Periodical Political Post *98

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The UK’s porn ban will be catastrophic for small porn sites

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Porn is not illegal. Please write this down on a sticky note and put it on your fridge at some point before 15 July this year, when the UK government will begin blocking porn sites. It’s important to remember that porn is not illegal, because although the aim of the new law on age verification is to prevent under-18s from accessing adult content, the actual effect will be far broader than that.

The UK government is concerned about youngsters accidentally seeing porn, so for a long time it’s been exploring how to implement robust age verification checks. Not just a tick-box to say “I am over 18” (which, let’s face it, doesn’t work) but forcing adults to prove they are adults. In practical terms this means that you’ll either have to type in identifying details to prove your age (credit card number, drivers’ licence, passport) or visit a shop and show them your ID to purchase a one-off “porn pass”.

Not keen on having to register personal details to watch porn? You’re not alone. There are huge privacy concerns – not only does it encourage users to be freer with this sensitive data, any database that collects this info will be a tempting target for hackers. Just last week a hacker was jailed for six years for blackmailing porn site users, and organisations such as the Open Rights Group have already sounded alarm bells about the huge problems with the way AV will be implemented. It turns out the government is perfectly capable of highlighting these problems without their help, though: the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in an act that looked like deliberate self-parody, announced the new date in an email that it sent to hundreds of journalists … exposing all their email addresses because it forgot to use the bcc: feature.

Read on…

Periodical Political Post *97

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The UK’s porn ban is coming. Here’s why it’s a terrible idea.

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The UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced that the government’s plan to block online porn will go into effect from July 15, 2019.

The scheme will see sites that host porn needing to implement strict age verification measures to ensure that no one under the age of 18 can access them. Experts noted before that the measures likely won’t have the desired effect, due to the ease of circumvention.

But no matter how easy it might be for tech-savvy users to get around laws like these, it’s important to consider the chilling effect they have. They won’t just result in a loss of visitors for porn sites because many people just don’t know how to set up a VPN.

The law will contribute to the stigmatisation of porn, sex work and sexuality in general. Something that happens at an alarming rate lately, mostly at the hands of the British and American governments.

One consequence is that the internet is slowly turning into a puritan dystonia where communities like Tumblr, once a safe haven for queer people and sex positivity, ban even the slightest hint of nudity.

Another is that we’re teaching kids that sex is something dirty and perverse, that their bodies are something to be ashamed of and that masturbation is something so dangerous, it has to be regulated by the government. The chances of all these factors contributing to children growing up with a healthy body image and relationship towards sex are slim, to say the least.

Once in place, laws like these are incredibly hard to repeal because no one wants to be the politician with the Wikipedia page saying that they made sure kids can watch porn.

And we didn’t even touch on the implications of building such a censorship infrastructure yet. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to be concerned when a Western government gets inspired by the famous Chinese internet wall. Especially when we consider that the same politicians just a few years ago day dreamt about blocking online “terror propaganda” but kept the definition of the term so vague that even political satire could be affected.

There are plenty of examples of technology being introduced for an allegedly noble cause just to promptly end up being used for something entirely different. Like when German conservatives pushed for online data retention: Instead of fighting terrorism as promised, police used the data to track down people pirating music. Because of course they did.

So even if you don’t mind handing over your credit card data to random porn sites just to jerk off, there are still plenty of reasons to be upset about this law. Politicians are counting on folks being to ashamed to talk about the fact that they enjoy porn. Let’s hope that enough people find the courage to speak up anyway.

Troye Sivan on being effeminate

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“I have to get comfortable with the fact that I am kind of effeminate sometimes–or really effeminate sometimes. That I want to paint my nails. Overcoming all those stupid rules that society embeds in you as a kid about gender and sexuality is a conscious task. I have almost exclusively LGBT people around me [now]. That instilled a sense of confidence in me. That I have every reason to be proud of who I am.”

Read the whole interview with Troye over here.

Periodical Political Post *96

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NBA player Dwyane Wade supports his son at Pride

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There are some things that should be normal and not worth mentioning in a news post. Like the unconditional support of a family for their child. But until we live in a world where these things are indeed the norm, it’s awesome to see people with a lot of influence set good examples.

Like when NBA player Dwyane Wade, though he couldn’t be there in person due to having a game in Toronto, made sure his 11-year-old son Zion felt supported at the Miami Beach Pride parade last Sunday. He first posted a photo on his Instagram story of Zion and stepmom Gabrielle Union. He captioned the post: ‘We support each other with Pride!’

Regardless of how Zion identifies, having the support of his parents, family, and friends in attending an event like Pride is crucial. Several studies have shown that queer kids are more at risk for mental health problems including suicide attempts, as well as discrimination and bullying.

This is amplified even more for queer kids of colour. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 71% of all victims of anti-queer homicides in 2017 were people of colour.

Many banned books in the U.S. challenged for queer content

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More than half of the top 11 most frequently challenged and banned books of 2018 include LGBTQ content, according to a report released Monday by the American Library Association.

“Books for youth with LGBTIQ+ content are consistently on our list of most challenged books; this trend goes back to the mid-1990’s, when Nancy Garden’s ‘Annie on my Mind’ was banned by a school board in Texas,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, interim director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said in a statement. “That said, we are noticing a greater number of challenges to books with LGBTIQ+ content, especially those that have transgender characters and themes.”

In 2017, four of the top 10 banned books were challenged for LGBTQ content, and in 2016, five were challenged for this reason.

George,” a coming-of-age story by Alex Gino, topped this year’s list. The award-winning, young-adult novel is about a transgender girl coming to terms with her gender identity. This is the third consecutive year “George” made the ALA’s “Most Challenged Books” list, which is part of the association’s annual “State of America’s Libraries Report.”

According to the report, “George” has been repeatedly “banned, challenged, and relocated” because it’s “believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones.” The ALA also noted there were complaints about the book for “mentioning ‘dirty magazines,’ describing male anatomy, ‘creating confusion,’ and including a transgender character.”

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Bud Sex: When (mostly) straight guys fuck (each other)

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A University of Oregon sociology doctoral student named Tony Silva interviewed American men to ask them about their sexual habits and identities and published his findings in the journal Gender & Society.

All the interviewees identified as exclusively or mostly straight and they all lived in rural areas of Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Oregon and Washington known for their “social conservatism and predominant white populations.”

In his background, Silva came across several not-completely-straight terms like “dude sex” (sex between white, masculine “bros” in urban and military contexts) and “heteroflexible” (same-sex encounters of men who predominantly identify as heterosexual).

But his interview also uncovered a new term: “bud sex,” a type of encounter that reaffirms the participants’ heterosexuality by framing their same-sex sexual activity as “helpin’ a buddy out,” relieving “urges” or having sex without sexual attraction (if that makes sense).

He found that these men re-contextualised their same-sex encounters in ways that reaffirmed their own heterosexual identity. Predominantly, they tended to go for other straight-identifying men that didn’t behave effeminate or “flaming.” This way, the men could talk about women together and avoid romantic/emotional entanglements that might involve them more in each other’s daily lives.

That being said, some of these men also did other activities with their same-sex partners — like shopping, having coffee, hiking and hanging out — activities that would imply friendship if not some deeper emotional connection between them.

He reportedly didn’t ask his interviewees how they can have “bud sex” without identifying as gay (though some of his interviewees did identify as “slightly bi”). But Silva says these men may avoid identifying as gay because of “internalized heterosexism, participation in other-sex marriage and childrearing [which could be complicated if they came out as bi or gay],” while benefitting from the enjoyment of straight privilege and culture.

Homosexuality: It’s about survival

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When James O’Keefe’s 18-year-old son Jimmy came out as gay, he felt like he’d failed him and regretted that Jimmy wouldn’t have kids of his own. While he now realises that Jimmy could someday still have kids, as a medical doctor O’Keefe wondered about the genetic and evolutionary factors that made his son gay, and if there really was something like the ‘gay gene.’

“Viewed in the light of evolution,” O’Keefe said during a TED Talk (watch the video below), “homosexuality seems to be a real self-defeating, non-productive strategy. Gay people have 80% fewer kids than heterosexuals. This is a trait that ought to go extinct in a few generations, yet down through recorded history, in every culture and many animal species as well, homosexuality has been a small but distinct subgroup. If this were a genetic error, natural selection should have long ago culled this from the gene pool.”

Most people use the “guncle theory” to explain the evolutionary benefit of homosexuality, the idea that, lacking kids of their own, gay uncles contribute to their family’s overall well-being by helping care for their siblings’ offspring. O’Keefe more or less agrees with this but takes it two steps further.

He points to two studies suggesting that if a mother gives birth to a high number of male offspring or experiences severe prenatal stress, the likelihood of her giving birth to a gay son increases. The underlying reason has something to do with an emerging science known as epigenetics.

Epigenetics basically states that similar genes can express themselves in different ways based on external circumstances. For example, epigenetic studies of ants have shown that if the colony is hungry, the queen will give birth to more worker ants, but if the colony is under attack, she’ll give birth to more warrior ants. In both cases, ants’ genetic makeup are exactly the same, the only difference is how they get expressed. Warrior ants will be bigger and more aggressive, whereas worker ants will be smaller and better at finding food.

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