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Experts from Brazil, India, South Africa and the USA will be presenting APC’s groundbreaking EroTICs research in Madrid at the VIII International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society Conference on July 9.

Session Title: Electronic Sociability, Gender, Sexuality and Internet Regulation

Session Chair: Sonia Correa, Brazil


  • Horacio Sívori – EroTICs, Brazil
  • Indira Maya Ganesh – EroTICs, India
  • Kevicha Echols – EroTICs, USA
  • Relebohile Moletsane – EroTICs, South Africa

Project EROTICS – Exploratory research on sexuality and ICTs is sponsored by APC-WNSP – Association for Progressive Communications, Women’s Networking Support Programme; an investigation on issues of Internet and sexuality with preliminary results of researchs from India, Brazil, Lebanon, South Africa, and the United States.

This session addresses the performance and regulation of gender and sexualities on the Internet, and with personal electronic devices. Presentations discuss online information accessibility about sexuality, online sociability, and political organizing around issues of gender and sexuality, as well as public debates and legal initiatives which mobilize the idea of “harmful content” and the tutelage of vulnerable subjects. Perceptions of online dangers have driven restrictive policies that affect sexual selves and communities.

This panel seeks to fill the gap about actual online activity and State regulation with empirical data about how individuals and groups use new media and digital platforms, and interventions by political players.

Presenter Horacio Sívori, co-authors Bruno Zilli, Sonia Correa, Jandira Queiroz, Marina Maria with contributions from Magaly Pazello

The EROTICS Brazil research project addressed sexuality issues related to Internet use and regulation in Brazil. From May 2009 to July 2010, three lines of investigation were explored: 1) observation and analysis of current developments in public debates, legislative, and policy-making landscape as regards to Internet regulation, identifying and describing the main political arenas, arguments, agencies and institutions engaged, as well as governmental, law-making, law-enforcement and civil society actors at play; 2) application of an exploratory survey on online practices by LGBT and feminist activists; 3) observation and analysis of online social networking for sexual identity affirmation purposes on Orkut, an important brazilian social network, identifying two particular cases: i) an online community engaged in legitimating adult-adolescent relationships, and ii) women who respond to online lesbophobic harassers. Some 26 strategic actors in the IT field, internet regulation, women and LGBT rights were contacted, and 14 interviews were conducted.

Participant observation was conducted at 19 Internet regulation public debates. These revealed the wide scope of Brazilian Internet regulatory practices, where the issue of child-pornography has become pivotal in law-making processes and debates that also affect Internet users’ privacy and freedom of expression. An ethnography of two Orkut communities was drafted, based on online observation and text analysis. Internet usage was analyzed as a site of agency through (sexual) self-expression. While LGBT and feminist constituencies seem absent from Internet regulation debates, as indicated by the survey, online mobilization is construed as an alternative to other conventional forms of gender, sexual rights, and freedom of speech activism.

Professional Affiliations: Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW) is a global forum of researchers and activists. The Latin American Center on Sexuality and Human Rights (CLAM) regional coordinator is a sexuality research regional resource center. Both initiatives started in 2002 with support from the Ford Foundation. Horacio Sívori, PhD, is an anthropologist. He is currently regional coordinator at CLAM, and post-doctoral fellow at State University of Rio de Janeiro’s Institute of Social Medicine. Bruno Zilli is a PhD candidate in Social Sciences and CLAM researcher. Sonia Corrêa is the Co-Chair of the Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW) and Associate Researcher of the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA). Jandira Queiroz is a journalist, LGBT and feminist activist and project
assistant at the Brazilian secretariat of SPW. Marina Maria is a journalist and project assistant at the Brazilian secretariat of SPW.

Presenter: Maya Ganesh; co-author Manjima Bhattacharjya

IT law and policy in India reflect anxieties around cyber-terrorism, a preoccupation with censoring ‘obscene’ content, and protection of children from online harm and sexual content. These concerns are not derived from an evidence base, and, users’ realities are notably absent. The EroTICs India Research aims to fill these gaps by documenting middle-class women’s experiences of internet use in urban India. This study records how women and young people access and use the internet in their everyday lives, in terms of social networking sites, blogging and online activism; their access of sexual content, experiences; how they negotiate its dangers, protect themselves and what they think about content regulation; their strategies to keep children safe online; and how the gendered politics of internet access impact on their lives.

A feminist approach guided the design and execution of the research. The study comprised: a detailed mapping of internet use and regulation in India; a quantitative survey of 150 young people and a qualitative study of 31 women internet users. Young women find that social networking sites allow them freedoms that are regulated in their offline worlds but are cautious about how their online personas may have repercussions on their offline freedoms. Regulation of online content was not perceived as being a viable option because of the convergence of various media, and, because adults recognized their right to access sexual content for their own pleasure. Moreover, respondents themselves produce sexualized imagery and speech to share online. Women are also extremely concerned about how their personal images on social networking sites can be used and manipulated. There was little awareness of the IT act and the government’s role in regulation. Few favoured governmental control of the internet and the qualitative sample was generally against the idea of content filtering online.

Professional Affiliations: Maya Ganesh and Manjima Bhattacharjya are independent researchers based in Bangalore and Bombay. Both have a shared history of working in the Indian women’s movement as researchers and activists, which is how they met. Manjima holds a PhD in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India; her dissertation (which will be published as a book) was on women working in the glamour industry. Maya has a MA in Media & Cultural Studies from the University of Sussex and works at Tactical Technology Collective and takes on independent writing and research assignments.

Presenter is Kevicha; co-author Melissa Hope Ditmore

The United States (US) is perceived as a place where information is free, however, history has shown that access to information about sexuality in the US is fraught with contradictions. Information about sexuality has been restricted in different ways by the State for the few hundred years that the US has existed. Such laws have been created to protect the status of women, and throughout time extended to the protection of children as well. This history is presented as background to the ways information about sexuality is restricted online in the US today. Adults are affected by restrictions designed to protect children particularly when using computers available to the public in local libraries.

Furthermore, these restrictions are implemented differently across the US. Consequentially, access to information about sexuality for people who use public computers varies widely. Lack of access to information about sexuality, including accurate information about transmission of infection and birth control, contributes to the fact that rates of incidence of HIV are highest among youth. This is in addition to the US having the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world. Restrictions are intended to suppress information deemed as “harmful.” However, lack of clarity of what is considered harmful creates blocks to accessing helpful and necessary sexuality information, which in fact can be harmful to both women and youth.

Affiliation: This project was undertaken by Sex Work Awareness as part of APC’s Women’s Networking Support Program ERoTics project. Melissa Ditmore holds a doctorate in sociology and a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. She is a noted scholar of sex work with three books and numerous papers. Kevicha Echols is a doctoral candidate in the Human Sexuality program at Widener University.

EROTICS South Africa
Presenter: Relebohile Moletsane; co-author Jeanne Prinsloo

The argument has been made that Internet sites can provide a space for people to try out identities and begin to inhabit or practice those identities. This study considers the usage of the Internet by South African transgender people through the lens of gender, queer and
transgender theory and the literature relating to the Internet and community. The research investigates the performance of transgender, both male to female and female to male, on a single South African transgender website.

Critical textual analysis of the concerns and practices articulated reveal the forms and is supplemented with insights from interviews. The subsequent interviews with male to female (MTF) and female to male (FTM) respondents indicate the role that the mainstream media has played in their recognition of their sexual identities, generally as outside the normal, and how the internet enables different engagement and performance.

Areas of work