In a recent post that discussed why revenge porn victims feel such a strong sense of violation when images of their bodies are shared without consent, I argued that “the conversation about non-consensual pornography needs to be recentered from property rights, or even privacy, to the concept of ‘bodily integrity.'” In particular, I suggested it might be useful to reimagine our pics and profiles as “digital prostheses” that we incorporate into our sense of self. I concluded that “our pictures and profiles are not merely representations of us; rather, they are us, in some important sense.”

Reflecting on my personal history as a cam model, I want to talk about a related topic: How online sex workers experience loss of control over the images, videos, live streams, and profiles that we produce. A key question I want consider is how we ought to think about context and bodily integrity in a situations where we, as models, commodify our own bodies. Additionally, I want reflect on what role consent plays in such situations.

I did my first cam show in 2013. My graduate assistantship had ended, and I was looking for ways to pay rent while finished my comprehensive exams and tried to figure out if wanted to write a dissertation. I thought it might be a convenient part-time gig that I could fit in between school work and other small jobs I picked up. I was also just curious about it and whether I could make it work. more...

The lies told to artists mirror the lies told to women: Be good enough, be pretty enough, and that guy or gallery will sweep you off your feet… But make the first move, seize your destiny, and you’re a whore.

– Molly Crabapple, Drawing Blood

The question of how to handle adult content is difficult and unavoidable for any social media platform. The complexity of the issue is such that companies’ responses are all over the map. Before talking about what companies lose out on when they ban adult content, it’s probably helpful to look at where the largest social media platforms stand on the issue. more...

While updating my personal archive of news relating to the Influencer industry, I decided to highlight a few significant developments in Q1-Q2 of 2017 in this short round-up.

With its historical beginnings rooted in bedroom camming culture in the North American late-1990s and the online selling culture in the South East Asian early-2000s, the Influencer industry is its vernacular and institutionalised formats is more than a decade old today.

Yet, for all their progress and advancements across several industry verticals and areas of society, present-day news reports seem to be stuck in a backdated timeloop as they continually express surprise at the fact that Influencers can command sizable earning and brands want to work with them, assert that the Influencer industry is somehow mysterious and a secret weapon, and reiterate that the Influencer industry is simultaneously on the rise and on the decline. That’s quite the obsession over the financial aspect of Influencers. But is there much else?

Yes! In the first half of 2017 alone, the Influencer ecology worldwide has registered several controversial blows and innovative debuts in relation to legality, economics, culture, and social issues.  more...

Inverse has a short thing about the precipitous decline of reported close encounters with extra-terrestrials following the widespread adoption of smartphones. Author Ryan Britt asks, “How come there have been fewer reports of flying saucers and alien abductions in the age of the camera phone?” The answer is, essentially, UFOs and abduction stories don’t work at the high resolutions of our devices. Roswell and abductions are the products of eye witness accounts and fuzzy VHS video, not 4k videos captured on iPhones. The mundane enchantment of suburbia, as I’ve called it before, gets deleted as noise in an attempt to capture life in the photo-realistic. more...

Protestors in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. Photo: Maya Ganesh

On July 6, 7, and 8 the police established a thick cordon around the Hamburg Messe and Congress where the G20 was taking place. It separated delegates from the thousands of protestors who had converged on the city.

From the distinctive, red Handmaid cloaks worn by Polish feminists, to Greenpeace in boats off the harbour, to radical and Left groups in Europe, the G20 brought together diverse communities of protest from around the world. Protestors were there to tell leaders of the world’s most powerful economies that they were doing a terrible job of running the planet.

Not all of the protests were peaceful. The violence by some protestors and by the police against them has formed a substantial part of the reportage about the G20. In this post, I share some experiences and insights from the protests and their mediation.

The anti-Trump protests, the anti-Caste discrimination movements and activism on Indian university campuses against the Modi government, the ‘Science March’, the Women’s Marches, protests against Michel Temer in Brazil, #FeesMustFall and its sister protests in South Africa, and the post-Brexit marches to name a few, have captured local and national attention.

These protests have generated discussion about the shifting dynamics of political participation, popular resistance, and media, from the documentation of clever signs, the transition of protest memes from the online to the offline and back again, to the inspirational images of Saffiyah Khan and Ieshia Evans confronting violence. more...

ghost modeSnapchat recently released a new feature called Snap Map that lets users see the the location of their friends’ snaps organized on a map. The feature is opt-in only and carefully avoids unintended disclosure of user data. Snapchat even nudges users to actively manage who they share their location with. The Snap Map support page says (only half-jokingly):

Only the people you choose can see your location — so if you’re friends with your boss, you can still keep your location on the down low during a “sick day” 😉

This cautiousness in introducing features—particularly ones that reveal location data—is laudable and also not surprising. Many social media users may not remember the ill-fated rollouts Facebook Beacon and Google Buzz [1, 2], but Silicon Valley designers remain acutely aware of how intense the backlash can be when new features fail to incorporate sufficient privacy protections.

While Snapchat has been careful in their implementation of Snap Maps, the feature has raised serious concerns for cam models, clip producers, phone sex operators, and other online sex workers, many of whom are very active on Snapchat and rely on it as a significant source of income. more...

With the New York State Assembly’s recent budget, and after a long fight among labor organizers, lawyers, business owners, and legislators, ridesharing has come to town here in upstate New York. Ride-sharing advocates are celebrating the victory, claiming that it will spur economic development and reduce drunk driving. I spoke with local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organizer Sean Collins about the new legislation and what effects it might have on the region, as well as the rhetoric regarding the benefits of services such as Uber and Lyft and the increasing replacement of public transportation improvement with private entities. more...

In this post, I’d like to make an argument about a way to understand how the Democratic party seems to be making messaging and policy decisions. An argument like this can’t be made in a vacuum—or in 1,500 words. Nor can any one or even ten reasons be decided upon for why the leaders of a party do what they do. But I recognize a pattern in how the DNC and leadership has acted over the past decade and I want to work that through here. So please forgive any indication that I am not a policy wonk or political analyst—I do not claim to be, nor do I wish to be either. more...

Exxxotica, a large adult-themed expo that started in 2006, was held in Chicago last weekend. While the event is broad and claims to be a “love and sex” catch-all event (including seminars and presentations related to BDSM, swing lifestyle, sexual health, toys, etc.), it is largely focused on the adult industry. Indeed, since its inception Exxxotica has hosted large name porn stars like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy, and it promises to connect fans with their favorite stars.

In its 11th year, changes in the expo have reflected changes in the industry itself. Most notably, there has been a huge shift away from mainstream studio porn production to that of decentralized sex camming. J. Handy, the director of Exxxotica, recalled that the first year that MyFreeCams (one of the leading webcam sites) was present was in 2012 with a 10×30’ booth and 8-10 cam girls.in contrast, the same site exhibited with a 50×60’ booth and over 200 cam models in Chicago last weekend. In addition to MyFreeCams, other cam sites such as Chaturbate, Cam4, and LiveJasmine were present.   more...

Non-consensual pornography—frequently called “revenge porn”—describes nude or sexually suggestive photos shared in a manner or context that the subject did not consent to, often with the intent to humiliate, intimidate, or extort the victim. In many cases, these pics are distributed by someone who received (or was allowed to take) them on the assumption that they would remain private.

While non-consensual pornography is not unique to social media, these platforms have made it easier to distribute images anonymously/pseudonymously to a wide audience. Nude or sexual pics are non-consensually distributed through dedicated websites; subforms on Reddit, 4chan, and their many offshoots; “dump accounts” on Twitter or Tumblr; torrent sites (particularly for celeb photos); and the Dark Web (for underage or otherwise illegal content). more...