Home » Sex on The Internet, The Realities of Porn, Sexual Privacy & How Search Affects Them All by Violet Blue (Full Transcript)

Sex on The Internet, The Realities of Porn, Sexual Privacy & How Search Affects Them All by Violet Blue (Full Transcript)

Violet Blue

Full text – Violet Blue discusses sex on the internet, the realities of porn, sexual privacy & how search affects them all at Google Tech Talks conference. (October 12, 2007)

Listen to the Audio MP3 here: Sex on The Internet, The Realities of Porn, Sexual Privacy & How Search Affects Them All by Violet Blue – MP3

Introducing Speaker: Thanks everyone for coming and it’s my pleasure to present Violet Blue.

Violet Blue – Author, Sex Educator

Hello. Thanks for coming and piling in here. This is really packed and it’s really, really awesome.

Before I say anything, I just want to let you know that there won’t be any explicit sexual imagery up here. I’m sorry. Everyone’s over 18, right? But there is going to be some frank sexual talk. So, if you’re uncomfortable with frank graphic, explicit sexual talk, now is the time to probably leave. I saw some of you brought luncheon. You might want to finish that up, probably a good idea.

So, if you look at the posters that were so sweetly put all over the Google campus, you’ve an idea of sort of my résumé and what that basically describes is that I’ve been a sex educator and a writer for almost 10 years. I have over 20 published books in this form, the print form and I have some e-media as well. I have audio books and some e-books coming out soon. The stuff that I’ve written is all non-fiction, so it’s all how-to information on sex which stems from being a sex educator, working in the field, lecturing, doing peer to peer support, peer to peer counseling and working with sex information hotlines, San Francisco Sex Information that’s sfsi.org which is basically we take anyone and everyone who has some kind of crazy emergency, sometimes non-emergency or just sort of Am I normal? question about sex and talk to them, and I lecture to the students. So, I’m actually at the point now where I educate the educators.

And when I worked at Good Vibrations, I helped developed their educational department. And what I did there was I also developed their outreach department which was sending teams to places like planning parenthood and teaching them about sex toys, and sending teams to places like halfway houses for developmentally disabled adults and teaching them, you know, about good sex and bad sex and being able to sort of navigate their life as adults and things like that. So, I have a pretty wide repertoire. I have a lot of experience – a lot of online experience with sex and searching for sex. Not just because I’ve had a blog for a long time and I’ve been doing pod — sex podcasting for a long time but also because I’ve been working for a site called fleshpot.com for the past several years.

And Fleshpot is a Gawker Media site. However, we’re sort of an island onto ourselves in many ways in that it’s been run by one person. It’s been run by John O for a very long time and I was the second person that he hired to come on. Partly because he was re-blogging a lot of stuff that I was blogging and then we started talking and we’re like, “Hey, we should just do this together,” but he also wanted to bring in inclusivity to the site. So, it’s a site, you know, that’s for — it’s primarily targeted toward a heteronormative audience, so like a straight male audience if you will about porn, run by a gay man, administrated by someone like me. So, and then — since then we’ve hired a bunch of other bloggers so that we can have a really — cover a really diverse spectrum, all genders in all orientations and sort of also get in a little bit of a perceived message that there’s isn’t just one kind of sex out there.

So, the title of this talk is Sex On The Internet, The Realities Of Porn, Sexual Privacy Online and Search which actually wasn’t the title that I picked. That was my editor in front row. So, I came with a subtitle which is Cataloguing All The World’s Information Even If It’s Taboo. As you can see I have someone looking for Ceiling Cat and if you’re unfamiliar with Ceiling Cat, it’s an online little cat mean Ceiling Cat is watching you masturbate. So, the joke is that Ceiling Cat is watching you do naughty things which I think is a great analogy for things about sexual privacy online.

And I’m going to be doing a bit of reading here because I’ve done — there are a lot of things in here called facts that I want to make sure that I get right, so believe it or not.

The Internet has changed human sexuality forever as we know it. I think that we have yet to see the effects of how the Internet has changed the way that we express ourselves as human beings. Basically, sexual information has been locked down, commodified. It’s been held in certain channels. It’s been presented in certain ways. Sexual information and pornography has been held to controlling interest due to government influences, due to personal opinion, due to religious influences and also due to distribution influences. Distribution influences primarily being people like booksellers who want to sell books about certain sex topics which is why a majority of my books are with independent publishers so I can talk about sex from an all genders, all orientations perspective which means stream sex publishing is still scared to death of. Even though they’re trying to negotiate with me for books, they’re still like super afraid that I talk to gays and stuff like that. It’s amazing how backwards they are.

But the Internet has sort of leveled the playing field for what I see is a democratic dissemination of sex information and being able to sort of talk to everyone about that. Basically, it’s sort of like a free market approach to sex. People are being able to sort of look for what they want and find what they want. Working on a site like Fleshsbot, I’ve been able to see and see stats and look at stats and what people are actually interested in. I’ve been able to sort of play with and test with looking what, you know, people have been looking for — well, and not just on Fleshsbot but on my site and other sites as well.

What’s really afforded people the opportunity to start to make choices about developing what I see as their own sort of sexual operating systems because I come from the belief that everyone’s sexuality is as individual to them as a fingerprint and we sort of take in information from different places and we assemble what works best for us. And I think that it’s a constant assembly. I think that, you know, if the first version didn’t work, say, it was beta, and do it again.

So, basically what’s affording people the ability to do this is being able to go online and have what they perceived as sexual privacy. It used to be that you need to go to the porn store or you would go — you would get an Adam and Eve catalogue with a very limited range of things to choose from that, where sex toys weren’t even necessarily chosen because they’re made of healthy products but because they’re made of cheap products and put together by people who don’t really care about the sexual health, the sexual pleasure or what’s going on with people that they’re selling these products to.

Well, like I said the Internet has changed that to make these people to have privacy. Of course, the problem is that people aren’t as anonymous as they think.

Who looks for sex online and what are they looking for?

What I want to talk about first, I want to talk about the user first and it’s who looks for sex online and what are they looking for. Well, I think the first obvious answer to all of that is that people are looking at sex online to get off. And I know that it’s horribly taboo to talk about but basically what we’re talking about is masturbation, people jacking off. There are a lot of perceptions about people who are interested in sex. The idea of anyone being interested in sex other than for usual mainstream media reasons is quite taboo. The idea of looking at sex or being interested in sex purely for the sake of pleasure is something that a lot of people just simply don’t want to talk about.

And the presumptions of people who are doing that tend to get shoved in the corner of the guy with the raincoat, you know. It’s that sort of stereotype where it’s like, “Oh, well, if you’re really interested in sex or if you’re searching for or looking for it you must immediately be doing something immoral or be thinking bad thoughts.”

Who else is looking for it? Well, people who are curious, anyone who is curious about sex. I’m sure pretty much everyone in the world at this point has opened up a browser and typed in sex just to see what’s going to come up because we’re curious, we’re monkeys. It’s true.

I think another group of people who are looking for sex online are people who are seeking accurate, non-bias, non-judgmental sex information. Sometimes, that information that they’re looking for is urgent and I’ll go into that in a second.

Another subset of people who are looking for sex online are people who are seeking community. People who feel alone, desperate, isolated and even folks who just want to know if they’re normal or not which is pretty much the most common question “Am I normal?”

Role of Search

A couple of quick points which I’ll develop later as well is the role of search in all of these. First of all, I think the role of search in sex, the strongest role is fighting spam. It’s a big, big problem. It’s a big problem for people like me who want to get accurate information out there and I just can’t even imagine what you all go through dealing with spammers because they’re just — they’re pretty insidious. Unfortunately, they’re not like trolls because trolls are stupid and easily defeated. Spammers tend to be a little smarter which is a bummer.

Also in the role of search I think is understanding perceive sexual minorities or people who are perceived as sexual minorities, their practices and especially their self-labeling. Seeing active with the current online taxonomy for the terms that perceive sexual minorities and I’m talking even about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Seeing current with that taxonomy that they use to self-identify with is really tricky because it’s changing all the time.

I recently did a series of pieces where I was data mining Craigslist and I data mined Craigslist because I just wanted to see like who was looking for what at any given point, any given time and any given neighborhood in San Francisco and it was pretty interesting to see who is into what in the different neighborhoods. Some things were fairly predictable like the, cliché of the businessmen looking for the quick blowjob in the hotel district that’s pretty obvious. But I came up with some other surprises as well.

What I really came up with that surprised me which I didn’t develop into a piece was what I started figuring out when I was dating mining Craigslist and I’m talking about just the quick and dirty personals, is when I started doing it out on a nationwide level because I started to unearth taxonomy that even I was unfamiliar with that people were using those terms to search for and to connect with each other. So, I think that part of the role of search is kind of keeping up with those terms and maybe even having community liaisons who can help explain with these terms mean and demystified these terms.

One piece I wrote, well, I was at South by Southwest. I got this email from an F to M porn site which is Female to Male transsexual. And they were having a hard time with their Google AdSense words where words that they considered respectful and that they used to identify themselves in a way — there are a lot of disrespectful terms that are used toward these sexual minorities, especially transsexual people. And the terms that they used to self-identify were sort of getting put in the wrong bucket and ending up coming up as ads for things that were really insulting, degrading, disgusting and even illegal. So, they appealed to me for help. And I just sort of made some noise about it and I think it sort of raised the level of awareness of how people are labeling themselves.

So, I think the other role of 8search that I think is really important is understanding the importance of unbiased results whether for the user’s tribulation, i.e., porn, healthy sexual expression, pleasure and enjoyment. And, you know, as we all know porn is legal in America, the emergent trend of sex using entertainment resources such as blogs or for the delivery of accurate sex information, all of which, I think can easily get confused with spam. So, that’s really tricky.

So, the question is and I’ll go back to who these people are now is who needs sexual privacy, accurate search results and unbiased sex information the most? And now, I’m talking specifically about perceived sexual minorities; lesbian, gays, bisexual and transgender people. Those identified by their sexual orientation or gender identity regardless of their interest in the active sex. In most places, LGBT in questioning people face hostility from within as from without the outside world.

Community healing hookups and hot porn which is important can be found online, of course. Matthew Shepard found out in 1998 that being gay in Wyoming was a death sentence. Brutal transgender murders like Brandon Teena which is what the movie “Boys Don’t Cry” was based on still happen as evidence in the 2002 murder of 17-year-old, male-to-female Gwen Araujo from Newark, California. But with a Quick Google Search now, trans identity becomes more of a community and less of a mystery or a “gay panic” murder defense when justice should have been served which it wasn’t.

Anyone with an outsider sexual interest such as people, Apple folks — now, this is actually — I was in the pride parade this year and so I thought this was a great shot that I took from the car that I was riding in. I was riding with my adoptive mother who is transgender, captain or president rather of the Police Commission of San Francisco, Theresa Sparks.

But anyone with an outsider sexual interest such as a fetishist, and by fetishist I actually mean someone into balloons or co-aides with colds. It’s a real site. Check it out. It’s not explicit. It’s really cute. Anonymity and direct access allows someone who feels alone, possibly self-hating and misunderstood and often a fetishist highs their favorite way to masturbate from their chosen and life-long sex partners to find community. And fetishes, just really quickly — I’m not just talking about loners but I’m also talking about — I mean, when you think of sexual fetish, we tend to think of the people who are sort of more interested in like the fringes or the more extreme or the more funny or the more, outrageous or easy to make fun of sexual interest but, common sexual fetishes are more socially accepted fetishes are like big boobs or big dicks, so it’s fit for thought.

BDSM and Kink is interested people as well. Those interested in power exchange sex, bondage, sensory play of pain, complicated scenarios and predicaments that involve fear and power over-scenes are common targets for media discrimination. Until Hollywood gets over it and the dinosaur era mainstream media outlet stop showing BDSM as abuse. Using it as a trope for female degradation and telling us that Kink and BDSM are dark and dangerous habits that can kill you which is exactly what happened in the SF Weekly two weeks ago and in a CNN article yesterday. And psychiatrist stopped categorizing BDSM interest as an illness. These people still need access. They need information in the community.

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Again, anyone needing non-biased accurate sex information, that’s any kid in the Bible Belt worried that they’re pregnant because their boyfriend came on their leg. This is an actual question that we got on the Spizzy hotline. And this we’ve seen actually as a direct result of four or five years of absence education in schools. Since absence education has come into schools across the nation, we at the hotline have seen an increase in calls from young people who really are like, “Oh, my god, can I get AIDS from sitting on a toilet seat,” because no one’s telling them what’s going on. And unfortunately as an effect we’re seeing a rise in STD rates as well because they’re not knowing how not to get and they didn’t even know what they’re doing actually. I think they can — they think that oral sex isn’t sex and they’re thinking that anal sex is something that helps maintain their virginity.

So, we’re also talking about trans people so desperate. They want to self-medicate with hormones. Someone’s wondering if they’re gay. Someone’s trying to fixate themselves during masturbation without killing themselves and needing to know how. The guy who wrote me last week about a broken condom with his girlfriend or the girl that emailed me last month who just had sex for the first time and couldn’t stop the bleeding and didn’t know what to do. I was the person she reached out to, a total stranger but someone that she felt that she could ask this question to.

And, you know, that’s also the guy with the flashlight stuck in his ass. You should have just visited Spizzy.org.

So, who else needs this information? Women. In a January Nielsen ratings poll, they found that 1 in 3 women were accessing porn online and that’s just women who self disclosed that they were – we, we’re accessing porn online.

Of course, we’re looking at porn but we’re doing some privacy or at least what we perceived to be in privacy. We’re more empowered as ever, women, period, to ask for what we want sexually at least of ourselves in anonymity and be and fuck whoever we want in whatever form we want in places like second life where you can be a different gender if you want to.

Female bloggers don’t need to be sex bloggers to have serious need for online privacy but gender does make a sexual targets. I don’t need to communicate to you how many – about how women are sexual targets online. Statistically and in real life, we all know a female rape victim. Cyber stalking as we all know gets perfectly ugly when it’s focused on women.

Sex workers, sex workers of all gender. This means porn stars as well. I have an interesting example of that in a moment actually. Their online privacy also equals to physical safety and different jurisdictions may or may not agree. Sex shoppers, porn and sex toy consumers — costumers. People plunked on their credit cards and personal info online all too often without accessing the risk of doing so. There’s often so much sexual shame involved and whatever they’re buying they tended to just go for it. Some companies bait and switch costumers saying they’ll ship in a plain brown rapper or selling costumer in photo during parties. Pretty much everyone, anyone who could lose a job, a lover, a friend, a court case, child custody or visitation, freedom under the constitution or could face physical or emotional harm from being added for their interest in sex or sexual identity. And that sounds like a sermon but I have a couple of examples to show you.

So, what we’re talking here about and a lot of ways is the illusion of sexual privacy online. If people knew how much their privacy was at risk when they paid for porn or posted or answered that Craiglist ad or search for K9 in Google, would they still do it? Probably. It’s easy for those of us who know our way around the Internet still laugh at Nigerian bank scammers but the Internet is growing new users every single day and will continue to until you all stop breathing. But no one’s telling people not to do stupid things like give out personal info in sexual situations from experimentation and masturbation to point of purchase because the whole topic is still taboo.

Craigslist experiment

How many of you have heard of a Craigslist experiment? Okay. So, that’s, I would say, about a quarter of the room. All right. Sorry to show you this photo. It’s horrifying. The Craigslist experiment. In September 2006, Griefer extraordinaire Jason Fortuny and his friend took a hardcore women seeking men ad from another city and reposted it on Craigslist Seattle to see how many replies he and his friend could get in 24 hours. Then he published every single response, photos, emails, IM info, phone numbers, names, everything to public Wiki, Encyclopedia Dramatica. Then they went public on Jason’s live journal page calling at the Craigslist experiment inviting readers to identify the Craigslist ads responders and add more info “Your goal: identify people you know, IRL, in real life, and point them out. We’ve already had great successes here.” The page is still alive. This is a screencap from just last week.

It wasn’t just any kind of ad but a hardcore BDSM ad posting where a female submissive was looking for a rough male dominant to beat her up and fuck her. The ad’s language suggests to me and many other sex educators that the original post were actually had no idea with the language they were using meant. Clearly, what the person was asking for was well beyond the safe same SM community definitions. This and the few other details suggested to me and other sex educators that I talked to about it that the original ad may have indeed been placed by a man experimenting with transgender identity searching for that female extreme, the extreme of female submission. Here’s the text.

The point is Jason and his cohort took the ad at face value as an average and got a face value response to what the ad’s message sent out to the world. They got 178 responses with 145 photos of men, cocks, faces and more, full email addresses both personal and business addresses, names and a few IM names and phone numbers. One respondent used a Microsoft employee email address and another used a USR army military email address. Respondents emailed Fortuny asking him to take the info down and he simply published their requests. Fortuny then had his private info published at Craigslist and was threatened physically with lawsuits and has been basically headed on by everyone from online BDSM communities to Wired who called him sociopathic.

Now, while researching my sex books, I’ve placed ads on Craigslist just to get a random sampling or to get ideas. Every time I have received an overwhelming amount of troll responses, of course, with photos I didn’t ask for, offers I didn’t ask for, and sometimes some pretty evil language. I’ve definitely entertained the idea of doing something with this information that they’re sending me but just thinking about it makes me feel better. It’s something that I could never conceive of someone actually doing in real life but unfortunately, in this case, someone did. And it’s pretty common. I actually have joked with other female sex bloggers and female sex educators about receiving unsolicited, like, extremely personal information from people via email and, in fact, I’ve joked over beers, “Oh my God, you’ve got a face pic. You’re great.”

So ultimately, in the Craigslist experiment, a high percentage of these guys’ lives were changed in a major way. Now, here’s the not eat your lunch photo. Censored. Censored for your viewing pleasure. And this is how we censored it when we put it on Fleshpot. The top photo is someone’s photo was reposted and the bottom photo was the photo that was used in the ad.

Some might argue that the Craigslist experiment is an inevitable form of online natural selection. If you have something to lose, don’t do something that could make you lose it. And I think personally that if our culture was made to feel less ashamed about sex, Jason’s results would be quite different. In a follow-up to the blog posting that I did on my personal blog, I received an email forwarded from the King County prosecuting attorney’s office stating, “Based on whatever the media counts, I would like to say that there was no violation of our state criminal code involved here yet.” So what he did was actually legal.

Right after the Craigslist experiment, granted this was last year around this time, there was a copycat in Portland. Yesterday in Gainesville, Florida, there was another copycat post which was flagged and removed within a few hours. So I have another example for you. It’s a very hot photo. The police officer recently fired for having an adult site. Last month, an Arizona officer was officially fired for running a sex website with his wife when off the clock. A three-judge San Francisco Ninth Circuit US Court Of Appeals panel ruled against the former first officer’s First Amendment Free Speech Right and right to privacy-focus case which, of course, directly affects any individual sexual privacy online and shows, I think, just how ignorant a lot of US circuit judges are about the internet.

The judges ruled that because what the former officer did was “vulgar, indecent, sleazy and disreputable,” he has no right to keep his job as a public servant. The thing is what the former officer and his wife did was simple, boring, amateur porn. Okay. I’m sorry. But I’m surprised anyone paid for it. Seriously. It was just — it was like they’re swingers, right? It was just like him and his wife and it was a paid site and there would be pictures of him and her having sex, pictures of her masturbating or pictures of her with another girl. So I mean, it’s pretty pedestrian stuff considering what’s out there. The only offense here is that they were a couple being exhibitionist swingers.

One judge didn’t agree, and I thought that was really interesting. And I have a little bit from his concurrence in a judgment. “With all due respect,” this is from Judge Kennedy, “With all due respect, I am unable to join the majority opinion. Under the facts of the case and the existing precedent, the police department could not discharge Dibble,” Ronald Dibble, that’s his name, “for his website expression without violating the First Amendment. As the majority opinion points out, Dibble was careful not to identify himself or his website with the police department or the police status at all. Now, I recognize that pornography, although apparently popular, is not a very respected subject of First Amendment protection in many quarters, the majority opinion here reflects that distaste variously characterizing Dibble’s expressive activities as vulgar, indecent, sleazy and disreputable. But vigorous enforcements of the Free Speech Guarantee of the First Amendment often requires that we protect speech that many, even the majority, find offensive. Pornography and sexual expression in general is protective by the First Amendment when that does not constitute obscenity and there’s no showing that Dibble’s expression meets that extreme standard. When applied to sexually –sorry. When applied to sexually expressive activities, this ruling has disturbing potential for expansive application.”

And this is a photo I actually took at Pride this year. I rode with the police contingent which is really fun and they were very, very proud. These were their pride beads hanging from their side arms. The judge concluded a measurable segment of the population, for example, is vigorously antagonistic to homosexual activity and expression. It could easily be encouraged to mobilize where a police officer discovered to have engaged off-duty and unidentified by his activity in a gay pride parade or expressive cross-dressing or any number of expressive activities that might fan the ambers of antagonism smoldering in the part of the population.

I have another example. And this is a more first person example here. The story of anonymous sex blogger girl with a one track mind. This is a recent screen cap from her site. As I’ve told you, I’ve been a blogger and an occasional girl Friday editor of fleshpot.com for the past few years. A job, when full time, requires me to scour the internet for explicit sexual content of reasonable quality. We endeavor to cover a wide range of sexual expression in all genders and orientations. And I’ll tell you, when — Joanna lives in New Orleans and when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I ended up running fleshpot for two months by myself with basically no other employees. So I was doing 12 to 15 posts a day. So that pretty much required me to be an expert on taxonomy and terminology, where to find it, how to find it, who was doing circle jerk linking, who was doing spamming, you know, who was doing re-directs and get myself really familiar with all the variety of different variety of different types of sexual expression online and also see how they could be blogged.

We have a regular feature that’s call The Sex Blog Round Up. And what The Sex Blog Round Up is it’s really cool because what it is is it’s a weekly installment where we do a post that takes excerpts from sort of the best of individual sex blogs. And these are sex blogs that are text, usually no photos, in fact, rarely photos if ever. So what we’re concentrating on is text porn erotica, basically erotic lit, but what’s exciting about it is that it’s generally people’s real life experiences as they’re writing them down usually as anonymous bloggers.

When I did this weekly, I had upwards of 200 text-only sex blogs written by individuals worldwide in my RSS reader. Outside the 50 to 75 usual suspects of variety sex blogs, MSN news, link dumps, and other sex news blogs. Every week, I would have to call for new blogs and read them and add to my feeds more because invariably, a handful of sex bloggers who were blogging anonymously had to quit blogging, meaning they were, for one reason or another, no longer anonymous. It was such a regular occurrence, I developed a pretty snarky attitude toward the limited lifespan anonymous sex blogger even though they often offered up the juiciest and most explicit posts about sex.

There are still a lot of regular anonymous sex bloggers who maintain their privacy but they’re extremely careful and very web savvy in doing so. Although I know a number of them outside their web personas from New York to Alaska and to London, London is where I found the hot post of single anonymous female sex blogger, the loved and respected Girl with the One Track Mind. When I visited London a few years back, I met the girl in the flesh and we had a very good night of good old fashion English drinking. We went out to pubs and we had a fabulous time. What was really interesting though was that the entire time that I was hanging out with her and talking about trials and tribulation of sex blogging, blogging on the internet, blogging — personal blogging, versus blogging private stuff et cetera, et cetera because on my personal blog, I blog about my own life as well. She refused to tell me her actual name the entire evening we spent together. She, in fact, told me a pseudonym. I thought that was kind of interesting. She also picked my brain because she really, really wanted to be a published author. She wanted a book. She wanted a book about her website. She wanted a book about her blog and a book about her exploits which she got.

She later did get that book deal named after her blog and upon publication in August of last year, found herself ambushed outside her London flat by paparazzi and outed in the UK tabloids three days after the book was published. She wrote, “I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security regarding my anonymity because I knew that Bel de Jour, who is another anonymous sex blogger and also British, was hounded by the press and still managed to keep her identity private. Whilst I may have a high traffic blog and a book detailing my sexual adventures in the shops, I’m not a prostitute like her. So, why, I figured, would anyone really be interested in who I am?”

On the 2000 anniversary of her outing, she recently blogged in retrospect, “I could talk about how I was the laughing stock at work, everyone in the UK film industry knowing and discussing the most intimate details of my sex life.” She worked on the Harry Potter films, by the way. “I could talk about how I had to go into hiding and how, for a week, the tabloids poked their long lens cameras through my parents’ letterbox and rang their doorbell and telephone constantly, making both me and my parents live in a state of anxiety. I could talk about how profoundly I was affected by the articles on me, both in the media and online, how I wanted to challenge the lies, misrepresentations and personal attacks but couldn’t. I could talk about how I wasn’t made rich by the book and that losing my film career as a result of it made me worry that I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent. I could talk about how my friends were offered money to spill the dirt on me and people from my past suddenly reappeared in my life, making me paranoid that I couldn’t trust anyone.” And here’s a picture of her. She writes for Guardian UK now. “I could talk about how all my ex-lovers contacted me, concerned that I had disguised them fully, all of them now aware of my previous hidden feelings about them. I could talk about how I then decided to give online dating another go, only to discover that somehow every man I got into conversation with, ended up on a date with, knew that I was Abby Lee and was a fan of the blog, making me immediately scamper in the other direction because I felt so vulnerable. I could talk about how almost all the men I’ve met and/or been intimate with have asked me not to write about them even when we’ve had no more than a pint together. I could talk in explicit detail about all the hot or not sex I’ve had but feel too exposed now that everyone knows who I am and my friends, colleagues and acquaintances all read the blog. I could talk about all these things on the blog if I were still anonymous, but I’m not. My outing last year was a huge strain on me. And yes, I have managed to find a silver lining out of it, but the ability to freely do the one thing that gave me such pleasure, blogging, has been destroyed. Take the anonymity away from a blogger who depends on it and you get a blog with no heart. True sincerity and authenticity about events, people, thoughts and feelings rely on anonymity. I’ll challenge anyone who says that anonymity shouldn’t matter when someone is writing about their own lives. It does.”

Active threats to sexual privacy online

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So, let me lighten the atmosphere for a minute. So, active threats to sexual privacy online. Well, right now, that would be the US government. Is anyone here familiar with 2257 Laws or The Child Obscenity Act? A very small amount of people. Okay. Great.

In a nutshell, 2257 refers to regulations under the Child Protection And Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988 which specifies record keeping requirements for those wishing to produce sexually explicit media and imposes criminal penalties for failure to comply. This is supposedly to ensure that no person under the legal age is involved in porn, though it’s, of course, only pursued within the realm of the perfectly legal adult porn industry and applicable only in the United States. The regulations are directed toward the terms primary producer and secondary producer. Oh, and if you feel like reading, this is the 2257 statement on a Canadian website. It’s kind of ironic, don’t you think?

So, the regulations are directed toward the terms primary producer and secondary producer. This part is important. A primary producer is defined in a set of rules as any person who actually films, video tapes, photographs or photographs a visual depiction of actual sexual explicit conduct. A secondary producer is defined as any person who produces, assembles, manufactures, publishes, duplicates, reproduces or reissues a book, magazine, periodical film, video tape or other matter intended for commercial distribution that contains a visual depiction of actual sexual explicit conduct. Different record keeping requirements exist for primary versus secondary producers. One may be both a primary and secondary producer.

Not surprisingly, this has come under many legal challenges as the definitions of actual sexually explicit conduct and secondary producer are vague, perhaps intentionally so. Just as the definition of obscenity in the courts is left to so-called community standards, for instance, a fisting DVD may not be considered obscene by San Francisco community standards but it most certainly would be in Laramie, Wyoming. That’s how obscenity is prosecuted in America on a federal level at this point. It’s sort of a blanket, you know, leaving it to community standards, letting the communities decide what’s obscene for them or not.

But I believe that these laws are intentionally vague. I believe that the wording about sexually explicit conduct is intentionally vague and I believe that the definition of secondary producer is intentionally vague as well. And I think that that sort of Mafia style on the government side of things to keep anyone who comes near a porn image ever unsure if they’re in violation of law.

And when recent 2257 record keeping requirements came down about a year and a half ago which have been challenged about secondary producers which is reposting the content, I got in this great conversation with a friend of mine who runs an erotic online magazine which is primarily just like non-explicit pin-up galleries and covering sex events around the United States and then articles about sex and sexuality and sort of news briefs and things like that. And his boss made it his job to go through every single image that they had on the site and try to determine if each image was considered sexually explicit conduct. And I talked to him on the phone while he was going through it and he was like, “I’m looking at this picture of a girl’s ass.” And I’m like, “Is that red from a sunburn or is red from a spanking?” So, you see what we’re going through here?

Now, the idea of having porn producers keep stringent laws or keep stringent records is, of course, a really good idea. What’s unfortunate is that this is being enforced in legitimate adult businesses. It’s not being thought of or applied to anything outside of legitimate adult businesses and these, you know, mainstream porn people who have these giant companies and corporations like Vivid and Wicked and stuff like that, they want to keep their businesses. They’re making a lot of money, of course, they’re going to follow the rules. It’s ridiculous that they’re rating these people and they’re not really doing anything else with this.

But what’s interesting about this to me, sexual privacy wise, this poses a serious threat to sex workers. I know you wouldn’t think about this but I have personal experience with this at this point not because I’m a sex worker but as a blogger. She looks pretty young, doesn’t she? It’s kind of creepy. This is on her teen website. This is what she’s using for her 2257 documentation. So, if you click on her site for 2257 documentation, this is what you get. This is why you’ll start to see it’s a pretty serious threat. People don’t know what to do and they’re doing some really scary things.

Notably to porn performers and actors in video and imagery, the government might consider sexually explicit conduct. For example, more than once for Fleshpot and for my personal blog, porn creators, you know, and people who make porn, they want — they’re starting to get the Internet, right? They want access to blogs, they want access to traffic and they also want access to people like me who are educators that will present their material in context. And to promote their stuff, they’ll send, you know, do you want images, do you want a short clip and do you want the 2257 materials that go with this? To my alarm, I’m FedEx-ed DVDs with scans of each performer’s driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, images of them holding their IDs and their Social Security cards next to their faces, copies of their contracts and signatures complete with current address and all personal information like their true names. What’s important to know is that these performers have no idea this information has been sent to me nor do they know who I am. And this business practice is commonplace, unfortunately.

Some admittedly low grade sites I’ve found allow surfers to click through and see the photo IDs of the models. I believe we have yet to see the dark ramifications of the privacy protections these sex workers no longer have. And equip Google image search 2257 ID. It’s right there. You can find a lot more, so.

Male Participant: I mean, I have a serious question. What types of searchers lead to things like this?

Violet Blue: He’s asking what type of searches lead to things like this. And all I did, well, safe search off.

Male Participant: Because the passports are very explicit.

Violet Blue: Hello, I know. Yeah, and there’s a lot more like this that are US-based. But it was simply matter of safe search off, going to Google image search, typing in 2257 ID. And I also found some when I typed in 2257 proof. This was on page four. The teen, I think, was on – for the previous teen was on page two. So these findings are from a week ago, last Friday, so. I’ll get a fresh one for you next time, hopefully not.

Okay. So, what else is interesting about sexual privacy online and what sort of is posing a threat of bringing up some interesting questions? 2.0 sites and understanding what is and isn’t porn, porn or not? Good questions these days, don’t you think? On photo sharing social sites like Flickr, some users are finding that their simple pictures of their own feet are ending up in foot fetishes photo pools. Oh, some people are perfectly fine with that. Others are totally freaking out that someone is having sexual thoughts about their feet without their express consent, nonetheless. Is it Flickr’s role to please these activities? Well, it’s a really good question and brings into play the changing cultural values and judgments about what constitutes porn, acceptable use of images individuals create and how they’re seen by others. All argue that any foot fetishes probably sexualizes feet on the bus, in the park or online. The only difference is that the online software is giving the foot owners the access to see how the people in the world around them might see their feet.

Now they know what they, otherwise, wouldn’t know and can’t control. The notions of community standards for porn or obscenity, I believe simply don’t work in application to worldwide data clusters. Social networking sites have no idea where they fall under 2257 regulations as to their role to users and have been fumbling blindly with the notions of community standards with disastrous and embarrassing results. This was a direct result of when — or what Flickr’s been going through trying to work with the German government around how they want to police their internets. So, I am aware that you had a talk here on September 21st by someone named Shelley Lubben.

Audience: She decided not to come.

Violet Blue: Oh, no. That’s so sad. I really wanted to come. It was the day before my birthday. Oh, I had questions for her. Well, I’ll go over a couple of her points because I think they’re really interesting and I think that they were circulated to all of you as fact. I, you know, one of my questions was just if she could provide data or URLS for any of the things that she was asserting and…

Female Audience: I believe someone actually offered. It was someone who just — offered to, you know, find — help find fact and things like that, right?

Violet Blue: Right.

Female Audience: Like offered to go over a presentation and find what things are supported by even surveys or any sort of data points but I guess that was a bit intimidating. And so she decided to quit because she thought that, that was too hostile.

Violet Blue: Oh, goodness, gracious. Well, it’s a good point though. So you’ve got people like Shelley Lubben out there running around, right? Saying how porn is bad and porn is evil and she’s getting a lot of access. Media like to listen to people like her because she says crazy things about porn and people like O’Reilly Factor just eat this stuff out, you know. For instance, the frightening visage of Shelley Lubben AKA porn star Roxy who was a performer 10 years ago and hasn’t been involved in the porn industry since. So that’s, you know, kind of speaks to some of the accuracy of her recent experience and data.

66% of porn performers are infected with herpes?

One of the things she told you guys was that 66% of porn performers are infected with herpes. The truth to that is that one in five Americans are infected and porn performers are no different. How do we know they’re no different? Well, I talked with people like Sharon Mitchell and AIM. AIM is the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation which was founded many years ago when there was an HIV outbreak in the adult industry. And Sharon Mitchell was working in the industry at the time and realized that there was a serious need for sex education in the porn industry. There was a need for accurate information about STI, STD and virus transmission. And also, she wanted to set up basically a standardized testing center where all performers would go through the standardized testing center, get tested, be tested regularly and has worked very closely with the mainstream adult industry people which are the same people being rated by the FBI to make sure that their records are at, you know, that they’re employing adults. She works closely with these companies and everyone is on a 30-day regimen for testing. And they must provide their 30-day testing documentation in order to perform. On the day that they show up, they have to have the documentation with them. They don’t — they can’t fax it, they can’t say I’ll bring it later or anything like that, they have to have it.

And I’ll also add too that I’ve done a lot of work and a lot of research and a lot of writing about the type of testing that AIM does because I was really curious. Like, 30 days for screening, like, you know, normally, when one goes to get an HIV test, it’s a three to six month window in San Francisco and I was like how are they doing this turn around in 30 days. Well, it turns out they’re using one of the most advanced HIV test that you can get in the United States, the PCR DNA test. So, they’re pretty on it.

Women do not enjoy making porn?

One of the things that our lovely Shelley also told you guys was that women do not enjoy making porn. This plays into the myth that women don’t like sex, wouldn’t enjoy sex out of the contexts of heteronormative romantic relationships or enjoy sport fucking. Porn performers are not like the rest of us, they’re not. They like sex for sport, they are physically sexual athletes. It’s like Cirque du Soleil sex. Seriously, they bend in these crazy positions like –and they do it because they like it. People who don’t like being in the porn industry leave the porn industry, they don’t stay in it. There’s a constant amount of people who are interested in getting involved in the porn industry because it’s quick and easy money, it’s starting be a semi-glamorous profession and it’s pretty regulated. So, there’s a bit of a safety net.

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Oh, one of the other safety nets I wanted to mention too that AIM does is that every new talent that comes in, every new model that’s girl, boy, trans, whatever comes through and goes through a pre-counseling session before appearing in a video where they sit down and they watch a really kind of boring video that’s long and talks about STDs and getting tested and what their tests are going be like and talks to them all about their privacy and their confidentiality. Also talks to them about the social ramifications of getting involved in working in porn and doing sex work. Also talks about the counseling programs that are available to them through AIM if they want to do any counseling or they need anybody to talk to. And also, AIM has a transition program for people who want to transition into other types of work. So, they also help people get other jobs if they decide they don’t want to do porn anymore.

One of the things Ms. Lubben also said which is a very commonly assertive myth, porn stars are victims of child abuse and sexual abuse including early exposure to pornography. As it — as you probably have heard, there is no single unbiased study that bears this assertion out. It’s another shameful myth perpetuated about sex workers. The minute I find a study — the minute I find a study that bears anything about this out, I will most certainly publish it on my website. The only thing is that I’ve come — that I’ve come across that are close to making this assertion based on polls or anything like that come from Christian organizations. So, they have an agenda.

10% of porn performers are currently infected with HIV?

Another thing that Shelley talked about was that approximately 10% of porn performers are currently infected with HIV and that goes with her 66% of porn performers being infected, you know, the dirty shameful myth about how they’re all gross and dirty and spreading disease and stuff. Shelley doesn’t have access to those statistics. She doesn’t have access to AIM’s statistics because they’re confidential.

One of the other funny things she said, I love this, no other industry has more suicide related dust than the porn industry. According to –according to the Association of Psychologists and Psychiatrists, healthcare professionals, doctors and dentists have the highest suicide rates, also EMTs and nurses followed by food assembly and preparation personnel. That would be people in – working in slaughter houses actually.

What’s important to know is why people like Shelley want to come and talk to you and why they want to talk to everybody about why this is all dirty and bad and evil and how we need to close off the internets so people can’t, you know –for the kids, which, whenever people say that they’re doing things for the children, it’s always a foil for some other agenda and you should always see it as a red flag as far as I’m concerned.

Shelley Lubben is an active proponent of Utah CPAD legislation which states in essence anybody providing open wireless access that a minor users to access pornography will be subject to a fine. Repeated violations are subject to criminal and/or civil prosecution. A part of my talk, I was going to go in the internet and show you the man behind CPAD legislations, a guy named Ralph Yarro. And you might want to check him out, check out his Wikipedia page. I mean, as updated and accurate as Wikipedia is, it still has interesting information about him and about his CPAD legislation which is, you know, 480. The most recent version of the CPAD legislation was signed off and publicly endorsed by the governor of Utah. So, that’s something you all want to check out and keep in mind.

So the question is, right, what do we do? How do we talk about this? What are our next steps? As a sex educator, I think that it’s a case of informed risk and harm reduction. Is anyone aware of what informed risk or harm reduction is? Any sex attendants. Couple of people. Don’t be embarrassed. I think that for everyone, sexual privacy and sexual access to non-biased, non-judgmental information should be seen as a case to informed risk and an attempted harm reduction just like we say for sex.

Simply put, Harm Reduction is a progressive approach to public health which takes into account that people are going to engage in risky behaviors even if they know better or not. Unprotected sex, drug use and I’d like to add sex in the internet. Harm Reduction attempts to mitigate risks and dangers by creating alternatives. Some things that Harm Reduction has done is rather than just say no or don’t drive drunk, Harm Reduction creates designative driver campaigns and controversial initiatives like the provision of condoms in public schools and needle exchange programs.

So, here’s another fun picture from PRIDE. Opponents counter that Harm Reduction condones unsafe sex activities. I think with sex online and particularly with porn, it’s more extreme because pervasive culture attitudes are still so deeply anti-sex and sex negative. Sexual interest is considered immoral in both media and government. So, I think it’s now become, sort of, I don’t know, a pet project of mine or at least a civic duty to try and tell people how to protect their sexual privacy because I think it’s the most vulnerable kind at this point. I have a huge safer porn surfing page on my website for that very reason. Users need to know basics about protecting their identity and I think online businesses should educate their users in a non-biased way and it’s getting pretty urgent for them to do so.

At the very least, there are basic general privacy guidelines that anyone should know about, basic safety precautions right up there with all those used lube for anal sex. So, people are going to do uninformed and sometimes done things with their sexual privacy on the internet. As I said earlier, knowing the risks the horny surfer will still click a risky link to get off or because they’re curious or get themselves in shady or dangerous situations because they lack community or information and even more so since the barriers to internet access in making online content becomes less and lower everyday. Those were the cops at PRIDE. Here’s the user again and thank you.

Thanks for listening.

I don’t know if we have time for questions or what.

Question-and-answer session

Male Audience: All right. So, I’ve got a microphone here.

Violet Blue: Cool.

Female Participant: The Utah legislation that you brought up made me wonder about something that I’ve only ever heard, sort of, rumors and myths about. When you have an international community website, like any kind of blogging or live journal or something like that. Then really — like do you know whose jurisdiction things that are posted there come under? Is it who’s hosting the site or is it where they’re reading it? And here, I mean, prosecuting the people who are giving the Wi-Fi seems a little bizarre to me.

Violet Blue: It does, doesn’t it? Definitely prosecuting people providing Wi-Fi seems extremely bizarre. And I think that it speaks to the ignorance of the legislators. When you start to talk about sex, sexual privacy and sexual activity online, pretty much all doors shut when it comes to legislation, unless you talk about something that you’re doing to save the children. The important point that you brought up is where exactly do social sites fall? Where do — where do things like live journal fall, you know, how do these — how are these companies – where do they fit? How are they going to deal with this? Right now, nobody knows and they’re all, sort of, trying to figure it out on their own. And I don’t think there’s an answer to that yet, unfortunately, which is why I’m telling everybody. Hi.

Male Participant: So, 2257 may not bother the big professional pornographers but it can be a big hassle for social networks, photo sites, anything with users, I mean, its contents. What do you think is going to happen in that area?

Violet Blue: That’s a really interesting question. Because social networking sites, some of them have wandered audibly and not, whether they fall under 2257’s secondary producer content restrictions. I don’t know if some of you remember tribe.net, but tribe.net a couple of years ago, for whatever their reasons, decided to start voluntarily applying 2257 regulations to their users on their social networking site. And they did so in — with a lot of blanket. So, the tribe Bubblewrap Fetish which was really just about bubblewrap was suddenly marked as a mature tribe, pissing off the users. And it also made users who had adult site — had adult tribes, you know, which are — were basically places where people could cluster and sort of talk about their interests, suddenly they were told directly that they were going to be held responsible for 2257 documentation for everything within their tribes. Basically, everybody fled tribe and it was the downfall of that site. It’s now trying to resurrect itself again but it didn’t work out very well for them. So, where do they fall? That’s a really good question. Did I answer all of that? Okay.

Male Participant: So, you were talking about how — when you were maintaining the site, it was hard for you to get up-to-date on all the different language available that’s community specific, and I’m wondering — I think it will also be challenging for someone who is realizing they want to become part of a community to figure out what the appropriate language is especially if there’s not any local influence. What do you think — I guess, what do you think the development for that would be? What do you think the future of that is? How do you think that can be made easier?

Violet Blue: I think that making — the development of that and making that easier is definitely going to be the lowest entry level access that people can get to information about things like this. So, keeping something like Wikipedia up-to-date would be really, really, helpful. And I would love to see more sex educators get involved in keeping Wikipedia up-to-date at least just with the terms and everything that everyone is using and write — speak more about how people are self labeling their gender, what’s acceptable and what’s not. And also what I’d like to see added to that too, is sort of some guidelines to people who do have sexual fetishes and sort of may need some guidelines about how they would behave online as well.

One of the things that came up when I was taking a look at the whole feet thing and people being upset about the feet thing on Flickr, was that some people who were — some of the foot fetishes were essentially adding themselves by leaving really inappropriate comments, you know. And so, there needs to be some language out there that’s, you know, as accessible to everyone as possible about that. I think that having sites network, sites that do indexing in particular, having them network with community liaisons, people who are working actively with peer to peer counseling and frontline counseling like spizzy.org and organizations like that and, you know, even community health clinics to just sort of keep up with, you know, what people are calling themselves. And also even sort of graphing, like, what sort of the urgent interests are at this point as well. So, keeping it as low entry level as possible like Wikipedia, basically, and trying to keep it up-to-date.

Male Participation: Through your presentation, you were using the words anonymous and private more or less interchangeably, but they’re…

Violet Blue: Always in quotes.

Male Participation: They’re different concepts.

Violet Blue: Yes.

Male Participation: Right?

Violet Blue: Right.

Male Participation: So, what do you think is more important to people searching for accurate sex information or for porn?

Violet Blue: What’s more important, anonymity or privacy? Well, I don’t think that I could choose either one because I can’t speak for the majority of users. And I would also say that the majority of users confuse the two terms. I think that there is a test of – I think that users constantly think that when they’re online, they just are anonymous. They don’t know that they need to go uncheck things, they don’t need to, you know, they don’t know that they need to erase their search history. They don’t, you know, the new user doesn’t know about cache and cookies and things like that. So, I think that — I mean, we’re talking about people who are just figuring a lot of the stuff out. They don’t need –you know, they don’t know that shopping at an online sex store, well, the sex store may, can — like guarantee their privacy in terms of shipping and packaging, may not necessarily guarantee their anonymity when it comes to selling their info to third parties.

So, I think that there’s a lot of confusion between the two terms and as far as choosing which one is more important, I would say that on a cultural value level, anonymity because it allows people the freedom to figure out and look for and explore and trying to understand who they are more. But I think that privacy is a more — would be the more physical urgent thing because privacy is the way that people get found out, it’s the way that people get outed, it’s the way that they can be tracked, it’s the way that they can be harassed, stalked, humiliated, lose their jobs, etcetera, etcetera, so it’s…

Male Participation: Back to the 2257 searches. Were the — are the paths to those –to that content primarily through image search or…

Violet Blue: Yes.

Male Participation: Are they — and not so much through other search entry points? So, if I, you know, if I search for 2257 on google.com web search, that doesn’t generally lead to that type of content?

Violet Blue: That’s correct. It was just the image search that led to the direct files. Although I’ve also randomly found websites that are like “Here’s our 2257 info for each girl.” And the girl with their IDs and I’m like “Oh, no.”

Female Participant: So, this is back at the very beginning. You were talking about how you basically did a search through Craigslist. I was just really curious, do you have or do you have like an easily rememberable link to what the actual breakdown is? I was just…

Violet Blue: Oh, when I was data mining?

Female Participant: Yeah. Like what do people mostly look for? I don’t know.

Violet Blue: You know what, it’s a Google spreadsheet and it’s public.

Female Participant: Oh. Cool.

Violet Blue: So, I’ll blog it. As soon as I’m done, I’ll put it on my site. And it’s local data and then the beginnings of me starting to do the national data. And then get to — I got totally freaked out about people having sex with dogs in Texas, so I stopped for a little while because there was, like, a lot of them and I was like, “Oh, this isn’t going to be a good article for the Chronicle.” So, how can I — no. But, yeah, it’s a Google Doc, yay, Google Doc, so it’s in public because I think that — and, you know, as I add, go back and add more information, it’s fun to have people, sort of like, watch it grow and change and e-mail me about, you know, different stuff. So…

Anybody else? Yay. Thank you.

 

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