Sex, Platforms and And When the Marketplace of Ideas Is A Shopping Mall

CN: perversity, discrimination and sexual assault and exploitation 

free speech porn and the POTUS

Jesus Christ, 2021. Nobody actually thought you were going to be different, but if we had any hope, you definitely managed those expectations effectively. One attempted coup later, let’s talk about where kinky sex applies to the current situation occupying anyone with an internet connection and grasp of the english language.

In the wake of banning the POTUS from various privately owned, but widely used social media outlets, there is a timely discussion on if the concept of “Free Speech” is applicable in relation to losing your access to commercially controlled platforms. Being a shiboleth for Americans, private curation gets called censorship, and people argue that this circumstances is completely different from state muzzling. 

Ultimately it’s the more sophisticated version of whether “irregardless” is a word that you can use interchangeably with “regardless”, or not. 

That’s to say that people are both correct that anyone using irregardless knows that more listeners understand it to mean “extra disregarding of prior argument”, but it’s not what that word originally meant. And, everyone hearing “this is an attack on free speech” knows damn well that the lines between aristocracy-level-powerful corporations and the state is blurry.

As a person who makes porn and has weird sexuality, I therefore find myself with the strangest of bedfellows indeed. This is even as I support excising the instability in the US like an old timey approach to breast cancer: carve off the whole teat into the lymph nodes to save the patient, if you have to.

If the house is on fire, forget about bath water VS baby ratio, and chuck the whole tub. However while sending your metaphorical bathtub out the window, you can still try to make sure it lands baby side up, and acknowledge some metaphorical babies may be harmed in the flight through the back garden.

And here we horny, loud fuckers are, shouting from the mall parking lot where we were ejected over a lewd, or being too strident about our rights, or having the wrong fetish.

Caveat 1: I am Canadian and we have limited free speech. Lots of stuff tolerated in the US, like holocaust denial, or writing fiction with kids having sex in text, is actually not ok here. This makes any approach to the sacred US Constitution on the shared internet starkly frustrating, being akin to how trying to deal with bible based legislation in the US feels to non-Christians. 

Caveat 2: I think that US companies removing someone trying to start a coup in the US is the right thing to do. But I think we can still talk about the porn and the queers and the activists and the harm that attitude of “my house, my rules” does to said groups.

Here’s our second dialectic: People don’t want mass violence to be planned on social media, and there is a practical fear of inspired and advocated acts from powerful persons. People with non-normative sexuality, or who want to focus on creative expression in their sexuality; particularly activists, are aware that historically we get repeatedly fucked when it comes to bans and shadow bans.

We also get fucked, in most nations, on *actual* free speech. Virtually every government is ok with prosecuting obscenity to some degree or another. If the example of exceptions to free speech is classically shouting fire in a crowded theatre, we are the porn (or public health) film the theatre is prevented from showing in the first place.   

So, What About The Fucking And Talking About It In Public?

The point by which I write this, in a sea of opinions of people who are smarter and more versed in the nuance of the topic, is to talk about the weird sort of “what is ok???” that is sex and activism.  

I must also approach such things with an understanding of why I may be deplatformed. Much how feminism cannot pretend TERFs didn’t have their genesis with us, our couple of centuries of long, slow sexual shifts of what is or isn’t ok birthed some really fucking nasty stinkers.

Yes really, not all sexual free speech or sexual freedoms have had ok ends. The midcentury obsession with “girl watching”, and the period in which psychiatry toyed with father/daughter incest as perfectly natural both stand out as core ideas we have had to walk back. The former is part of the background radiation of my life as a female presenting person, and the latter seeded the molestation of my mother and her sisters by my grandfather, and my sexual grooming by my mother, and the rape of my brother. 

These days we understand the concept of statutory rape. Much how (real) corporeal punishment is off the table for an increasingly large pool of people, we have some really good modern conversations about the limits of consent in power structures. However as much as moral relativism is often a cop out, there is utility in observing that people have never functioned with an absolute knowledge of good and evil.  

Somewhere out there is a platonic truth, and a best answer for right now. I do not know that I have it, only the earnestness of *trying* to get it right. I expect a best case of having my actions, even if I accidentally do get either the first or second category for my behaviour correct, to be my legacy of someone shaking their head and saying it was a different time then. (If anything I do is ever remembered in enough significance to matter).

Sympathy for the Devil That Is Anti-Sexuality

I think one of the hardest parts about being a human who fucks and talks about it in public is that the marginalised nature of the conversation puts you in the laps of awful people. I got a double helping of weird, violent sexuality. I am not so fucked over as the folks to whom the attraction of their sexual scripts are so far off what we agree to be ok that admitting to it, much less acting on it, causes most people to immediately think celibacy or violence to them are the only solutions. But it means going to some places to get off I think might be no beuno.

As a curious person who reads a lot of porn, both historical and current, boy howdy is there a lot of a) rape-by-default and b) kiddy fucking just littering the place (ewwwwwww). In the former case we modern folks created cnc, a sort of framing of ritual like the difference between a back alley beating, and a junior Taekwondo class. More pernicious, a lot of porn consistently reflects a sort of vile honesty about how we think things should go regarding rape culture, unexamined.  

For instance, we currently tolerate step-incest. We recognize it occupies taboos, but porn merchants have concluded as long as their is only the potential for statutory rape, not birth defects, all is well.  (Eugenics much?)

Sometimes the attempted porn tidying is indefinensibly stupid: see the banning of scat, piss, and the conversation on if squirting is piss. It’s probably not good for you to consume feces, but even likely simulations with substitutes like 2girls1cup, are subject to the same censorship as if it is real. I think it is gross to do things with poo, but I also think millennial pink is a viscerally ugly colour. 

Side note: Porn is the most meta art ever. For example kink.com seems to have pioneered the before/after shots showing the actors are ok. A great conceit! But it is fucking fascinating to see how many scenes of punitive sexual assault or kidnapping get accepted as clearly fic, but a storyline about ignoring a (fake) safeword was ironically triggering. It’s a mess, although often a beautiful one.

Most of the time efforts to censor or deplatform porn abd sex work are stupid and cause more harm than help.  

And yet, the current conversation around the explosion of real non-consensual sexual imagery (not cnc, images posted without consent of the subject(s), is a valid conversation that fuels a really painful effort to change everyone’s behaviour. In feminism, TERFs screaming about bathroom attacks are in cloud cuckooland, while “leak” is a porn category. Further, the difference between porn piracy of commercial porn and leaking your ex’s personal nudes is a lot more close than I think we are ready to talk about. Certainly the theft from OF models takes a weird sort of predatory collecting approach that feels way less about porn4all and a lot more about hurting the largely female model base. 

It already took the better part of two decades to go from “ooo, celebrity sex tape, gimmee” to “ew, they didn’t consent for me to see that”. Revenge porn laws are in their infancy, and two recent major political scandals, Bezos’s incriminating lewds, and whether or not Trump had a pee-tape existed as leverage show we still are dealing with accepting if that’s a unilateral sex crime or salicious good fun.  

And yet… Suppression of porn and sexuality contributes to that violence. Because all porn is suppressed to one degree or another, piracy also flourishes as a primary means of sharing and preserving it. Communities and publishers alike have a tenuous grip to their existence and it takes very little to suddenly make particular content inaccessible via easy means. Piracy of porn to preserve it, in particular makes “leaking” more easy to get people to accept, revolting as revenge porn is.

Meanwhile, because the makers and creators of porn are under siege, imperfect monopolies like Porn Hub, or choke points of publishers and distribution methods reinforce the very power structures that cause the most problems.

OF, clip sites, directory listings, etc… secondary distribution services concentrate power in the same old actors as usual. In my pool, Amazon is an enormous merchant of text based porn and aggressively grinds as close to a monopoly as it can. In my city “Little Sisters” grapples with their physical stock getting seized at the border, while my kindle delivers the same books Canada might censor without blinking. The norms of these choke points shape what is favoured, much how in the past romance publishers explicitly paid only for “Alpha” heroes. 

That is similar, by the way,  in the continuum to twitter and FB/insta and so on wanting me to be interesting, but not *too* sexy so they can make money off me. 

The Small World Of The Censored Fuckers, And How Our Censorship Feeds Abuse

Certain tropes exist just because there was, at one time, so few people doing it that if you made a porn to suit your tastes it could very well define the aesthetic of an entire permutation of human sexuality. One of the reasons I think the vintage aesthetic particularly self replicates in adult art is because we are still sharing and mastubating furtively to stuff created up to a century ago. Not because someone’s 1950s black and white big titty whip girl comic was the highest of art, but because so few other examples were created or survived, that even to this day the fantasies of Tom of Finland have an aesthetic influence on kink, long after road safety is such that most people don’t remember you would wear a peaked leather cap to operate a motorcycle.

A contemporary example that springs to mind is the niche porn “See Him Fuck”. There is a complete lack of porn that focuses on the dude in straight sex, and this particular producer has correctly cottoned onto a need, probably because someone in the production of the art has a twig for it. But for no reason I can tell other than their own fetishes, this porn producer loves focusing on toe sucking and armpit sniffing of men too. There’s no reason that if you are into A) the guy in straight sex, that you must be into B) a close up of an armpit. No reason you shouldn’t, but there’s so little content like this that if you aren’t you should probably just fast forward. (Likewise there’s nothing particularly inherently submissive in being penetrated, but boy howdy is a woman with a fake dick the default imagery of a domme.)  

And it’s more dangerous than just tropes.

On a less frivolous note, one of the hardest parts of being kinky is knowing that the external punishments for being horny, and horny the wrong way may it really fucking hard to deal with missing stairs in the BDSM community. When the police are a closed avenue because they think you are all rapists and dangerous idiots, everyone fears losing their jobs and reputations, and some of your core sexual activities are not just technically, but explicitly illegal, you get a worst case combo.

Abuse flourishes in the BDSM community because it is a shameful pile of bottlenecks. There are only a few spaces you can be kinky, so limited alternatives (not for nothing did fetlife make it a ToU violation to call someone a rapist, but where are you gonna go, the BDSM Library Forums? CollarMe?) Someone who invests in anchoring the community is going to get a wildly out of whack amount of power, whether they want it or not, and like most lawless lands, be beholden to a few others like some sort of Afghan warlord. 

My efforts to unseat a noted serial rapist in Montreal, or Dunter, the creep who has repeatedly behaved wildly inappropriately, were largely stopped by other people with power who feared for both the harmony and safety of the community. “But they volunteer/teach!” trumps “but they rape people”.

Of course being a rapey mess is a disaster, since when a space is unsafe it creates pressure in the other direction to repress. If you have to tolerate a little raping to get your public spankings or talk about your romantic dynamics without getting the police called on you, the only people who will stick around are those whose desire exceeds both their caution and moral sense. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Porn is exploitive because porn actors can’t negotiate labour rights. Sex work involves a higher than average assault risk because society devalues people who do it. The BDSM community stumbles badly in making consent function because even the shitty and fragile resources vanilla folks have for protection aren’t really available.

Behaviours of kinky folks, queer people and sex workers alike are influenced both by unequal access to state resources (the protection of the law) and the risk of private censure (being fired for being found out).

On the Benefits of Being Old(er) and Jaded.

Let’s loop back to where we came in, the subject of platforms. I think we need to talk about how the secondary platforms that nurture freaks like us are seeding grounds for neo-nazis. To wit, 4chan and furries. 

I remember being uh… well less grown than I should have been, but literate enough to pass and crawling spaces designed for porn roleplaying. I got VERY good at playing sexy violence and in that space was sexuality that was, in the face of whatever “normal” was supposed to be, very much not. Inflation, nazis, furries, ageplay, vore, queer identity, etc… Sexual trends that are now considerably more widespread had their infancy in the same way the plausible deniability of satire and trolling in the nasty political shit of my impending middle age did.

The largely AFAB folks who thrived on tumblr and furthered the conversation on queerness and BDSM matured in the same hot house of boundary pushing that fed from atheism on reddit, into gamer gate; from 4chan greentext into stepmommy porn; from terrible futa objectification from stolen manga, into the nicely eroding queerness modern masculinity is reckoning with. (come on boys, exfoliate that anxiety and explore your ass and being the object of desire! When it is irrelevant whether it is gay or not your are unstobbable!)

And largely speaking that shit was NOT profitable. 4chan, tumblr, etc… are notorious, in addition to being porn fests, from having a certain labour of love. If you deplatform from mainstream spaces it causes untold damage, but it largely just puts the barrier of entry back into the hands of the same people with power.

The risk is not that the conversation will die, it is that it will be pinched and controlled through narrow pipes. It will be less the approach of a closed door, as a single concentrating lense. Case in point, Iran’s absurd solution to their inherently murderous homophobic norms being surprisingly trans friendly (at least under a binary). 

Art, Commerce or Nazis- Your Three Neighbours For People Who Are Open About Their Fucking

There is an observation that contrary to the stereotype of the little small minded bureaucrat of a government censor, it’s the erudite and maybe even a bit decadent academic helpfully sampling the wine before deciding that it’s much too strong for the regular folks or not.

No greater space for that is evident than our “artistic merit” exemptions. Only tasteful nudity, whatever the hell that means. No violent pornography, according to their definition of violence (unless it explores the pathos of those in power as a fig leaf). This extends to one of the grounds you can try to dig into sticking on platforms. 

The alternative to courting artistic merit is selling out, and trying to sanitize for marketability (or being a product sold by a big publisher) or trying to surf in the fringes, as an outcast. This latter option sounds glamorous until you realize that you are basically going to end up with the moral equivalent of bed bugs.  

To wit, free speech for the sake of free speech is never going to protect us, and we have to do better than “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” comparisons. We could say it should- objectively me writing an essay on getting turned on by my partner getting the shakes while I beat him is hardly in the same realm as someone sharing their political fantasy for a white homeland. 

But, whether we like it or not, bare genitals, bodies that don’t sell underpants, and people who suggest maybe sex workers shouldn’t live in fear of violence, are currently rated in the same level of taboo on social media that we currently rank people advocating attacking the government that controls the infrastructure of the internet.  

My bare tits and labia are as Twitter account destroying as suggesting someone should stop the January 20th inauguration by force. And that’s fucking bizarre. But it is true.

So now what?

I am never going to lead whatever the shambling thing this current sexual revolution is. I do not have the answers. What I can advocate is that we need to be really fucking firm on our right to be perverse. 

It is going to be very tempting if you exist in a position of privilege, like I do, to hang people known to be sex workers or more vocal or weird about their sexuality out to dry to preserve your own space. This is pushinh back on “no kink in public/no kink in pride”. This is the routine booting of pro dommes from BDSM spaces even as we hold our parties at their dungeons. And probably most difficult is having to make a case that credit cards and social media are holding us ALL hostage… even as we also admit that free speech, globally is always going to be limited in practice.

But there is a hands on honesty of demanding “acknowledge that I am not as bad as a fascist or the fucking chaos fairy we just yeeted” and we are only going to get there if we stop clinging to just art, money, or underground filth as protections.

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