Google Announces Turnaround On Sexually Explicit Blogger Content Following Complaints From Users – But What Does This Tell Us?
Just a week or so after announcing that Google were going to be banning any blogs containing pornographic material on Blogger, the internet behemoth have made a complete U-turn. Google had initially made the decision in order to try and clamp down on the number of people utilising ‘graphic’ or ‘sexually explicit’ nudity in their blogs to garner clicks and traffic for their commercial pornography ventures. However, what happened next was a little unexpected, at least to this reader…
Following Google’s statement, a slue of complaints flooded into them, branding them draconian, dogmatic and dictatorial. Strangely though, these complaints did not come from within the porn industry; they actually came from normal, everyday bloggers – people who are making no financial gains out of the explicit content they post of themselves. These people range from the fairly predictable: tween girls flaunting their recently silicone-supercharged breasts in poses mimicking those of pictures from celebrity photo hacks and young men flashing their six-packs and erections, to the truly bizarre: a couple who like to upload graphic images of themselves engaging in every form of intercourse you could possibly imagine, all whilst they watched real-life footage of policeman being killed in order to augment their enjoyment…
So why did the Blogger community react with such vitriol and outrage? The answer was simple. Jessica Pelegio, Google’s social product support manager, claimed that the majority of the bitterness stemmed from people who believed the ban would have a ‘negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities.’ So, the issue, far from being a simple case of a few exhibitionists not being able to get their rocks off anymore, is actually one that strikes at the very core of who people believe they are and how they seek to define their sense of self. Blogs of this nature are also far too numerous to merely dismiss them as the actions of a few misguided deviants. In reality this is an uncomfortable revelation of our anthropological, sociological and cultural zeitgeist.
Put in simpler terms: flashing your wares in the most public arena known to man, uploading videos of yourself masturbating, exhibiting yourself performing cunnilingus on your partner, are essential ingredients in the make up of your spiritual DNA, are essential cogs in the machinery of the self, are inextricable elements of your identity.
It’s like Othello with 21st century parentheses: ‘I am not what I am (without my ass out on Blogger)’.
As a body of people it seems that our narcissism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are growing exponentially. In addition to the now ubiquitous-to-the-point-of-normalised selfie as an egocentric expression of self-definition, we also have amateur porn and self-directed nude photography and film masquerading as forms of identity-affirming empowerment. As the consequences of Google’s vacillation over the last fortnight have proven, there are vast swathes of people – many millions of them – whose online personas have become irrevocably intertwined with the threads of their real world self. A self that is becoming increasingly predicated only upon the value and importance assigned to visually manifest characteristics: the breasts, the penis, the vagina, the butt, the abs, the torso, the legs, the biceps etc. Even the face isn’t getting a look in in many of the dismembering shots of groins, chests and backsides that litter Blogger (and almost every other open forum blogging site) like photoshopped leftovers from Frankenstein’s lab.
In a world saturated with images that put the physical form on a pedestal, I suppose it is little wonder that we have ended up at this juncture. Women read magazines and watch television programs in which other women are judged – often scathingly – for their dresses, their breast size, their weight, their cellulite, their hair, their jewelry. Even hard-news broadsheets diminish the intellectual achievements of women by reducing them to how well they wore their outfit, or whether the choice to wear a push up bra or shoulder pads was concurrent with the message they were trying to convey. The upshot of this is that women are bombarded with the message that to be happy and normal, they have to look like Victoria’s Secret models with their ‘perfect bodies’ and that if they do manage to attain this look, then they should be putting their bodies in the shop window, in public forums, awaiting the influx of self-indulging comments about how ‘hot’ they are.
Equally, should we be surprised that men who are wrongly conditioned from a young age to equate their penis size with their masculinity and gender identity, end up looking for affirmation or attention of any kind to allay their concerns over their inadequacy, or to seek a medium in which they can detach themselves from the judgement they incorrectly fear will be meted out to them by a woman disappointed that they don’t have a pornstar’s genitalia. The existence of popular websites like NYMags ‘The Dong Watch’, and Jezebel’s ‘Thighlights’ prove that objectification and appearance based value assignment – whilst unquestionably not as extreme – are no longer phenomenons exclusive to women.
Also, the volume of porn consumed by 21st century males also has its part to play in the normalising of sexual exhibitionism, as well as hardwiring misconceptions and unrealistic expectations about both male physiques and the sexual availability and desires of women. In these limited fantasy worlds, women are obsessed with having sex with men with washboard abs, and penises that look like they should be hanging from the ceiling of an Italian deli counter. More worryingly, when they find the men who conform to their obsession then their reverential worship forces them into adopting a role of passive acceptance in which they become completely disempowered and left to accede to the whims of the man, no matter how degrading, painful or unenjoyable they may be. Again, if men are being sold a version of reality in which women worship penises and semen, should we be surprised at the mushrooming of accounts where men attempt to emulate this by posting pictures of their own genitalia and sex acts? Monkey see, monkey do.
Now this is not an attempt to justify or condone the maintenance of a sexually explicit blog, and neither is it a condemnation. Rather it is an attempt to try to understand or explain how somebody can become so dependent on such an overtly superficial pursuit, on such an explicit level, in order to define themselves or to inflate their sense of self worth. It’s about trying to figure out how in the hell we have reached a point in time where rather than someone’s character, their intellect, their talent, their personality, their idiosyncrasies, their sense of humour, their capacity to love, their compassion, their knowledge, their empathy, their kindness, their race, their religion, their language, even their taste in music have been supplanted as the hallmarks of who they are, the cornerstones of their identity, and instead replaced by a gallery of pictures of a guy masturbating, or a series of gifs of a teenager pulling their sweater up to reveal their breasts.
If people had written to Google and complained that their sex lives would be damaged, or that they would no longer be able to get the same sexual thrills if their illicit content was removed, then perhaps that would have made a lot more sense. As it is, it seems that mankind’s struggle for the self has metamorphosed from an introspective journey of understanding, to an external circus where the voyeurs have the final say in who or what you really are based on what they see. And that, unfortunately, in the majority of these cases, is a dick, a tit or a w*nker.