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Dot Dot Dot: The Internet's sexual revolution

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Is Hunter Moore this generation’s Larry Flynt?

Moore came to prominence as the creator of IsAnyoneUp.com. The site titillated visitors with “revenge porn.” Anyone could go to IsAnyoneUp.com and post nude pictures of their exes (or anyone else for that matter), and the site presented those pics alongside their respective Facebook pages. Moore would often follow up the photos with a reaction GIF, a kind of commentary on the subject’s physical attractiveness.

The site made him the “most hated man on the Internet.”

Eventually, however, Moore shut down the site, citing legal problems, media frenzy, and burn out.

Now, Moore is back and up to his old tricks. His new revenge porn site has debuted at HunterMoore.tv, but this time Moore promises to “do it right.” It’s not entirely clear what that means, but there is at least one new feature that distinguishes the new site from the old one. Now, not only can you post your exes’ pictures with their name, gender, city, age, and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts, you can include their full physical address.

“We’re gonna introduce the mapping stuff so you can stalk people,” Moore said. “I know—it’s scary shit.”

***

You really can’t talk about smut online these days without talking about Michael Brutsch.

Brutsch, until recently widely known as Violentacrez, was the influential Reddit moderator behind many of its most notorious subreddits—many of which were highly sexually charged. One popular subreddit encouraged users to post sexy or revealing pictures of women taken without their knowledge or consent. Another was the home of similar photos of girls who were or appeared to be underage.

A few weeks ago, Adrian Chen at Gawker posted Brutsch’s true identity, a revelation that has been called (somewhat oddly) the tech story of the year. Brutsch was covered far and wide. He eventually apologized on CNN and lost his job.

Yet despite Brutsch’s apology, he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. Earlier this week, he briefly reappeared on Reddit. A redditor, discussing the events, wrote, “Violentacrez was a scumbag. He did something wrong.” Brutsch responded, “Really? Care to elaborate?”

No one did, and Brutsch deleted the comment.

The world seems to have lost interest in Brutsch, in more ways than one. Brutsch, hoping to capitalize on his infamy and surround himself with like-minded folk, hoped to get a job in the porn industry, but the deafening silence seems to indicate that they don’t want anything to do with him either.

To Jennifer Abel, a Daily Dot correspondent who put herself through college by stripping and therefore has a little first-hand knowledge of the adult entertainment industry, the porn industry’s avoidance of Brutsch is no surprise.

Brutsch, she wrote, broke the two ironclad rules of adult entertainment: age and consent. And therefore no self-respecting pornographer would have anything to do with him.

***

The truth is that amidst all the social turmoil around race, gender, sexual orientation, social and economic justice, nationalism, and international conflict from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, men like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt pushed the bounds of sexual taboos—taboos that had loosened only slightly since the Victorian era.

We are living through a similar period now. Digital media has once again changed the nature of sex and adult entertainment in our society. It has made porn both more accessible and more private than ever before. (You no longer need to go to a newsstand in a fake mustache, glasses, and a deerstalker to get an eyeful.) It has also made anyone (especially teens) with a camera phone into a potential amateur pornographer. There is both liberation and exploitation here, the same powerful blend of both that the sex industry has always manifested.

A big part of the sexual liberation afforded by the Internet is a result of community, not just technology. One of the laws of the Internet states the following: “If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.” No matter how seemingly odd your fetish—even if you are particularly into sour cream, ugly drapes, and garden gnomes—you can find that porn online. And you can find others with exactly the same tastes.

That is not always a good thing.

Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen, flashed her breasts in a video chatroom with a stranger. He tried to get her to show more, threatening to expose her (literally) to her friends and family. Whether she complied or not, he did expose her, setting off a cycle of abuse and bullying that ultimately led to her suicide.

What is especially disturbing is that men like the one who persecuted Todd are not only common, but they have formed their own online communities, where they trade secrets and celebrate their “successes.” Some members of these communities claim victims in the hundreds.

***

Hunter Moore, at least, is equally dedicated to the age rule. When he closed IsAnyoneUp.com, the main reason for his burnout, he said, was having to deal with all the kiddie porn. He assiduously reported every picture submitted of underage subjects, and finally, after frequently spending three hours a day reporting child pornography, he simply couldn’t take it any more.

Arguably, expanding sexual freedom is a good thing. It has contributed greatly to the environment that has led to the sex-positive movement and enabled us as a society to rethink what constitutes a healthy relationship with sex. We have, I would argue, made some progress since the Victorians, but we’re still far from liberated. So the sexual revolution afforded by the Internet can be a good thing. But not all sex is good. Just as we decide what new sexual norms we will accept, we must also decide those which we will absolutely not.

Violentacrez, when he was brought out into the light of day, has been roundly rejected. But Hunter Moore has as many fans as he has haters. Many don’t even resent their pictures being posted without their permission. Moore, by breaking one of our two biggest sexual taboos, has become a symbol of the new sexual liberation. Of course, he’s also much cuter and more age-appropriate than Michael Brutsch.

Pushing the bounds of taboo is effective at getting people’s attention, but I don’t think that Moore is the symbol we want. Revenge porn may sometimes seem harmless, but it clearly isn’t. It is at the least mean-spirited; at worst, it is dangerous. Whatever other mores we dissolve, we should listen to the pornographers and keep the rules around age and consent inviolable.

Photo from melbourne3000/Reddit