Tag Archives: sexual content

linux.conf.au 2007 speaker panel grouped on stage

Re-post: When sex and porn are on-topic at conferences: Keeping it women-friendly

During December and January, Geek Feminism is republishing some of our 2012 posts for the benefit of new and existing readers. This post originally appeared on October 1, 2012.

This is a cross-post from the Ada Initiative blog. Discussion is extremely welcome!

We’d like to start a discussion: How can the Ada Initiative extend the example anti-harassment conference policy to explicitly allow respectful, woman-positive discussion of topics like sex and pornography when it is on-topic, without creating loopholes for sexist and exclusionary behavior to creep back in?

First, let’s be clear: harassment and unwelcoming behavior at open tech/culture conferences are far from over. For example, one recent conference tried to “break the ice” using slides with sexual messages and/or animals mating and ended up getting racism and prison rape jokes (unsurprisingly – see this list of higher risk activities for conferences to avoid). That’s why the Ada Initiative’s advice on including pornography or sexual discussion at technology conferences is “don’t.”

A brief explanation of why pornography and sex are off-putting to women and LGBTQ people of any gender: Most pornography shown in this situation assumes that the audience is male and heterosexual, and sends the message that everyone who is not a heterosexual man is not the intended audience. Also, shifting people’s minds towards sex often triggers people to view women as sexual objects, in a context in which women want to be treated as humans with a shared interest.

Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop speaking

But showing pornography and talking about sex in public are not necessarily a “women not wanted” sign. Women are using open tech/culture to create erotica by and for women, and to have open discussions about sexuality in general.

For example, Archive of Our Own is a “fan-created, fan-run, non-profit, non-commercial archive for transformative fanworks,” designed and created by a majority women community, and hosts erotic fan fiction written by women among many other fan works. At the Open Video conference, Cindy Gallop talked about ways to change pornography to be more women-friendly, as well as more “open source” (and launched a startup actually doing it). for women in open tech/culture also need to speak about what keeps women out of their communities, which requires talking about pornography and sex.

Valerie Aurora speaking at AdaCamp DC

Valerie Aurora speaking at AdaCamp

What we want to do is support conferences that have organizers, speakers, and attendees who are sufficiently aware of sexism, homophobia, racism, and other forms of harassment in order to distinguish between, e.g., trying to “spice up” a presentation with a little off-topic pornography, and a discussion of ways to change pornography to be more women-positive. Our own AdaCamp is an example of a conference in which sex and pornography are on-topic.

The Ada Initiative’s current anti-harassment policy includes the following paragraph:

Exception: Discussion or images related to sex, pornography, discriminatory language, or similar is welcome if it meets all of the following criteria: (a) the organizers have specifically granted permission in writing, (b) it is necessary to the topic of discussion and no alternative exists, (c) it is presented in a respectful manner, especially towards women and LGBTQ people, (d) attendees are warned in advance in the program and respectfully given ample warning and opportunity to leave beforehand. This exception specifically does not allow use of gratuitous sexual images as attention-getting devices or unnecessary examples.

We then add a blanket provision approving discussion about topics that are appropriate for the specific conference.

What do you think? Comments are open (but heavily moderated).

Food for discussion: A few examples of anti-harassment policies from conferences where sex and pornography are on-topic: BiCon, Open SF, and Open Video Conference.

When sex and porn are on-topic at conferences: Keeping it women-friendly

This is a cross-post from the Ada Initiative blog. Discussion is extremely welcome!

We’d like to start a discussion: How can the Ada Initiative extend the example anti-harassment conference policy to explicitly allow respectful, woman-positive discussion of topics like sex and pornography when it is on-topic, without creating loopholes for sexist and exclusionary behavior to creep back in?

First, let’s be clear: harassment and unwelcoming behavior at open tech/culture conferences are far from over. For example, one recent conference tried to “break the ice” using slides with sexual messages and/or animals mating and ended up getting racism and prison rape jokes (unsurprisingly – see this list of higher risk activities for conferences to avoid). That’s why the Ada Initiative’s advice on including pornography or sexual discussion at technology conferences is “don’t.”

A brief explanation of why pornography and sex are off-putting to women and LGBTQ people of any gender: Most pornography shown in this situation assumes that the audience is male and heterosexual, and sends the message that everyone who is not a heterosexual man is not the intended audience. Also, shifting people’s minds towards sex often triggers people to view women as sexual objects, in a context in which women want to be treated as humans with a shared interest.

Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop speaking

But showing pornography and talking about sex in public are not necessarily a “women not wanted” sign. Women are using open tech/culture to create erotica by and for women, and to have open discussions about sexuality in general.

For example, Archive of Our Own is a “fan-created, fan-run, non-profit, non-commercial archive for transformative fanworks,” designed and created by a majority women community, and hosts erotic fan fiction written by women among many other fan works. At the Open Video conference, Cindy Gallop talked about ways to change pornography to be more women-friendly, as well as more “open source” (and launched a startup actually doing it). for women in open tech/culture also need to speak about what keeps women out of their communities, which requires talking about pornography and sex.

Valerie Aurora speaking at AdaCamp DC

Valerie Aurora speaking at AdaCamp

What we want to do is support conferences that have organizers, speakers, and attendees who are sufficiently aware of sexism, homophobia, racism, and other forms of harassment in order to distinguish between, e.g., trying to “spice up” a presentation with a little off-topic pornography, and a discussion of ways to change pornography to be more women-positive. Our own AdaCamp is an example of a conference in which sex and pornography are on-topic.

The Ada Initiative’s current anti-harassment policy includes the following paragraph:

Exception: Discussion or images related to sex, pornography, discriminatory language, or similar is welcome if it meets all of the following criteria: (a) the organizers have specifically granted permission in writing, (b) it is necessary to the topic of discussion and no alternative exists, (c) it is presented in a respectful manner, especially towards women and LGBTQ people, (d) attendees are warned in advance in the program and respectfully given ample warning and opportunity to leave beforehand. This exception specifically does not allow use of gratuitous sexual images as attention-getting devices or unnecessary examples.

We then add a blanket provision approving discussion about topics that are appropriate for the specific conference.

What do you think? Comments are open (but heavily moderated).

Food for discussion: A few examples of anti-harassment policies from conferences where sex and pornography are on-topic: BiCon, Open SF, and Open Video Conference.

If you like our work and want to support our work making conferences more women-friendly, please donate now.

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Cindy Gallop stands in front of a presentation slide reading "Make Love Not Porn" by nextconf CC BY

Quick hit: policy around a sexual talk at the Open Video Conference

The Open Video Conference has adopted a harassment policy, and is also featuring a talk by Cindy Gallop. Here’s an excerpt of the abstract.

Links from this abstract may contain frank discussion of sex and sexual imagery.

Cindy Gallop stands in front of a presentation slide reading "Make Love Not Porn" by nextconf CC BY
Cindy Gallop delivered one of the most talked about TEDTalks in history at TED 2009.

Speaking very frankly, and from direct experience, she argued that hardcore pornography has distorted the way a generation of young men think about sex.

At TED 2009, Cindy shared with attendees her plan to fight back, with the launch of a website to educate people about the nuances in human sexuality. At OVC, she’ll start to share the next part of her project: MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, which launches in early 2012…

This talk will be frank. This talk will be honest. It will be graphic. But we think Cindy speaks to a hugely under-recognized issue, and does so in a funny and thought-provoking way.

The abstract contains a highlighted note:

This talk will contain explicit sexual discussion and imagery. This may be offensive, triggering, or uninteresting to attendees. As such, attendees are welcome to leave at any point and for any reason — even an important (or not) phone call. Please keep this discussion inside the auditorium, and refrain from discussing the content of this talk with other attendees outside of the session unless you have obtained explicit permission from them. We all have different levels of comfort around these topics and OVC works hard to maintain a safe environment for all attendees. Please note that the conference has a strict policy against harassment of any kind. Visit http://openvideoconference.org/harassment to learn more.

This hits some important points. Particularly important to me is making it clear that leaving this talk is OK, because this is something that many people are strongly socialised not to do. (Some speakers and chairs in some circumstances will even yell at you for it.)

How does this work for you? Useful? Not useful? Is it the kind of approach you’d like to see more of around sexual material? When else would you use it? Would it bug you in some situations or around some topics?

The linkspam is blowing in the wind (30th November, 2009)

  • Anna’s What a crock post about Gamestop’s instructional training videos for how to treat female customers is worth a look
  • Wired published an article critical of the anti-vaccination movement. Skepchick (trigger warning for quoted misogynist imagery) sums up the extreme end of the response, which included a lot of misogyny.
  • Aimee Mullins looks at technology, perception and prosthetics in Normal Was Never Cool: Inception of Perception
  • Mary Elizabeth William’s Salon review of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog has Cory Doctorow convinced: “This sounds like a damned good movie. Maybe I’ll take the kid to see it.”
  • See an account of WoMoz‘s (Women & Mozilla) first IRC meeting.
  • Let’s talk about sex… in video games asks why sexual content is so controversial in video games when violent content is so common, and when sexual content in other media is so widespread. (Note that there’s no especial discussion of feminist issues like objectification.)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.