skypesurprised

Dot Dot Dot: How the Internet changed sex

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The Internet has radically changed almost everything, but it has changed nothing more than sex.

Consider this: After Kinsey published his landmark sex study in the 1950s, he spent the rest of his life being prosecuted for obscenity. His misdeeds consisted of sending 31 photos by mail. In 2012, a single porn site can serve up 4.4 billion pageviews per month.

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A man in Utah met a woman on a porn site who invited him to a private Skype session. It must have seemed like a little perfectly “innocent” cybersex—at first. Immediately after the session, however, blackmailers tracked him down on Facebook to reveal that she had recorded the encounter. If the man did not do as he was told, they threatened, they would send the video to everyone he knew.

The price of their silence? $150-worth of porn subscriptions.

I have always thought that vice—pornography, gambling, drugs, etc.—must be the perfect business model; there’s endless demand. Yet the porn industry must be in real trouble if they have to resort to blackmail to drive subscription revenue. My first thought, of course, as the founder of a company myself, was: But can it scale?

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The problem with sexting (or any other kind of online sexual act) is that today’s Romeo is often tomorrow’s blackmailing pornographer—or a vengeful ex. Wherever business perceives a problem, however, it offers a solution.

A new phone app, Snapchat, does just that. It allows you to send racy pictures of yourself, each set with a time limit. The photo will self-destruct in whatever time period you set, Mission Impossible style.

I haven’t tried the app myself, so I can’t comment on whether it offers vintage film filters.

It sounds good, but unfortunately it is not a foolproof system. All the receiver has to do is snap a screenshot and voila, we’re back to revenge porn and blackmail.

The app does let you know if someone has taken a screenshot, so you can get a head start liquidating assets.

Nevertheless, the Internet is the mother of invention. The man who gave us Champagne facials has created a site where users can submit their pictures themselves for mass consumption, despite the fact that apps like Snapchat were created so that people could keep their nude pics private.

Kirill Bichutsky, that self-same creator, said he was bored and just wanted to see how many girls would “show me their tits.” It’s ultimately the same reason he created Champagne facials: He wanted to see how many people would let him pour Champagne all over them. He’s building a cottage industry out of “how many people will let me....”

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Speaking of the major figures in “how many people will let me,” one of the Internet’s greatest porn tycoons has been arrested. Fabian Thylmann, the German born proprietor of Brazzers, YouPorn, and Spankwire, is currently in police custody in Belgium.

Like Capone, he’s been caught for tax evasion.

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As a journalist, you lead a kind of nomadic life. I’ve moved basically every two years. It’s often a drag, but the good part is while looking at houses or apartments you get see how other people live. Let me tell you, other people are crazy.

I feel a similar fascination with dating sites. A new site in the OKCupid chain of dating sites has launched, this one in Russia. Their profiles open your eyes to what the average Russian thinks is a good way to meet girls. One brown-eyed man smiles through the grasses of the windswept steppe, where he seems to have just tumbled after a thorough frolicking. Another gives us the naughty Santa, in full (but shirtless) costume.

In all seriousness, guys, good luck.

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The freedom of the Web, its anonymity, the way it brings people together without regard to time, space, power, social standing, etc. creates an opportunity to discuss our taboos and insecurities.

Penis size, for example, is a regular topic on Reddit. Most recently, a mammoth thread erupted when one man, who is apparently otherwise quite fit and attractive, posted that he has a very small penis. He was able to do so because of his anonymity, and he hoped he would get honest answers because of everyone else’s anonymity. He got everything from personal anecdotes and math equations to dirty jokes and attacks on his ex-girlfriend. I’m not sure any real clarity was reached, but Ohalidavid seems to have reached some new level of comfort with himself.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, the Pope has started tweeting. It took 10 months from the appearance of the @pontifex account to the first papal tweet, which just shows how much Vatican time has sped up in the Internet Age. (It was almost a century between Vatican I and Vatican II.) In any case, the Pope’s appearance in the Twitterverse was met with a big response. He got tweets of every stripe, including this one: “@Pontifex Thank you. Bless you too. And now please tell us you accept gays as a biological reality, a woman’s right to choose, & condom use.”

I imagine that being the Pont. Max., you have trouble hearing opinions other than your own. Fortunately, the Internet is here to solve that particular problem. Note to Pope: If you survive Twitter, try Reddit.

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Google has tweaked its search algorithms again. Now, it will put the cleanest spin on what you type. Type in “boobies,” and you’re probably going to get pictures of birds. So, if you want porn, you’re going to have to be more … ahem … explicit about it.

Google is presumably doing this to better serve its users through some combination of giving people what it thinks they want faster as well as not embarrassing ornithologists in their public presentations.

This tweak in our primary experience of the Internet is indicative of the nature of the Internet and the people on it. The Internet is less “for porn” than you might think. According to the most thorough research on the subject, only about 4 percent of the top million sites are pornographic. About 13 percent of searches are erotic in nature. But still, pretty much everyone looks at porn online.

(OK, all men. Women have fanfic, which is not all porn by any means, but it’s plenty porny.)

So porn is less of the Web experience than we thought, but a universal one.

In fact, pornography online maybe the most universal experience of our times. Whether you approve of it or not, it is, in a way, heartening to think that there is something that everyone has in common. 

Photo by Murph4513/Flickr