I'm personally firmly of the belief that platform providers should not attempt to police creative expression, including sexuality-based expression, that is legal and non-hateful. Proactively blocking access to content is not a sensible way to build services that are useful to the world at large. Providers should respect users' preferences if they ask not to see certain types of content. But providers should default to showing users information that they've specifically requested instead of behaving in a paternalistic manner.
Permitting freedom of expression about sexuality and access to age-appropriate information on sexuality is beneficial to users. Users are best served with information that is appropriate to their needs. This includes the freedom to express non-mainstream sexuality, express it in non-mainstream ways, and access information published by others about non-mainstream sexuality. Platforms should not attempt to censor legally permissible expression related to legal, consensual activity.
There are tremendous negative public health consequences associated with sex-negativity. To many people, publishing platforms and search tools are their primary gateway to information. Censoring information related to sex kills people. Blindly censoring terms such as "condom", "bisexual", or "transgender" results in less availability of health and wellness-critical information. Excluding sex-positivity causes people with non-mainstream sexual identities to feel excluded/isolated, leading to significant guilt, shame, and depression. Images/video are important to discussions of sex-positivity - for example, tying people up the wrong way can cause serious injury or death. Posting images and video of how to do it safely is not gratuitous or a luxury/privilege to be taken away. Users will engage in sexual activity regardless of providers' approval, so providers should serve them by informing them.
If a user is logged into a platform and has elected to see or not see explicit content, platforms should respect and follow their preferences. But if there is no information on a user due to their choice to not log in, platforms should default to showing content (with an interstitial). Of course, platforms should provide age-appropriate content to someone if their age is known - thus, asking for anonymous individuals’ ages and directing them to a resource like Scarleteen is a great user experience, but it should not be required to give up your privacy to view explicit content. Requiring users to log in to view content relating to sexual health makes that content inaccessible to the most vulnerable users. Users feel chilled when they must associate accounts, email, and their names with viewing content that others label morally objectionable. Requiring individuals to log in creates digital footprints that put users who want to keep their behavior secret at risk of repercussions.
It's impossible to actually create a bright line for enforcement of moral standards based content policies. Deciding the boundary between sex education and porn is extremely difficult to get right, and incurs numerous false positives that cause people to avoid platforms entirely - for example, videos that are clearly entirely educational frequently are blocked on platforms and not restored on appeal. Even the most enlightened policy rules will occasionally be applied incorrectly (e.g. breastfeeding? STI prevention / education? legitimate sex education? that is supposedly allowed under the platform's terms of service). Rule-abiding users that are remotely unsure of whether their content might get blocked (and whether they will be able to appeal successfully, and whether there will be collateral consequences for the rest of their account) will avoid platforms with ambiguity about their commitment to free speech. Moreover, a discretionary standard is inherently more vulnerable to organized pressure campaigns from censorship-minded governments and interest groups than a principled commitment to freedom of expression.
Even permitting 'non-commercial speech' without limitation isn't enough. Denying businesses access to platforms on basis of the type of non-abusive content they host is a form of redlining. We are, unfortunately, moving towards a world in which only "morally approved" types of business can be conducted using the best possible tools, and everyone doing anything remotely suspect must pay extra for inferior tools or make do without them entirely. For instance, had immense trouble finding a payment processor that would serve their nonprofit at any price, because of the nature of their business: crowdfunding for sex toys. Imagine if they couldn’t find hosting either, because no web host would allow them to host images of the products that their customers would be buying. Platform providers contribute to that morality policing by closing doors to customers that can't abide by their restrictive terms of service.
(all opinions strictly mine, and not necessarily those of Google. I do not speak for my employer. seriously, I do not speak for my employer.)
Two weeks ago, Houston launched a campaign on Indiegogo to raise funding for her upcoming feature film SNAPSHOT, an erotic thriller that Houston hopes will redefine the queer coming out narrative.
"Growing up queer, I was always frustrated with the coming out stories I was hearing and seeing: there were so few queers of color, the representations' idea of 'sexy' wasn't mine, narratives were formulaic and stereotypical," Houston writes. "SNAPSHOT is an attempt to provide a different coming out narrative in a tone that reflects some of my most profound filmic influences. It involves two women of color as its main characters. The character whose 'coming out' is in focus is in her late 30s -- and her coming out has to do more with the intricacies of new desires than with gender."
The movie opens with Charlie, who discovers she may have captured a murder while taking photos around San Francisco. On her journey to unraveling the mystery that her lens captured on that day, Charlie meets Danny, an older woman with whom she feels an undeniable chemistry.
"The traditional [coming out] narrative usually involves a younger protagonist coming into maturity or sexual revelation," Houston adds. "However it is our older character, Danny, who embraces a new way of being as a result of meeting Charlie and being exposed to her unfamiliar desires."
The murder in SNAPSHOT is both a plot devise and a symbol, but the mystery itself, Houston admits, is a MacGuffin. Ultimately, SNAPSHOT is a film about desire, a coming out story that winks unabashedly in the general direction of the classic Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window and Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 flick, Blowup.
Cameos and credits for associate producer, producer and executive producer are up for grabs. You’ve been needing something on your IMDB to feel proud of.
It’d all started the previous day, when a Bitcoin baron by the name of Mircea Popescu found himself with a few minutes to burn on a bit of code to help him find female users on the kinky social network FetLife. Some 24 hours later, having mined around 100,000 profiles, he began publishing the results — a list of the usernames, ages, sexual orientations, kinky roles and locations of women 30 and under — in a series of blog posts that he dubbed “The Fetlife Meatlist.”
It would be weeks before users on FetLife would learn of the Meatlist's existence — and when the news came, it would not be from the social network itself.
When it learned of the Meatlist, FetLife did what it always does when it learns that data mined from its site is being publicized outside its little walled garden: it issued a copyright takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to Popescu’s host and other service providers.
At first glance, this maneuver seems odd — a DMCA takedown notice is an instrument that copyright holders can use to force online service providers to remove material that infringes on their copyright. Service providers that host user-generated content are not liable for a user’s infringement of someone else’s copyright unless they know about it or fail to respond to notifications about it, so issuing a takedown notification is a surefire way to get them to jump into action.
The problem with FetLife issuing a takedown notice to address the Meatlist and other such instances is that details from users’ profiles are not subject to copyright. That a person is 25, lives in Los Angeles, identifies as a female submissive and uses the name Retour_à_Roissy online is not subject to copyright by FetLife or that person for the simple reason that facts cannot be copyrighted.
As Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor put it in the 1991 case Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., “Census takers, for example, do not ‘create’ the population figures that emerge from their efforts; in a sense, they copy these figures from the world around them. [ … ] Census data therefore do not trigger copyright because these data are not ‘original’ in the constitutional sense.”
Whether something can be copyrighted depends on its originality: a user can claim copyright over any essay she writes on FetLife, or a photo she takes that she shares on the network, but the mere fact that FetLife has compiled profile information from its users does not make it the copyright holder of this information.
The copyright avenue would only work if the content that was mined from FetLife and shared outside of the network was creative in nature, such as a user’s writings, videos, or photos. But in that case, it would the individual users who are the copyright holders, not FetLife, meaning that each individual user would have to issue a DMCA takedown to a copyright infringer’s host and other online service providers.
Even if a user did this, there's no guarantee that it would actually solve the problem. Once the content is out there, it’s out there. Popescu and maymay might play by the rules, but -- as the proliferation of “revenge porn” sites has taught us -- not everyone does.
FetLife uses the DMCA process in lieu of real security mechanisms because it’s very easy to abuse it. To avoid liability, the host of the content that receives a DMCA takedown notice may disrupt access to the content, pending a response from the person alleged to be infringing copyright. For users who are unfamiliar with the DMCA process, the disruption of service often intimidates them into backing down — even in cases where takedowns are fraudulent or the work said to be infringing is protected as fair use.
This has been changing over the past decade, helped in no small part by the number of legal fights undertaken by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against known DMCA abusers and the press these cases have generated.
BitLove, Inc., FetLife’s parent company, would fall under the category of a DMCA abuser. The takedown request sent to Popescu’s webhost, for example, listed an incorrect U.S. copyright registration number and claimed that BitLove holds copyright over the “Entire FetLife database.”
The copyright I eventually found for the company appeared under a different number and, rather than cover its entire database, refers to FetLife’s software stack; the text that BitLove developed for the site; the manner that information provided by users is arranged and presented on the site; and any changes BitLove may subsequently make to these things.
It’s worth noting here that copyright law in Canada, where BitLove is headquartered, is different than it is in the U.S., and could be interpreted to offer more protection to the collection of information. Unfortunately for BitLove, Canada lacks a DMCA-like process by which alleged copyright-holders can rip content off the internet without having to prove they truly hold copyright.
But the fact that takedown requests in the United States are issued under penalty of perjury and that it’s possible to seek damages against companies that abuse the takedown process isn’t BitLove’s only problem. A FetLife agent’s claim — in a legal document — of copyright for the whole of FetLife could be construed to constitute a claim of responsibility for the “creation or development of information provided” within its database, as specified in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C. § 230).
Such a claim would weaken BitLove’s position on one of the most important protections for online service providers offered by American law: the above-mentioned Section 230, which states “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Holding the copyright to everything means being responsible for everything on the site, including the pornographic content that is FetLife’s bread and butter. As anyone who distributes pornographic content and is subject to U.S. law knows, that means keeping records that verify the age of every person that is depicted in pornographic media on its database (18 U.S.C. 2257).
Even though BitLove’s claim to copyright over the entire database is incorrect, even if the takedown request fails under Feist, their having made a public claim to being recognized as the rightful author of the information may, in itself, be enough to jeopardize their 230 standing.
(Jurisdiction is an open question when it comes to FetLife, as Alana Massey has written, given that the company is based out of Canada, its domain was registered in Arizona and its servers are in Texas.)
Ultimately, it's not so-called "hackers" who are jeopardizing the network so many of us love -- it's FetLife itself.
I just shared a article. About a company writing a linux kernel driver. With a buffer overflow. What the hell?! The 1990s called, and want their buffer overflows back!
In slang, however, the word has apparently taken a new life and now means "to hassle," and most frequently refers to people. So rather than tramitar at the DMV, it's become de rigueur to say that a guy at the bar was trying to tramitarte (hassle you), or that your lover is a tramitoso (a quarrelsome man. For a quarrelsome woman, you would say tramitosa. Because it is slang, inflection is not going to be something that Google Translate can help with, but it is obvious to someone who speaks the language. For shits and giggles, feel free to make inquiries at the Real Academia Española).
I find it absolutely hilarious that someone from State taught me this. I have been assured this usage is not specific to bureaucrats, but widespread, especially among the young professionals set.
"You might think that the males who have the most sex have nothing to worry about," writes . "After all, they're the kings of their castles (and here 'castle' means rotting, hairless, anal secretion-covered rodent carcass). But sexual supremacy introduces a kind of social stress that the more laid-back males don't have to contend with."
It doesn’t matter what kind of bar it is, or whether or not you feel inconvenienced by the intrusion; the answer is always the same: “No.”
The asinine inspirational posters were right: you’re not alone -- nobody is. In fact, you are a vast, ecological habitat teeming with trillions of tiny organisms.
Microbes reside in virtually every human bodily system, a mix of about 10,000 different species of bacteria, fungi, and archaea depending on the conditions of the specific body part. This may sound gross and intrusive, but most of the microbes are just hanging out, doing their thing discretely so we don’t even notice they’re there. While some can wreak havoc, a lot of these tiny organisms actually help us, performing important tasks for their human hosts like defending against infection and helping to digest food. In fact, microbes are so important to human health that we’re seeing great results from transplanting healthy poop into the colons of people who suffer from serious gastrointestinal problems.
Now, scientists are exploring the health effects of engineering a different human ecosystem: the vagina. Anyone who has ever referred to the vagina as a garden can pat themselves on the back for their visionary insight.
If two people are booking a hotel room for a sex date, they might split the cost. But what about when a couple and an individual are planning a threesome? Do they split it 1/3-2/3? Do they do 1/2-1/2? I'm assuming a situation in which they're sharing the cost.
It is generally considered appropriate for the person who issues the invitation to assume the cost of the outing, unless otherwise specified. However, there are certain situations where a lot of discussion will occur prior to any arrangements being made and after the planning is done, those involved might find it difficult to pinpoint who exactly issued the invitation. In such a case, I feel it's always better to offer to split.
As a member of a couple, I am of the mind that a couple should cover at least two-thirds of the cost -- we may be a unit, but we are still two bodies who need space, nourishment and drinks. I have very strong feelings about precision when it comes to check-splitting, since it is so easy to fail to notice other people's frugality while we're busy having a good time. It is cruel and unusual to put people -- who have accepted an invitation at a place outside their budget just so they can spend time with you! -- in a position where they have to explain to you and your friends how they can't afford to pay for the wine everyone else drank.
Ultimately, I think the core of etiquette is just that -- being mindful of the needs of those around you. Yes, there is a set of rules, because rules help us understand what we might expect, but the key thing is having an awareness of other humans around us, and doing our best to ensure they feel as much delight in an outing or activity as we do, and don't suffer needless penalties for it. That's why I don't entirely disagree with the saying "unicorns fly free." On average, couples have a combined earning power that far outclasses a single person's. But it is not always true that threesome partners are single, or that couples can rely on two incomes, so I think it would be a mistake for third parties to simply assume that their way will always be covered.
Ultimately, the only people who can afford to not bring up money until the check arrives are those who can afford to pay for everyone -- and who are happy and willing to do it. Since that's probably only a fraction of that infamous 1 percent of the population, I'd strongly encourage everyone else to put the topic up for discussion as soon as possible, and start at the most charitable option, which in this case may well be splitting the hotel cost into thirds, with two of them covered by the couple.
I don't ascribe to a belief that there is such a thing as a "real" man -- or "real" woman. I find that language oppressive. Additionally, I think everyone should approach relationships as you describe, not just male-identified people.
PS: Your disclosure of being someone who knows, loves and/or is responsible for a female-identified person does not somehow grant you any status in conversations about feminism. I strongly recommend you stop making it a preface when you state your opinions.
As you may imagine, believers have historically harbored a great deal of interest in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. In the days before science and religion "consciously uncoupled" due to irreconcilable differences, they played together a great deal -- often in a happy ménage with art.
Christianity actually provided the basis that allowed for this merry triad. As with many religions, the taboo surrounding the desecration of corpses was a feature of early Christianity, but it did not extend to criminals who had been condemned to death. In fact, dissection was occasionally prescribed as part of the punishment for murder (though many, many more crimes carried the possibility of the death penalty in Britain including "strong evidence of malice in a child aged 7 to 14 years of age." Kids were routinely executed in Britain until 1908, when the minimum age was set to 16. Only in 1933 was the age raised to 18.)
Dissection as a form of punishment was common in English law and adopted by the United States' First Congress in the Crimes Act of 1790 (at least for murders that occurred in federal jurisdiction. At that time, the only state that had such a provision for people convicted of murder was New York).
In any event -- this very Christian act of turning over the bodies of convicted murderers to science resulted in some fascinating insights into Christianity itself. In England in 1801, three artists who had been debating the accuracy of conventional portrayals of the crucifixion got a surgeon to help them acquire the cadaver of a recently convicted murderer. The body was still warm when it was nailed to a cross, allowing it to settle into a natural position. The artists made a cast of it, and then another after the corpse was flayed to allow the viewer to see the musculature of the body in the same position.
These two casts, titled "Anatomy of a Crucifixion" were a public sensation, with crowds excitedly gathering to see the reenactment of the torture and death of their god, a pivotal moment for all Christians. This wasn't entirely pious -- the late-Georgian and Victorian eras are charming for their unabashed delight with death. Not only were executions popular, but murder tourism was a thriving industry, with people taking trips to see scenes of gruesome crimes much as we take vacations today. Just as we may buy postcards or painted coconuts, murder tourists bought (or stole) items from crime scenes, and visited macabre museums just to see collections (or alleged collections) of such things. (And you thought Grand Theft Auto was violent...)
Americans, it should be noted, were not entirely different from their English counterparts -- Thomas Edison himself made at least two ghastly films -- the 1901 "Execution of Czolgosz" (http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5a7_1391327458) and "Electrocution of an Elephant" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VD0Q5FeF_wU) two years later. (It could be said that the entirety of the War of the Currents was a multi-year circus of death.)
Ultimately, executions both in the United States (beginning in 1890) and Britain (1868) were made private not out of concern with the graphic violence of dealing state-sanctioned death, but due to concern with the way such displays invariably aroused the "unwashed masses" to disorder. This, of course, was not an issue in 1801 when the casts of "Anatomy of a Crucifixion" were first exhibited. One of them (which is pictured in the link below, so please make sure your Victorian sensitivities are up to spec) can still be seen at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
It almost sounds like a favor, doesn't it? It brings to mind all those god-awful sites from the 90s with the busy backgrounds and the centered text filled to bursting with multi-colored links and banners and a billion popup ads, besides. Who defends bad design, popups and endless banners that lead to even more bad design and popups?
Stop putting it that way. Adult policies are not benign. They do not actually address (or even acknowledge) that maybe you, personally, don't want to see porn (or violence) sometimes -- or ever. They simply make it so it's no one is allowed to post it -- ever. Or advertise it. Or make money with it. Or link it. Or broadcast it. Or store something about it in the cloud. Or some other thing they haven't thought of yet.
The worst part is that they can't define it. And because they cannot define it, everything from Leonard Nimoy's Full Body Project to ads for safer sex are at risk.
Stop spreading the meme that these policies are about a better web. They're shamefully lazy. They are taking things away from us that actually matter.
- BlogHerSection Editor, 2011 - 2012
- Village Voice MediaWeb Editor, 2010 - 2011
- BlogHerContributing Editor, 2008 - present
I'm AV -- that's pronounced like the letters A and V. Most people call me that, but a few prefer the less familiar Flox, which is pronounced like you would if you were talking about various flocks of birds (see? it only looks complicated). You may call me either of these things.
I'm a writer. I mostly blog at +Slantist. I've written for a variety of publications, including the Village Voice, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Gizmodo, and Vice. My main focus is sex -- the norms around it, the organs we use, the health issues that affect it or are a consequence of it, the way governments and private companies want to control it and the way we express ourselves around it, the markets that exist to cater to it and the labor issues within them, and so on. Sex touches everything. You would be amazed how many incredible disciplines I get to explore writing about sex. Not too long ago, I was buried under a stack of papers about 16S rRNA and metagenomic sequencing! (Why? Because vagina. You can read the piece on Vice.).
Besides writing, I have edited blogs about relationships and science for the Village Voice and BlogHer.com, a women's network that was reaching 90 million monthly visitors by the time it was acquired by SheKnows Media last year for a reported $35 million -- more than AOL paid for TechCrunch just four years prior.
My content here on Plus will reflect my beat, but please note that in general, my posts and shares involve more analysis than titillation. I have analytics, I can see how many of you browse on the clock! No judgment -- I'm honored, actually. But because of this, as a rule, I do not publish images or articles that contain preview images that are not "safe for work" (that is, anything that may make a colleague feel unsafe in their workplace) and I strive to let you know when a link I have shared contains this type of imagery so you don't click it without knowledge.
I am not opposed to pornography, but I do believe in consent -- I do not want to expose anyone to visually sexual content unless they explicitly opt-in to see it. So if sexy imagery is the sort of thing you're looking for, you won't find it here. However, feel free to visit my NSFW love letter to desire on Tumblr. It is overflowing with various degrees of graphic depictions of cisgender, heterosexual sex that I find pleasing. (If cis/het isn't you, try a Tumblr-wide search for a keyword that better speaks to you. Some of the best gay yiff I've ever seen is on Tumblr. And if you do not know what that is, don't look it up at work!)
I also issue trigger warnings and spoiler alerts.
A lot of people follow me as a resource on issues of sexuality, so I try to keep my social media channels focused, but people are multidimensional and I am no different. Google Plus is where I am most focused. If you want a slightly more varied feed with more snippets from my life, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
My Instagram has first publishing rights to much of my life's imagery, so if you like pix, I strongly recommend you find me there. (My Instagram account does not disseminate sexual imagery, but I do post images from events I attend and sometimes these events are adult industry conferences. Don't follow me just for that, though -- I am not all work and no play, so, yeah, you may get to see awesome candids of porn stars, but you'll also have to suffer through, like, a million videos and pictures of an octopus trying to make an escape from its tank at the California Academy of Sciences, or the bacula collection at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. You've been warned.)
Pinterest is where I put cool stuff that I find online. The first four boards are dedicated to cool products -- and, yes, one of them is devoted entirely to sex products. Go take a look and see if there is anything worth following. (I also have a community here on Plus called The Desire that I hope to develop into a destination that combines relationship resources and awesome products. If you are interested in that, go ahead and request to join.)
I maintain a complete list of my profiles across the social networks I use on About.Me. If you need to reach me, though, your best bet is to mention @avflox on Twitter. I only receive messages from people in my extended circles here and on most other social platforms, so I may not even see that you tried to reach me if you private message me. On Twitter, though, I see everything -- and it's more reliable than taking your chances with an e-mail web form. But if you don't tweet or you want to stay on the DL, you'll probably want to take your chances with that web form or the e-mailing option on About.Me (you don't need to create an account to use it).
I never thought I'd have to mention this, but seeing how many users on this network believe the existence of my profile indicates my sexual availability, allow me to clarify: I am not here to sexy chat with you. I don't usually flirt, even with people I like. I consider joking around an intimate thing so unless we have interacted a few times, I may not respond to your joke. Or at least, I may not respond well. I hate compliments. I reserve the right to delete comments that veer off topic or otherwise blemish my stream. Repeat offenders are blocked and immediately forgotten.
Regarding the many nude photos of me that exist and are said to cause so much "confusion" -- I took them, had them taken, sent them to someone, or posted them myself for my jollies. Personally I think that they represent a woman who is comfortable in her skin, in touch with her body, unashamed of her femaleness, and unwilling to censor it. I am flattered if you have derived some pleasure from their existence, but please note that their existence has nothing to do with you. I did not take them for you. I did not post them for you. I probably don't even know you! They're not for you even if I do know you! (Except you, Grandma, because you made me read Simone de Beauvoir when I was, like, seven and I owe you everything.)
So please -- do not wander onto my spaces online and expect that behaving in an overly familiar fashion is going to endear you to me. We do not have a deep meaningful connection because you saw me naked. Everyone has seen me naked. You are a unique snowflake, but it is not for this reason.
Nothing I wear or don't wear is license for anyone to treat me like I am a thing that exists solely for their personal entertainment. I am a living organism -- I exist for myself. Just like you. And like you, when I post about something, I want people to comment on that something, not wax poetic about what they want from me.
I mean, look, I get it. We all have urges. I understand this. I too have seen a picture and thought, "OMGWOULDBANG!!!1!" You are not damaged or monstrous for this. What I am saying is that writing this out as a comment on a person's social stream is not a successful strategy, and doing it when that's not even the topic is outright maladaptive. As someone who writes about getting laid, I feel I am uniquely positioned to speak on this topic, so you should at least consider it.
Anyway, if for some incomprehensible reason you should wish to seduce me: go for my brain. Flattery is boring. Negs are like little gnats. The biggest compliment you could pay me, the most disarming level attention you could bestow upon me, requires that you only take the time to read something I've posted and have a brilliant conversation about it.
You don't need to be witty or "alpha" or otherwise a perfect specimen of the gender you identify with. You just need to share your views and tell your stories. Treat me like a human and show me your human. Hottest thing ever.