yes, women are too, “if Micfri only had a chance to observe enough women” ☺. Another youtuber by the name peterhk69 also posted a response to Micfri-s video, a vlog named “I am a sex Porn Surfer” in which he openly talks about his addiction to porn. Subsequently he himself removed that vlog – for whatever reasons...

Pornography is the white elephant of Internet. Many people watch porno clips on Internet on daily basis. And yes many of them seem to be minors (I really don’t see what could prevent a 12 or a 15 year old from clicking on “Yes, I am over 18”. And yes, YouTube is replete with user-generated pieces that show people engaged in sexually provocative activities. Like many other web services, YouTube does screen for pornography and it also has a mechanism that allows users to flag sexually or otherwise inappropriate contents. However, those mechanisms do not work perfectly. BTW, neither do “safe search” options on Google or Yahoo browsers. The truth is that all American children who have Internet access will sooner or later discover “pornography”.

(Recently a YouTube “clone” that specializes in user generated porn content (videos and photos) – PornoTube has been launched. Not surprisingly the number of views that it receives daily is progressively increasing. It is for free and no credit card number is needed – all you need is to click on “yes I am over 18”).

How bad Internet/Sex/Pornography can be?

As I hinted previously, sexuality is a rather complex activity that requires regulation and coordination of a broad range of behavior and processes, including the physiological, psychological, social, cultural, political, spiritual or religious aspects of sex, etc.

Most of social behaviors are learned through numerous observations and limited but safe try outs followed by feedback. Most social behaviors are learned through REPEATED observations of multiple individuals performing the particular kind of behavior in multiple contexts.

If so then how do we learn about sex?

In the pre-Internet era there weren’t that many opportunities for young people to observe other individuals performing sexual acts, since sexuality was coupled with privacy and shame. Hidden behind the doors of adults’ stores, pornography was hardly legal, obscure and marginalized by film industry as cheap production. With the diffusion of Internet and multimedia technology among households, pornography businesses have flourished and porn contents have been made accessible to all kinds of people, including women and youth – no need to enter obscure adult stores – just a simple click on “Yes, I am over 18”.

In her book “Hard Core” Linda Williams argues that hard core pornography from its early stage of the “stag” film enables the viewers to see and study the mechanics of human body in various intimate situations of pleasurable actions. She acknowledges the apparent misogyny and objectification of women, but insists that pornography is not a monolith enterprise and that contemporary porn combines sex education with postmodern performance.

In the light of the lack public interest for addressing ALL concerns of American youth with regards to their sexuality (not only the safety issue! – see above the beginning of my blog) I embrace Linda Williams’ view! Furthermore, returning to my comment about social learning, I suggest that pornography does provide numerous opportunities for observing multiple individuals performing a large variety of sexual acts on multiple occasions.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that I do not consider pornography as an ideal tool for learning about sexual acts. However I definitely find pornography a more compelling tool for sexual education than typical sex ed classes that are taught in American public schools.

What I argue for is not to make YouTube and other Internet services “safe” by policing and censoring websites, but to make the web “sex positive”. I recognize the need for some kind of policing (at least over child pornography and other illegal contents), but I don’t see it as the only thing we can and should do. Instead I would like to advocate for an approach that addresses ALL concerns and needs of American youth with regards to their sexuality and provide a variety of resources that can help address those concerns.