Many years ago, before the Internet, I used to do some freelance writing for the venerable Penthouse Forum magazine. Forum was one of the earliest adult magazines to run thoughtful articles and stories about kink and BDSM activities. As far as I knew, Forum ceased publication after the bankruptcy of previous owner General Media, so I was surprised to see that Xbiz had a story about a revived version of the magazine.
The Xbiz article notes that in an apparent break from mainstream practice, Forum is featuring a plus-sized model, Kelly Shibari, on its cover. The part that really interested me, however, was the magazine’s disclaimer that it wasn’t featuring her in response to pressure from feminists, some of whom like to claim that all “real” women are overweight:
We’re not trying to be politically correct. We’re not doing this to ‘prove a point.’ And we’re sure as shit not doing this to assert, as some second-generation, post-modern feminists do, that ‘this is what a real woman looks like.’
So is the magazine really featuring Ms. Shibari for the sake of doing something different, or is it all a cynical ploy to appease anti-porn feminists? I sincerely hope it is the former.
Kelly Shibari Becomes 1st Plus-Size Model on 'Penthouse Forum' Cover
Today’s post updates stories I have previously discussed here.
First, the US Federal Communications Commission revealed its revised open-Internet rules after its previous rules, as weak as they were, had been struck down by a US appellate court. The new rules provide even less consumer protection than the earlier ones and continue to misclassify Internet service as somehow not being a common carrier.
Next, the mysterious Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty between the US and several Asian nations is being finalized, under a considerable veil of secrecy. Based on the information that has leaked so far, the treaty could threaten the Internet openness guaranteed by both the copyright safe-harbor clause and the Section 230 provisions of US law. As I previously discussed here, this could ultimately force American ISP’s and interactive services to proactively police their users in ways that could severely chill free expression and creativity, while actually doing very little to protect intellectual property rights.
Two recent stories highlight the strange interconnections between the porn industry and the economy.
First, Xbiz reports that the latest Chinese anti-porn crusade is contributing to that country’s stock market declines, with Internet companies such as Sina and Weibo losing value over censorship concerns. I had believed that recent Chinese market troubles were caused by a general economic slowdown which preceded the anti-porn activities by several months, so I can’t speculate on whether the anti-porn measures are really affecting Chinese tech stocks, but the thesis is interesting.
The second, and more troubling, story is that according to Xbiz, Chase Bank in the US has begun closing the personal accounts of people involved in the legal porn business. The article also reports that Bank of America denied an account to an adult video performer for no apparent reason.
One may wonder why banks are suddenly discriminating against otherwise-creditworthy persons based solely on their occupation. This resembles the PayPal adult-website crackdown of a few years ago, but PayPal is a financial transfer company, not a regulated bank. Is it legal for banks to do this, and if so, should it be? I welcome all relevant comments.
As reported by Xbiz, the UK government has proposed further expansion of its current age-verification laws to include all adult material not already covered. This would require that visitors to websites identify themselves by real name, using a credit card or other identification papers, before being allowed to view any sexually explicit material.
This measure would end the ability of UK residents to view many types of sensitive material anonymously and would create a permanent and traceable record of everyone’s pornographic viewing habits, and by inference, their sexual preferences, curiosities, and quirks. This information, if hacked, could be used by criminals for blackmail or extortion. It could also be accessed in the future to penalize people under laws that have not yet been written, for instance, to deny a passport to people on a list of “sexual deviates” or to impugn the reputation of a party in a divorce case. (This sort of thing has already happened in the US under laws retroactively restricting ex-convicts.)
Further, making it difficult and expensive to access adult material legally will likely lead to an increase in piracy as well as other methods to evade monitoring and tracking. If even the most totalitarian regimes (e.g., the “Great Firewall of China”) have been unable to stop people from viewing porn, it seems unlikely that cumbersome age verification techniques will fare much better.
The US Third Circuit Court has previously ruled (and the US Supreme Court has implicitly agreed) that requiring people to forfeit their anonymity in order to view controversial material violates the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Although the UK doesn’t have an exact equivalent to the First Amendment, I hope that Parliament and the courts will recognize the chilling effect and self-censorship that intrusive age-verification can cause, and will reject any further erosion of the rights of UK citizens to view adult material privately.
Lest anyone think that sexual puritanism is confined to the English-speaking world, the communist mainland Chinese government has decided to wage yet another symbolic crackdown on Internet “porn,” which will, as always, be easily evaded by tech-savvy consumers. Story via Xbiz follows:
China Renews Porn Crackdown
China has launched “Cleaning the Web 2014,” the country’s latest salvo in its war on porn. Read More>>
The Guardian reports an amusing story about the Apple iTunes store and its late founder Steve Jobs’ “no porn” rule.
It seems that the Apple store banned the French novel La femme because its cover featured an artistic nude photo of a busty woman. The French, for their part, were so angered at this act of censorship that their culture minister was called upon to intervene. Apple then relented and unbanned the novel, which by now had become, in all its naked glory, a beneficiary of the “Streissand Effect.”
Here is the NSFW cover art that started it all:
This week, security researchers revealed a bug in the implementation of the popular OpenSSL software that is used to secure millions of websites around the world. The bug, named “Heartbleed,” may have exposed numerous login ID’s and passwords to hackers for as long as two years.
The largest site that was affected is apparently Yahoo!, which patched its servers and updated its security certificates April 8. An article at CNET has further information and links to find out if sites you use were affected.
Anyone who uses Yahoo! services should change their passwords right away. Some experts have also recommended changing your passwords at Facebook and Gmail, which were both formerly exposed to the bug.
Edit: Microsoft’s sites (Hotmail, Outlook) may have also been affected.
Long-time attorney Clyde DeWitt has an informative article at Xbiz about the history of erotica in the US. He focuses on the legal issues affecting the industry, from the 19th Century “Comstock Act” to the Reagan-era Meese Commission. It’s fairly long, but a fascinating overview of the adult entertainment business:
Lessons From History: How We Arrived at Where We Are
Attending one of the recent trade shows reminds anyone there of the broad diversity of the members of this industry. The attendees ranged from entrepreneurs barely old enough to gain entry to those whose hair, what might be left of it, is snow white; from “newbies” to seasoned veterans; from those who are in this industry as a side job to those who are executives in major corporations; and with many other ranges of diversity. Read More >>
Holier-than-thou Google is ramping up another crackdown on “porn,” this time blocking anything even remotely resembling adult content from its Play Store. Personally, I wish that Google would be so fastidious about blocking apps that don’t work, that contain undisclosed adware, or that invade user privacy, but it seems that their mantra remains “porn bad, data mining good.”
New Google Play Store App Guidelines Crack Down on Erotic Images
Although developers have not been able to produce any kind of porn-like Android apps for Google’s Play Store, the search giant is now tightening its restrictions on all “erotic” images. Read More >>
April Fool’s joke or prophecy?
Read this article at ISPreview.com, including the comments.
Between aggressive content filtering in the UK and the recent “revenge porn” hysteria in the US, I shudder to think how many self-styled social-justice advocates would love the situation described in the article if it became reality!