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Roundtable-10: Fuck the system: A roundtable on digital sexual cultures and ‘inappropriate’ content
11:00am - 12:30pm
Session Chair: Luke Heemsbergen
Fuck the system: A roundtable on digital sexual cultures and ‘inappropriate’ content
Jenny Sundén1, Paul Byron2, Kylie Jarrett3, Susanna Paasonen4, Katrin Tiidenberg5
1Södertörn University, Sweden; 2Swinburne University, Australia; 3Maynooth University, Ireland; 4University of Turku, Finland; 5Tallinn University, Estonia
The Internet has been imagined as a safe space for sexual exploration for some four decades. With the emergence and the current pervasive popularity of social media, platform politics moderating sexual content are nevertheless growing increasingly tight. In December 2018, tumblr issued a ban on “adult content”, joining the social media services Facebook and Instagram in their similarly strict content policies in a development that Stephen Molldrem (2018) identifies as “a deplatforming of sex”. These purges are motivated as actions against child pornography and human trafficking online, yet content moderation policies are obviously connected to advertising revenues and commercial partnerships. The discursive camouflaging of business decisions as moral concerns through ephemeral notions of safety is premised on sexual content and expression as being problematic and lacking in value. Importantly in terms of sexual rights (including the rights to bodily integrity and pleasurable sexual experiences free from discrimination), this results in a categorical dismissal of queer and kink communities who lose their digital networks, relationships, and belongings in the process.
Given the negative impact of the deplatforming of sex on sexual expression on an international scale, this roundtable opens up a conversation about how sexual rights and sexual expression can be reconciled with a social media data economy ruled by conservative, US-specific notions of appropriate content, as well as what other platforms and possibilities may remain available. Our examples include discussions of the increased separation of sex and social media platforms, community responses to the tumblr ban and to the removal of apps and online spaces that enable safer sex work, uses of humor in 21stcentury cunt art to evade content flagging on Instagram, and a speculative futurist approach to the Internet as a place where sex is okay.