Always Scandalized, Rarely Scandalous

It’s always interesting when the mainstream press has to acknowledge the existence of porn or even sex on the Internet. There have been a couple of instances this week, and you don’t need to be a deviated prevert organizing a mutiny of preverts to appreciate the stupidity of a lot of it.

Let’s start with Vine, Twitter’s new video sharing app that allows Twitterers to exchange six second videos. Shock and horror ensued when one of the top-rated homepage videos showed some kind of fucking. Vine responded by banning the account that had submitted the clip, and also banning searches for “#porn”, “#nsfw” and “#boobs”. That’ll fix it.

Either Twitter is incredibly naive or they purposely launched Vine without a few obvious safeguards to get a little free PR, because there’s no use more obvious for a site that shares video clips than “#porn” and “#boobs”. Maybe part of the problem is that Vine is an IOS (Apple) app, and Apple is pretty weird and inconsistent about applying the 21st century’s favorite weasel word, “inappropriate”.

While Vine was continuing to be distributed in the App Store, another app, 500px, which is used to access the popular photography site of the same name, was pulled for “featuring pornographic images and material, a clear violation of our guidelines.” I’m a casual user of 500px and all I’ve ever seen on that site is topless women in artsy, high-gloss photos. Maybe I missed something, but even so, 500px is no kind of real porn site. Apple allowed 500px back into the app store after raising its rating to “17+”, while Vine retained its “12+” rating.

As Josh Topolsky points out, Twitter, another “12+” app in the App Store, has long had a ton of “#porn”, but Apple’s ignored that and continued to support more Twitter functionality in IOS.

I’m not trying to pick on Apple, though I will point out that Google allows its app store to sell porn apps, and they seem to be surviving. Apple’s just mirroring the weird US attitude towards porn and really, sexuality, in general: it’s something everyone knows exists, a lot of people use technology to consume porn and communicate sexual images, but it’s rarely mentioned and almost always tut-tutted in mainstream culture. Forget Vine and 500px, there’s an app called Snapchat that allows sending pictures and video that expire a few seconds after viewing. Just what in the hell do you think the 20 million photos shared every day on that service usually contain? I await the a breathless, scandalized expose of Snapchat sexting as soon as the MSM realizes that it exists.






43 replies
  1. 1
    Mike E says:

    That’s your internet, brought to you by the Military Industrial Complex, academia, and teh pr0n.

  2. 2
    WereBear says:

    I just saw a lovely quote from John Lennon yesterday:

    We hide sexuality, while violence happens in full view every day.

  3. 3
    redshirt says:

    Rule 34 cannot be broken.

  4. 4
    MikeJ says:

    I’m a casual user of 500px and all I’ve ever seen on that site is topless women in artsy, high-gloss photos.

    The defining feature of porn is bad lighting. Pity Potter Stewart isn’t around to update his epigram.

  5. 5
    Walker says:

    Apple is modeling what it does after the game consoles, which are far more restrictive.

    As for the Google App Store doing fine, that is a matter of opinion. App conversion rate (free to paid) on that store is nightmarishly awful.

  6. 6
    redshirt says:

    @WereBear: It’s a bit cliche, I know, but no clearer example exist of the “Death Cult” nature of our society than the ability to see people get shot, stabbed, eaten, burned, and otherwise killed every day on just about every channel, but my FSM! A nip slip – on accident! – will send the country into a tizzy with politicians running to the microphone to proclaim “Something must be done – for the children!”.

    All the while they’re getting spanked in diapers or wide stancin’ it in bathrooms.

    Meteor, aisle 3!

  7. 7
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    The tech press was absolutely awful on covering the vine thing. It’s like they’d never been on the Internet.

    ETA: “banning searches for “#porn”, “#nsfw” and “#boobs”” – yeah, that’ll fix it.

  8. 8
    Kurzleg says:

    Excellent Strangelove reference, Mistermix!

    This all really boils down to “think of the children!”. I can buy that argument. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to keep your app from being the one through which kids access porn. It may be readily available on the web, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be available at every web destination.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Kurzleg: They haven’t banned Safari from the app store, either.

  11. 11
    MikeJ says:

    @Kurzleg: Any app that allows you to communicate in anyway with a human is going to be used for porn.

    Which is a pretty limiting paradigm for a phone.

  12. 12
    Todd says:

    Mercifully, I can’t seem to quite grasp how to work Twitter. My kids made me an account, and I can put up thoughts, but searching tweets eludes me.

  13. 13
    JGabriel says:

    … there’s an app called Snapchat that allows sending pictures and video that expire a few seconds after viewing … I await the a breathless, scandalized expose of Snapchat sexting as soon as the MSM realizes that it exists.

    OH MY GOD, people are sexting in a way that can’t be subpoenaed! Does Bill O’Reilly know about this?

    .

  14. 14
    Derelict says:

    America: Awash in sexual imagery, but completely unable to contend with sexual images.

  15. 15
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @MikeJ:

    Any app technology that allows you to communicate in anyway with a human is going to be used for porn.

    FTFY – let’s ban paper and pencils from the grocery store!

  16. 16
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @jeffreyw: Is your puppy back home?

  17. 17
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    Also interesting is the way the tech press took the opposite approach with snapchat – assuring everyone that it *wasn’t* just used for sexting. They sometimes rival the village in their comical coverage.

  18. 18
    Zifnab25 says:

    Porn sells very well. Why do you think news channels are constantly doing exposes on strip clubs, prostitutes, sexting, swinging, dirty dancing, excessive side-boob in the latest starving model advertisements…

    I’m convinced every major newroom has a focus group of 12-year-old boys in some office room somewhere rating “Ya” or “Nay” to “Would you fap to this story?”

  19. 19
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Zifnab25:

    I’m convinced every major newroom has a focus group of 12-year-old boys men in some office room somewhere rating “Ya” or “Nay” to “Would you fap to this story?”

    Most of us men aren’t really that mature. We’ve learned to hide it: http://xkcd.com/616/.

  20. 20
    John says:

    @Zifnab25:

    But they can only cover it in a totally hypocritical way. It’s always “Good heavens, did you realize there’s such a thing as pornography?!?”

  21. 21
    Hawes says:

    Fuck that. Where’s my sex bot? Woody Allen suggested we’d have one by now.

  22. 22
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @John: Anything to do with sexuality is covered in a hypocritical way. I blame Queen Victoria’s lingering influence – not the Puritans who had a healthier view of sex than prevailed among the middle classes in the late 19th century

  23. 23
  24. 24
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @jeffreyw: Poor puppeh, is Bitsy being naughty and scaring the puppy? She looks all grown-up and very pretty.

  25. 25

    When humans stop liking sex, let me know. I won’t be holding my breath, not that there’s anything wrong with folks who are into that.

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Don’t blame the Victorians. This is ALL on the 50s and the social upheaval of soldiers returning from WWII. The US was way more laid back about this stuff around 1940. The 50s invented a bunch of traditional values that weren’t tradition.

    @Kurzleg:
    I can’t stand ‘Think of the children!’ It’s almost always used to soothe an adult’s fluttering feefees. How often is it preceded by finding out what’s actually good for the children?

  26. 26
    Rathskeller says:

    As a long time developer of mobile apps, I have always believed that Steve Jobs obsession with removing the boob apps was really about lowering customer device calls. If you censor at the app review level, you lower complaints later from scandalized parents, and you lower the is you’ll actually gave to give a refund.

  27. 27
    Schlemizel says:

    every new communications technology (with the possibility of radio and I am not 100% sure of that) has built profits by peddling porn. Some of the earliest mass production books were erotic lit & pictures. Photograph, video, the Intertubes all make a lot of money from our desire to see other people nekkid and or titillating us.

  28. 28
    Rathskeller says:

    As a long time developer of mobile apps, I have always believed that Steve Jobs obsession with removing the b00b apps was really about lowering customer device calls. If you censor at the app review level, you lower complaints later from scandalized parents, and you lower the is you’ll actually gave to give a refund.

  29. 29
    Cluttered Mind says:

    So ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with pornography so long as it’s all made legally. That means no one under 18, regular STD tests for all involved, government oversight so that no one gets taken advantage of. I’d even go so far as to say that pornography helps younger people to figure out what exactly they’re attracted to and determine the nature of their sexuality and preferences, which is something that’s much better figured out on one’s own than through trial and error that might result in psychological trauma for some or all involved. It’s just silly how it’s treated…

  30. 30
    jeffreyw says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Nothing intentional, but she is less scared of the dog than the dog is of her.

  31. 31
    kindness says:

    Oh My God! Not porn! Not on my internet!

    What did you say that link was again?

  32. 32
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I see where you are coming from, but I would still say that societal prudishness has strong roots in Victorian era middle class mores.

  33. 33
    Roger Moore says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I think that in a lot of cases the overt prudishness is a reaction against society becoming more open in general. People who are used to controlling things get very upset when society starts to move away from them, so they react by trying to control things even more tightly. That certainly seems to be the case with anti-porn people today, and I assume that it has frequently been the case in the past.

  34. 34
    Lee says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Watching some of the documentaries of that time (pre WWII) it is really remarkable how we have actually gone backwards in dealing with sexuality.

    They had ‘military approved’ brothels. Brothels operated out in the open. The ‘VD washrooms’ for soldiers.

  35. 35
    Cluttered Mind says:

    @Lee: We’ve gone backwards in a lot of things. Back in the 1800s homosexuality was more commonly accepted than it is in 2013. We had a gay president (James Buchanan) whom everyone knew was gay and no one cared. Someone with James Buchanan’s lifestyle (that isn’t a euphemism, I’m referring to how he was unmarried and lived with another unmarried man whom everyone knew he was close to) would never get a presidential campaign off the ground today.

  36. 36
    NotMax says:

    I blame Gutenberg.

  37. 37
    stickler says:

    @Lee: We had the military running brothels and providing condoms in World War II, because in World War I we’d tried the prudish “American boys don’t do that sort of thing” approach. And it was a disaster – VD infection rates for American soldiers (with no access to Army-regulated brothels, prophylactics, or the like) were three times the rates in the French army. Turns out American doughboys liked girls and booze just fine, and they found them whether the Army provided them or not.

    As with so many, many other things, the US approach to World War II was deeply influenced by a feeling of “God, we really fucked it up the last time and let’s not do that again.” Other examples: GI Bill, Marshall Plan.

  38. 38
    NotMax says:

    @stickler

    In Honolulu during WWII, when brothels tried to alter the long standing ‘5 minutes, 5 dollars’ policy, the military commander refused and ordered them to roll back to 5 for 5.

  39. 39
    Ruckus says:

    If we all had more guns would we need less sex and therefore there would be less of a demand for porn?

    If men were all eunuchs would porn exist? Of course we’d have the same problem as the earlier puritans but still, less porn. Speaking of puritans do you think they had porn?

  40. 40
    Mnemosyne says:

    @stickler:

    I tout this book quite often, but Kevin Brownlow, who is probably the world’s foremost expert on American silent film, covered a lot of that in his book Behind the Mask of Innocence and has entire chapters talking about silent films that addressed syphilis and forced prostitution.

    Yet another thing to blame the Production Code for — they really tried to portray the world as they wanted it to be and not as it actually was, which really screwed up our culture in major ways.

  41. 41
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Cluttered Mind: Well, “Aunt Fanny” (or was it Fancy?) as he was known had died by the time Buchanan ran for office, but he had his niece living in his household and acting as WH hostess while he was president. No way would that fly now.

    I blame the neo-Freudians in the 1950s with their promotion of this suspicion of everyone not fitting a very narrow box and hence the rise of what I term “aggressively normal”.

    It’s even sillier now that being single and childless in adulthood is very common today as compared to in the past.

  42. 42
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Ruckus: If men were all eunuchs would porn exist? Of course we’d have the same problem as the earlier puritans but still, less porn. Speaking of puritans do you think they had porn?

    They had the bible, so… yes.

    Somebody with way too much time on their hands sifted through reams of Puritan religious-court (the regular court was a religious court, hence the stoning of heretics) proceedings from 17th century Massachusetts and found a case where two women were called up for engaging in “lewdness upon a bed”. So I’m pretty sure their court proceedings made for good porn as well.

  43. 43
    Pococurante says:

    Part of the US’ “weird attitude towards porn” is that many of us realize that many, not all but many, sex workers are little more than (when not literally) slaves.

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