APC’s two-year research into sexuality and the internet reveals that contrary to popular opinion sexuality online is about much more than porn. As the EroTICs research is about to publish its complete findings next month, experts Clarissa Smith, Katharine Sarikakis and Pramada Menon critique.
The EroTICs research team in Brazil studied the complex relationship between sexual minorities and internet policy. Their findings show that these groups were routinely ignored in debates surrounding internet regulation.
“It was an eye-opener,” says privacy advocate Gus Hosein when he talks about the findings from APC’s exploratory research on sexuality and the internet in Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa, and USA. And it’s given him some good ammunition with which to field those annoying radio callers who question the need for privacy online.
In March 2011, the Indian government blocked Savita Bhabhi, an immensely popular soft-core web comic, sparking popular outcry.
By limiting access to internet, claiming to avoid obscenity and preserve gender and sexual norms, governments are actually preventing communities from exercising their rights and freedoms. The growing practice of regulation may have an impact in how people learn about sexuality and express it – especially the most affected by regulation, women and people of diverse sexualities. APC’S EroTICs conducted research in five countries: Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa and the United States. The EroTICs issue paper contains executive summaries for each country as well as an incisive introduction by EroTICs coordinator, Jac sm Kee.
Proposals to fight cybercrime have been floating around in Brazil for more than a decade but the backers – primarily banks and music companies worried about internet fraud and unauthorised music sharing – couldn’t find public or parliamentary support till they switched their focus to child pornography. Lula has refused to sanction online censorship and the government has opened a public consultation on what a civil law to regulate the internet should look like. EroTICs researchers Corrêa, Maria and Queiroz explore the history of the Brazilian regulation debate and conclude that the time is ripe to talk about rights – and for feminists and sexual rights activists to get involved. Photo: “Mike Vondran”:http://www.flickr.com/people/over_kind_man/
Two out of three gay South African respondents to an online survey said that going online had helped them accept their sexual orientation and many admitted to coming out online before they did so offline. But the voices of transgender people rarely appear in studies and surveys. To address the gap, APC EroTICs researcher Jeanne Prinsloo of the University of Grahamstown looks at the use of a transgender site which provides a critical space for trans people to lurk and listen to ideas and debates that are not present in mainstream sites, to rehearse their new identity and to assess the risks they might take. Image: “Gender Dynamix”:http://www.genderdynamix.co.za/
Freedom of speech and its flipside, access to information, is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. However federally-funded libraries are required to prevent people under eighteen accessing “harmful” content. Kevicha Echols and Melissa Ditmore investigate the use of internet filters on public library computers and find that measures adopted by libraries range from installation of filtering software on all computers for child and adult use to no filters at all! The law is being implemented differently varying across city, county and state. Sectors of the society most likely to be affected by this ad hoc censorship are young people and the economically-disadvantaged who rely particularly on library computers to access online information. Photo: “FallWithMe”:http://www.flickr.com/people/fallwithme/
The proliferation of sexual content on the internet and the considerable size of the pornography market online is a concern to lots of different groups. However while the online adult sex industry accounts for 12% of web pages, the internet has also been used to express and explore a range of sexual experiences, relationships and content that cannot be considered “harmful”. This kind content is very important to people’s right to freedom of expression and right to information. Especially for people who have little access to resources, rights and spaces in the “off-line” world. Learn more about these issues and the research that APC is doing to understand them better.