ErosBlog: The Sex Blog

Sex Blogging, Gratuitous Nudity, Kinky Sex, Sundry Sensuality
 
 

ErosBlog posts containing "Pornocalypse"

 
January 19th, 2017 -- by Bacchus

#Pornocalypse Comes To FetLife

It’s time for another timely reminder that the credit card companies are why we can’t have nice adult things online. Well, to be fair, I suppose it’s the credit card companies and their shadowy political masters. Like that makes it better?

Start with some background. This post is about FetLife, a famous social media platform for kinky people that (despite its reputation for having some serious flaws) leveraged its early-mover status into a lock on its market segment. FetLife is by all accounts the place for kinky people to congregate online.

You’ve never seen much on ErosBlog about FetLife or about the goings-on there, because nothing that happens on Fetlife is visible on the open web. You have to join up and be logged in to see anything there, which makes the site not part of the internet as far as I’m concerned. As I explained more than seven years ago:

When I’m blogging, I’m swimming in an ocean of material, trying not to drown in it. There’s more published every minute than I could read in a month — and that’s just on the “open” internet, the part where the links work for everyone and there aren’t any passwords or secret knocks.

By policy, I don’t even try to read or look at anything that’s friendslocked or passworded or semi-private. Anything like that is symbolically flagged “this is not for the whole world to see.” And I’m a blogger who can’t even manage to skim all the public stuff that’s out there. Why would I waste my time getting permission to look at controlled stuff, and then actually looking at that stuff, when I don’t even have time to look at all the open stuff that I need to see every day?

I conceptualize anything that’s behind an access control as being dead information, not part of the live internet and thus not part of my conceptual realm. I don’t have time for it and I don’t have room for it in my head. It might as well not exist for me, because knowing stuff I can’t blog about is only going to make my blogging life more difficult, never richer or easier.

It turns out there was a #Pornocalypse-inspired massacre at FetLife recently, with thousands of fetish categories deleted without notice and without (at first) any explanation. Violet Blue explains it this way:

Recent censorship enacted at FetLife is the result of financial discrimination by multiple credit card processors who have ceased business with FetLife for what the processors claim are “Illegal or Immoral” reasons. It began for users one week ago when FetLife announced changes to content guidelines, stating “We can no longer allow FetLifers to publicly share sexual pics and vids containing blood visible in them.” Then without warning, Fetlife deleted hundreds of groups and literally thousands of fetish categories that represented a range of kinky communities (like ones with hypnosis, blood, and humiliation in the name). This was in response to to significant pressure from FetLife’s credit card processor.

Although I try to reserve the word “censorship” for situations when the government attacks our speech freedoms, it’s not clear that Violet’s word choice isn’t correct in this case. The lame explanations allegedly provided by the credit card company to FetLife’s processing bank have the stench of Operation Choke Point about them. That’s the secretive program run by the US Department of Justice to deny banking services to (among others) adult businesses. Although Operation Choke Point was supposed to have been officially terminated in 2015, there’s serious reason to doubt that it ever actually stopped.

Among those reasons, I now feel that we have to include FetLife’s current banking difficulties. FetLife has finally gotten around to posting an explanation for its members, and someone has helpfully schlepped it out onto the open internet where we can see it:

fetlife-announcement-excerpt

That’s just the first part; there’s more.

FetLife received the same sort of vague and conflicting excuses from its card processor that the victims of Operation Choke Point typically reported hearing. I’m not sure how far we should credit the story of Operation Choke Point’s alleged demise.

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May 31st, 2016 -- by Bacchus

Doing Something About #Pornocalypse: An Uncensored Amazon Search Engine

This is awesome! Franklin Veaux writes:

A couple of years ago, I discovered that the number of books I was selling suddenly fell off a cliff. I did some research and found that the same thing was happening to a lot of erotica writers, especially self-published writers. Amazon’s Search function on their Web site was filtering out a lot of erotica, particularly erotica with themes of non-traditional relationships like BDSM.

However, I discovered something interesting a few months back: The Amazon search API, a set of programmer’s tools that allows Web programmers to search Amazon’s book titles, doesn’t filter search results. You can log on to Amazon and do a search for a particular book and see no results, but if you write a Web site that uses Amazon’s API and do a search, ta-da, there it is!

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

On and off for the past few months, I have been working on building a new Web site, called Red Lit Search. This site has a database of erotic books in Amazon’s catalog–so far only about eighteen hundred or so, but the list is growing — and also allows you to do uncensored searches of Amazon.

Way to go Franklin!

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March 22nd, 2016 -- by Bacchus

#Pornocalypse Capital

This article in Motherboard about sex robots could be (but isn’t) headlined “Patent Trolls Are Why We Cannot Have Nice Things.” It’s a worthy article that dives deep into that subject, although I believe the tech summary at the top (intended to establish the unwelcome truth that making a sex robot is an insanely-complex technical challenge) is too pessimistic, or to put it another way, in my opinion it sets the bar too high on the robotic features we’d need to see in a commercially successful and sexually satisfying sexbot.

But that’s not why I’m blogging about this article. Instead, I want to commend it for its summary of the financial challenges faced by innovators in sex tech. It’s as neat a summary of the #pornocalypse phenomenon as I’ve seen, and it confirms my long-argued theory that it’s the involvement of the investor class that drives the exclusion of sexuality from any modern business or product:

It’s an unfortunate reality that many sextech companies find it difficult to get small business loans due to morality clauses and banks’ concerns over “reputational risk.” And investors too are wary of sextech. Quitmeyer has lost count of the number of times he was invited to show investors a deck, only to be told afterward that while Comingle’s work is great, investors simply don’t fund things that fall under the category of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.”

“The amount of publicity that we’ve been able to gain at Comingle — if we were any other Silicon Valley startup, we’d already be in our A-round of funding upwards of millions of dollars,” Quitmeyer said.

“We’ve been kicked out of two accelerators!” he added. “We passed all their hoops and training and customer discovery and at the end, when they’re supposed to give you space and funding and support, they came back and said, ‘we checked with the higher-ups and turns out we’re not comfortable dealing with sex stuff. Goodbye.’ Months lost.”

Sextech companies also face restriction from other companies: Google and Apple, for example, grudgingly allow sex-related health apps, but their acceptance of sextech that exists solely for pleasure and titillation has so far been spotty. Would Play or the App Store let you gear up your sexbot as you begin your commute home from work in the same way they let you do with your Nest? Their track record doesn’t bode well for sexbots.

This turns off investors, too. Sean Percival, a venture partner with the seed investor firm 500 Startups in Mountain View, told me that being barred by such key distribution channels is a serious handicap for a company.

“Getting rejected [by a main distribution channel like Play or the App Store] would make it difficult for you to scale,” Percival said.

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November 13th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Modigliani’s #Pornocalypse

modigliania-reclining-nude uncensored

This painting is Modigliani’s Nu couché, or “Reclining Nude” as it is usually rendered in English. To my pornified eye, it is no thing at all — a crudely-rendered oil painting with muddy colors, of interest (if at all) for the expression on the woman’s face. But that is why they don’t let me into fancy auction houses. Former taxi driver and current Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian thought it was worth 170 million bucks, and for that price bought it this week.

And here’s where it gets interesting. As Mashable reports, the financial press (but pretty much nobody else) found the painting too shocking to put on TV, and felt the need to fuzz out the naughty bits (tits included!) for its audience of stockbrokers and mature persons of business. CNBC, Bloomberg TV, the Financial Times — none of them thought their audiences could handle this boring old canvas in its filthy uncensored glory:

modigliani-reclining nude financial press censored

modigliani-reclining-nude with censor bars

This cannot possibly be a “protect the children” impulse. How many children do you know who watch CNBC? Or who read the Financial Times? I can only speculate about the true motive, but to me it speaks of the reasons underlying the #pornocalypse. I’ve mentioned before that #pornocalypse begins to show its ugly ass when an internet company reaches that certain stage in its life-cycle where bankers and stockbrokers are getting involved. Steve Jobs {spit!} aside, the anti-sex squeamishness typically isn’t coming from the tech industry, it shows up when it’s time to start dealing in serious money.

I don’t know why financiers can’t handle a little bit of nudity in their financial reportage. But there’s nobody more slavish toward the whims of money than a financial press editor. I think we can safely trust that they know their moneyed audience. Call this proof of a sort: the #pornocalypse is an artifact of the prudishness of the rich.

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October 17th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Social Media #Pornocalypse Is Why We Can’t Have Nudes In Playboy

pornocalypse-pitfall

It’s no secret that since 2005 or so, I have attempted to make a living at sex blogging. What may be news (if hardly surprising) is that I am no longer succeeding. The single biggest reason (and what I currently perceive as my largest business challenge) is that in 2015 there is no hope of growth in web traffic without social media, and social media companies are (predominantly) hostile to adult content. Generalizing: you can’t put (or link to) smut on social media, you can’t grow or even maintain your web traffic without social media, and so it’s very hard to make money on the adult web. Traffic and revenue decline, and there’s no way to chase it where it is. Back in 2012 at ErosBlog’s 10 anniversary, I wrote:

But what about the future? Will ErosBlog still be here in 2017? I’m less confident than I was in 2007; I grow older and move more slowly, while the world speeds up and accelerates into the future. But I’m persistent, and I’m stubborn. Unless I stop being entertained by porn (which seems unlikely) I can’t imagine not having bits of it that need pointed at and talked about. So, just as I did in 2007, I’ll say “I truly do hope so!”

I still hope so, yes I do. But it’s no longer clear that ErosBlog can survive as a profit-making enterprise. One of these days it may become a hobby, and a hobby with a much cheaper and less reliable server at that. I sometimes flatter myself that crowdfunding might offer a way forward, but it’s not immune from #pornocalypse either.

Enough about ErosBlog. Icons of the adult industry much bigger than me are struggling with the same dynamic. When your problems are also Hugh Hefner’s problems, you’re at least in good company. When I drunkenly posted the other night about the then-breaking news that Playboy was going to be putting panties on all of its Playmates going forward, commenter André adroitly identified the story as a #pornocalypse situation:

Pornocalypse comes to Playboy. Of all places. It was a common sense business decision, apparently. Porn is everywhere, so Playboy had long lost their edge, and in an age of sanitized social media, their only way to make it into mainstream platforms (Facebook et at) to – in their mind – secure a viable future (doubtful!) was to clean their act up and hide the nudity that offends the terms of service of those platforms.

André should write for Wired magazine. Here’s Wired:

Times have changed. Nudity and pornography are ubiquitous on the Internet. And people are buying fewer magazines overall, choosing instead to read online. Meanwhile, those same readers increasingly come to stories through third-party platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Those platforms have their own rules, and often prohibit or limit nudity. For Playboy to survive in a platform-driven world, the pressure to conform to those standards is immense—so much so that the publication is abandoning the core of its brand’s identity.

This isn’t really a new thing for Playboy. The company already transitioned its website away from full nudity, for the same reason:

Playboy‘s shift isn’t completely new. The magazine re-launched Playboy.com last year “as a safe-for-work site,” and has seen significant success. “Tens of millions of readers come to our non-nude website and app every month for, yes, photos of beautiful women, but also for articles and videos from our humor, sex and culture, style, nightlife, entertainment and video game sections,” the magazine says.

The company’s chief executive, Scott Flanders [says] that some content was made SFW “in order to be allowed on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.” The Times also reports that following the website’s shift away from nudity traffic to the site increased “to about 16 million from about four million uniques users per month” as “the average age of its reader dropped from 47 to just over 30″—in other words, a demographic totally at home on social media.

Here’s the Wired summary of social media’s hostility to adult content:

On many social media platforms, the so-called community standards barring explicit content aren’t that different from what Hefner felt he was rebelling against when he famously published Marilyn Monroe’s nude centerfold back in 1953. Facebook, the company says, “restricts the display of nudity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content.” Twitter requires that sensitive content like nudity be marked as such so it can be hidden behind a warning. Celebrities and activists have had little luck in their campaign to have Instagram “free the nipple.” Apple’s App Store guidelines, meanwhile, warn that “apps containing pornographic material… will be rejected.”

This, my friends, is why we can’t have nice adult things. Discovery is no longer via search. (Google killed search for adult sites several years back anyway.) Discovery is via social media. And social media is hostile to adult. It’s not just me. Maybe “Bacchus” at a dumb little 13-year-old sex blog just doesn’t “get” how to market on the modern platforms-and-silos internet. But when freakin’ Hugh Hefner himself abandons the core of his venerable brand, which is models wearing no panties, because the social media platforms are hostile to ladies without panties? It’s not just me. It’s a thing.

I think I shall call it #Pornocalypse.

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October 16th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Erotica On Amazon #Pornocalypse, 2015 Edition

Erotica author Selena Kitt is the one who first brought the term #Pornocalypse to my attention, back in 2013. Then and now, her beat is Amazon’s bizarre blunderings in the realm of trying to pretend for investors and the public that they don’t have books about sex, even while books about sex remain a huge seller for them. Selena’s latest:

Pornocalypse 2015 is upon us!

It’s a far too complicated and inside-baseball story for me to summarize well, but the gist is that Amazon has started dumping entire publisher catalogs into the “erotica” category (which gets no search visibility on the site and is thus the kiss of death) if the publisher in question publishes any erotica. Cookbooks, horror, sci-fi, doesn’t matter. This should give you the flavor of the piece:

In my conversation with the Amazon customer service representative about this situation, I was told, “We are improving our ability to identify erotic content, so you’ll see more books put into erotica going forward.”

Me: Just going forward?

CS: No, we’ll also be identifying other content and moving it into the erotica categories.

Me: How will you be identifying this content?

CS: I can’t tell you that.

Me: How can we get our books out of erotica?

CS: You can change the content and resubmit it.

Me: How would we know what to change?

CS: …

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September 10th, 2015 -- by Bacchus

Pornocalypse Comes For Your Keyword Searches

#Pornocalypse. It comes for us all, yadda yadda. But what is it, really?

pinterest-blowjobs

When I first started talking about #pornocalypse, I had a very specific observation to share about the corporate/financial life cycle of internet companies. In the typical cases, internet ventures are adult-friendly when their service is new, and so they enjoy a robust pulse of early traffic from people playing with porn on their platform. Then, as a service/company grows, there comes an irresistible financial pressure to “sanitize” the product, kicking off all the porn so that nobody in corporate management has to confront their own hypocrisy or the squeamishness of financial counterparties when the company seeks to go public, get acquired, or raise additional capital.

Although I first used #pornocalypse to talk about the distinctive pulse of porn bans and adult-industry user purges that we see at the “cashing in” stage of an internet venture’s corporate life cycle, I’ve come to realize that that’s not the whole story. For instance, it’s growing more common for companies to plan their “cashing in” phase from day one, so they may ban all the porn ab initio, giving up the helpful porn influence on the early growth phase in exchange for less hassle during the cashing-out phase. Nowadays it’s harder to tie porn-hostile corporate behavior to the formerly-notorious moment when prudish investment bankers would start looking aghast at all the porny traffic. So I’ve come to use #pornocalypse more loosely, as a handy shorthand for any porn-hostile moves by internet companies.

All that’s by way of preface. This post is about a particular pornocalyptic dodge that we’re seeing more frequently in recent years. Along with content deletions and user bans, a growing trend is to fuck with discovery. The porn is there — and the terms of service may even allow it to stay there — but the search and discovery tools won’t show it to anybody. Welcome to invisibility, you porny motherfuckers.

For a early example, consider this post from 2011, in which I visually documented how Google’s then-new(ish) autocomplete service (sometimes called Google Instant) considered Violet Blue too porny to suggest when suggesting searches on the fly:

no Gooogle autocomplete for Violet Blue

I was unaware when I posted that back in 2011 that 2600.com had already sussed out and published a long list of the keywords that Google Instant was blocking. It turns out that Violet was in astonishingly good company! Here are the names of actual humans I was able to identify on the list:

How did Violet Blue get on this Google blue list? Well, it’s not clear; but it might become clearer if you take out all of the porn performers and the pop-culture celebrities. Ogle this shorter list:

I don’t know everything about all of the people on that list, but I see a lot of sex educators, and I know that at least three of them (four, with Violet) have been in the past or remain to this day closely associated with Good Vibrations, the famous female-friendly San Francisco sex store with the educational mission at goodvibes.com. Hey, do you suppose Good Vibrations was also on the ban list? Well, duh; as surely as bears shit in woods, there they are:

goodvibes are naughty

My theory: at some point, an anonymous blue-list technician decided to give Good Vibrations and its whole crew the naughty words treatment. Why? I doubt we’ll ever know. But it may have been well before Google acquired and implemented this particular blue list; after all, Violet was gone from Good Vibrations after 2006. (The short selection of megafamous porn performers also seemed curiously dated even in 2010, suggesting again that the list may have been in circulation for a long time before Google got it.)

By now we understand that there’s a long-established ecosystem of blue list sharing among tech companies and blue-list technicians. More evidence: in 2012 the CEO of Shutterstock (a stock photography site) posted to GitHub a list of 342 “dirty, naughty, obscene, and otherwise bad words” that starred Violet’s name as the only person on the blue list. Although by then the vintage porn stars and Violet’s compatriots in the Good Vibrations San Francisco sex mafia had been scrubbed, the list shares clear ancestry with the Google list as exposed by 2600.com. Consider the persistence of “leather straight jacket” on both lists. Not only is this an oddly specific item for a naughty words list, it’s doubly erroneous; the item in question is most often written as “straitjacket” (one word, no “g”). How likely is it that “leather straight jacket” got put on both lists without those lists having a common source?

The only conclusion is that blue-list engineers have been passing around and sharing their blue lists for a long time, and likely were were already doing so back when Google grabbed and implemented the list with Violet’s name on it. This process continues; the Shutterstock list at GitHub has been forked 112 times since 2012, which emphasizes to me that tech companies continue to seek, modify, and implement these blue lists in their products, sharing their efforts as they go.

Unfortunately for prudish tech companies, no such blue lists long survive contact with the enemy. (That would be us.) In the age of the hashtag, users get very creative about tagging the adult goodies they want to share and see. Thus did Instagram, which is famously porn-hostile, came in for a lot of ridicule this summer when its Long Guerrilla War On Porn got featured on Talking Points Memo:

But as many porn hashtags as there are, many more have been quietly erased by Instagram, revealing nothing when you search for them. Pop in #sex and you’re told “No posts found.” Ditto #adult, #stripper, #vagina, #penis, #cleavage. Even the Internet’s ultimate innuendo, the eggplant, wasn’t safe. You can still tag your posts with banned hashtags and emojis, but good luck finding your community within. Typo-laden tags have popped up to accommodate these arbitrary bans: #boobs is gone, but as I write this, #boobss has well over 600,000 posts; #adult’s spinoff #adule is quickly closing in on 100,000. The tag for #seduce may now be useless, but variants like #seduced and #seductivsaturday cropped up in its place—though it’s worth noting that in the weeks since I’ve been writing this article, #seductiv, the tag that brought me into this world to begin with, has vanished entirely, as has #boobss, #adule, and #eggplantparm, after BuzzFeed caught wind of the fact that the eggplant emoji was not searchable on the app. The goalposts on these hashtags have moved considerably: In 2012, Huffington Post reporter Bianca Bosker wrote about Instagram’s early porn community, but back then, the banned hashtags were far more intuitive: #instaporn, for instance, or #fuckme.

Some more light was shed on Instagram’s evolving war on hashtags after they caught a ton of flak from the body-positive community for banning #curvy from their search results. Of course they claimed it was an automated mistake, and later unblocked the #curvy hashtag after giving it an intensive human-driven curatorial scrubbing:

After a week of controversy, Instagram is unblocking the #curvy hashtag, effective Thursday afternoon.

Instagram first prevented users from searching for photos with the term last week, prompting a huge backlash from users and women’s advocacy groups who were outraged to see a term normally associated with body-positive messages removed from the site. A spate of replacement hashtags, including “curvee,” “bringcurvyback” sprang up to fill in the gap.

The problem was that the #curvy hashtag was being used for other reasons, said Nicky Jackson Colaco, Instagram’s director of public policy. Namely, pornography.

And the tag was overrun, she said. Instagram has protocols in place to flag when any term is being consistently associated with content that breaks the company’s terms of service. Jackson Colaco said that Instagram removes several tags every day when analysis from the company’s automated and human content filtering systems get reports from users that they’ve become a problem. And at some point last week, #curvy hit the tipping point.

As Instagram moves to restore the hashtag, it’s also taken the time to find new tools to help it better parse through the photos that its 300 million users post to the site every day. That means stepping up curation of the hashtag, particularly on sections of the service that highlight the “top posts” and “most recent” posts using the marker to make sure that no one looking at #curvy pictures gets an obscene surprise.

The discovery pornocalypse is also highly visible at Tumblr. Do they seriously think anybody will believe this negative search result?

no search results for anal sex on Tumblr

Now, in Tumblr’s case, there’s a workaround. They’ll let you turn off the filtering. But study that page. Click the graphic for the full-sized version. Do you see a “These results are filtered” link that you can click to turn off the filter? You will look in vain for that. If you were sufficiently credulous, you might even come to believe that there’s no anal sex on Tumblr at all. That would seem to be the impression Tumblr wants to convey to the naive searcher. If you’re willing to believe that, Tumblr is delighted to let you believe it.

But what if you’re not quite that stupid? What if you’re looking at that screen and mumbling “Fuckers! I know you’ve got some anal in here somewhere! What do I have to do to see it?”

Well, look closely. Look double closely. Somewhere on that page there’s an icon, nine pixels wide by twelve pixels high. If you can find those 108 pixels, and and if you can guess what they mean, causing you to click upon them, then (and only then) Tumblr’s anal floodgates will open for you. Good luck!

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