Warning: This blog post may offend you.
Every day in the Western World, some 14 year-old girl willingly has sex with a 16 year-old boy; pictures are taken to document and commemorate the act and shared with pride with a small group of friends and schoolmates. If the pictures escape the small group, society is upset that such activity actually occurs – “Where are the girl’s parents?” is the usual question. Every day, some 12 year-old willingly has some form of sexual activity (virtually or real) with another 12 year-old; pictures are taken and shared. Even just imagining such activity, society is absolutely shocked at the precociousness of ‘youth today’ and the decline in societal ‘values’. On many days, a 14 year-old girl will willingly engage in some form of sexual activity online with an older man (could be anything from 18-40 years old), sometimes leading to actual sexual activity. Society goes ballistic at even the thought! Internet police squads are constantly engaged in actively searching for evidence of such activity and in tracking down the man and putting him away.
These acts of virtual and real (documented) sexual activity by minors raise several important questions. With online bodies and spaces, what is deviant activity? When we think of agency within children and the power they hold, what makes power structures quick to dismiss their actions and to label certain among them as deviants? I am not referring to actual rape, unethical coercion, or someone being so drunk or stoned that they are not in control of their actions. I am talking informed consent. Everyone seems to want to overlook the word “willingly” in the above paragraph. Did you notice it or did you just choose to ignore it? Ignoring it is risky. “Deviant groups who regularly, because of their deviation, fall foul of the law, and are harassed by law enforcing agencies and the courts, may in response, develop programs, organizations, and actions directed at ending their stigmatization or redefining the legal injunctions against them” (Hall 64). In other words, if the kids are really serious about living their lives the way they say they want to, get ready for some serious changes in the near future.
Let’s look specifically at cross generational relationships, which Western culture defines as deviant activity. On the other hand, some cultures see child brides as desirable; and, not so long ago, the Catholic Church supported marriage as soon as a girl had her period and was able to conceive children. So, is this perceived deviance another product of cultural imperialism? “In contrast to cultural imperialism . . . globalization of culture encourages researchers to focus on cultural resistance and cultural consumptions as well as on the power of people, both on individual and collective levels, to read, appropriate, and use cultural products in creative and often counter-hegemonic fashion” (Demont-Heinrich 669). In other words, more change may be coming to our status quo.
Thus, to consider an “object of desire . . . as a cluster of promises we want someone or something to make to us and make possible for us” (Berlant 20), we need to consider if it is time to rethink the policy on child pornography in Canada. Just as there is a need for improved and aware regulation of sex work in Canada, might there not also be a need for improved regulation on underage bodies inhabiting space online – not to censor them, but to protect them in their intended desires.
P.S. I’m just asking. I have no desire for an inter-generational relationship. Clearly, others do.
Berlant, Lauren. “Cruel Optimism.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 17.3 (2006): 20-36.
Demont-Heinrich, Christof. “Cultural Imperialism Versus Globalization of Culture: Riding the Structure-Agency Dialectic in Global Communication and Media Studies.” Sociology Compass 5.8 (2011): 666-78.
Hall, Stuart. “Deviance, Politics, and the Media.” The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (1993): 62-90.
The Internet has produced a new space for images of bodies, especially for overly exposed images of female bodies, which are being banded from spaces such as social networking sites for showing too much nudity. Social networks such as Instagram have been known for having strict restrictions for any inappropriate images that leak major nudity or display women’s nipples.
Recently there has been an up rise in discussion around the Free The Nipple protest within online social media. The Free The Nipple protest is aiming to allow the acceptance of women’s rights to expose their femininity freely within the web. They are constantly challenging online networks such as Instagram, to allow images of female nipples to be shown without any restrictions. It’s the several females and female celebrities who are challenging the social networks by purposely exposing their nipples while being highly aware that they’re breaking the guideline rules and will have their photo taken down or have their accounts temporally blocked.
An example I found revolving around this topic is when singer/actress Miley Cyrus posted a picture of herself on her Instagram account exposing her nipples on purpose. The comment she posted under that picture was a clear indication that she not only knew her picture was a violation of Instagram’s terms, but she knew it would eventually be taken down from her Instagram page. She stated, “Some lame ass deff gonna (flag emoji) dat but fuckkkkkkk it”, following by using the hashtag, #FreeTheNipple, to help promote the movement.
Other celebrities such as, super model Cara Delevigne has also taken part in promoting this revolution of women’s freedom. Talk show host, Chelsea Handler is known for her several topless images she posts on her Instagram, which are presently still being taken down from her account. Singer Rihanna took down her own Instagram account because she disagreed with their nipple-banning rule.
The action of these popular celebrities displaying these images within highly popular spaces of networks has helped attract the attention this revolution needs. Considering that these celebrities have a connection to a growing amount of followers, both men and women, has helped these images and their message to continuously being circulated among other sites.
As we have discussed in class, the theory of narcissism within online bodies explains that certain rules within these social networks where basically shaming certain bodies from participating. In the case of social network Instagram, narcissism is shown by banning women’s nipples in images, giving women the impression that those images are seen as an abusive act of the female body within the online world.
I am interested to see just how far women can bend the rules, break the rules, and create a new set of equality for something as simple as exposing their nipples within the space of social networking sites. Why is that men are allowed to expose them, but woman are not?
By: Mirelle Lupovici
Senft, Theresa. (2008). Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks. Ch.1. (15-31).
Image Source: Hathaway, Jay. Gawker. “Miley Cyrus Frees Her Nipples in Topless Instagram Photo”. http://gawker.com/miley-cyrus-frees-her-nipples-in-topless-instagram-phot-1675985556. March 11th, 2015.
By: Gabie Allain, Evan Smith, Garrett Lockhart, Fiona Schlumberger and Danica Pinteric.
Theresa Senft’s chapter “Keeping it Real on the Web: Authenticity, Celebrity, Branding” offers an introductory exploration of all things camgirl. Senft begins by describing the shutdown of The JenniCam (operated by and starring Jennifer Ringley). The JenniCam (live 1996-2004) was a website centered around digital images captured by a webcam set up in Ringley’s home which were uploaded to the web periodically. Senft recognizes this as the beginnings of online celebrity as a concept, citing the public’s fascination with ‘reality as entertainment’ as a reason for this phenomenon (16).
Senft first explores the concept of ‘reality’ in relation to camming. Senft quotes Ringley saying she wanted to “show people that what we see on TV—people with perfect hair, perfect friends, perfect lives—is not reality. I’m reality.”(16). Senft agrees that “homecamming” is in fact quite a candid and unedited practice. However, Senft also critiques Ringley’s statement- reminding readers that Ringley herself was a young, white, “conventionally attractive” (16) woman while The JenniCam was live (16). This critique relates to themes of previous classes: particularly Gill Valentine’s discussion about the reality of who is really represented/excluded in “public” settings. Ringley presents herself as a “real” girl, but we must consider if this identity was but socially produced through what offline society had deemed real, or, “acceptable.”
Senft also describes the technologies/services required for camgirls to run their websites, demonstrating how quickly costs accumulate. Camgirls running their own websites do not necessarily generate large profits. Senft explains that paid memberships with added features reduce the costs of producing camgirl content (20). Rather, camgirls sell ‘memberships’ to reduce costs and continue running their sites (Senft 20). This relates to our discussions in class about certain public assumptions that female sexworkers (in physical or digital worlds) do not enjoy their work and only do this kind of work for a profit. Towards the midpoint of the chapter, Senft explores LiveJournal as a platform for expressing individuality through a number of techniques including posting academic work, personal photos and ‘screenshot writing’. Senft also introduces the concept of the “Friends List” as a way of attracting attention online.
In the second half of the text, Senft addresses popularity, the ‘micro-celebrity’, branding, and provides a case study of LonelyGirl15. She explains that quantifying popularity on the web is difficult to measure, given there are three different ways to do so: either by hits, page views, or unique visitors (Senft 24). Senft also argues, through personal experience, that media attention can translate into popularity on the web. The term ‘micro-celebrity’ is introduced in the text; Senft uses it to describe an internet celebrity, and how their popularity depends on the connections they make to their audience. She is also quite clear when explaining the importance of self-branding—either you brand, or you die (Senft 26). Senft uses the concept of post-modern branding to explain how camgirls are able to brand themselves in different ways (see ‘Suicide Girls’) (27-28). At the end of her chapter, Senft introduces readers to a case study of LonelyGirl15, a twenty-something posing as a fifteen year old girl named Bree who made bedroom videos. The videos were a project that was later supposed to become a Hollywood film.
A link from an interview with Jennifer Ringley (Letterman)
“Girl Geeks Discuss Their Place on the Web” is a back and forth dialog between Mara Johnston and Christine Castro, two women who have found voices in feminist discourse through online blogging. Maura is the head of Maura.com, an independent culture publication and Christine the creator of Maganda.org, her blog featuring her personal chronicles. “Girl Geeks Discuss Their Place on the Web” features successive emails between Christine and Maura, in which they discuss the consequences and conflicts they experience through their internet personas.
Christine admits that she was always introverted, far from the “prom queen” she has become online. The internet gave her a new space to voice her opinions and thrive, sometimes too much to her liking. Maura accords, and adds in that she is constantly surprised by her avid viewers. Who are they, where do they come from, and why do they care? Both Christine and Maura’s online voices provide safe spaces for women to define themselves in non conforming ways.
Christine explains that her web audience is predominantly teenage girls and young women, so she feels as though she is a big sister figure for many. Though she embraces this, it is also troubling to her at times because it creates feelings of pressure. She created an incredible outlet for young women to express themselves, but with boundaries. Knowing that she has loyal readers, some of whom could be people who she knows personally, causes her to censor her material. She feels self conscious of the people it is reaching, the feelings she could hurt, secrets she could give up, and so on. Her blog, which is meant to be personal, becomes a place where she can’t disclose real, genuine feelings and truths: “heaven forbid i come across as slutty, bitchy, or whiny.” Maura agrees with this, adding that her work is also dictated by the people who might be viewing it.
“how empowering is it when you censor yourself because you don’t want to give off the wrong impression? how strong a woman am i if i can’t even be honest in my own expression?” In the end of the dialog both women find meaning in their work in that it has spread love and acceptance to many young women. Christine and Maura also acknowledge the significance of their friendship which they established online and allows them to open-up on a personal, non-censored level.
Jillian Mayer & Ana Voog
The work of multimedia artist Jillian Mayer examines the lived experiences of participants of internet and digital culture through their interactions and existences in these respective realms. Mayer’s most recent series, 400 Nudes, is a compilation of 400 nude female selfies (obtained via online sources like girlfriend revenge websites) in which she has re-photographed her own face and applied it to the bodies of each woman, whose ages, races and bodies vary. 400 Nudes aims to deconstruct and examine sexual image consumption and photographic authenticity in our contemporary age.
Ana Voog broadcasted her home life through 24/7 webcams for 12 years, for a project entitled anacam and is credited as the second of its kind. It deals with issues of “female sexuality and sensuality” in the public/online sphere, as well as examining gender performativity through a feminist lens. Voog received criticism for her openness to share her everyday life, especially for uncensored sexual activity.
Question 1: In her chapter, Senft explores the realities we create for ourselves via the personal content we produce and share (example: via blogging, homecamming) How much of the content that you display online do you think is a ‘true’ or ‘real’ depiction of your day-to-day self? Do you think that in 2015 we are more candid online than in 2008? Why/why not.
Question 2: How do we strike a balance between honesty and responsibility in our actions online?
As mentioned in my previous post, Fire Island is my favorite place. It is located on Long Island, New York and is considered to be a laid-back getaway where mostly Americans who live in the city travel to during the summer. It can be dated as far back as 1653 when it was first named Whalehouse Point, because of many whales that were being important in the area during that time. Its name was then changed to Fire Island because of the Fire Island Light House that was built to help guide boats out of the harbor. During the 1950’s the island gradually grew into a friendly community of houses all along the beach line, few being owned by celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe. Today is it the most conveniently close island for people in the city to escape too for the weekend, to enjoy the beach and unwind with family and friends. The island crosses 32 miles, making it possible for one to walk or bike from one end to the other. It has always been one of the very few places in the world that does not allow cars on its roads, apart from fire-trucks or ambulances. Its busiest time of year is during the summer when tourist and homeowners go to spend an un-expensive vacation within a friendly environment.
Photo taken by me, during the summer of 2014.
As we mentioned in class, the idea of gender performance related to the idea of queer identity, author Gill Valentine discuses in her paper the idea of an enclosed space that is intimate because of it’s community which only certain bodies are part of and others are excluded from. One can compare this to the idea of Fire Island being seen a specific gender performance location. As Valentine explains, “by claiming space in public, by creating public spaces, social groups themselves become public.” (Valentine. pg. 268), for example, the gay community on the island.
In Fire Island, the gay community can be seen as a dominant form of power that has shaped the overall sense of embodiment and orientation of the island itself, simply by implying to others that the community is larger then what it actually is. Many people only hear about the island as being a strictly gay community, therefor “the identity of spaces and places, like the identities of individuals are frequently given with internal tensions and conflicts” (Valentine. pg. 267). Many have chosen to never visit the island because of this false theory but what many don’t know is that Fire Island is separated between seventeen small communities in which only two are based on having a large gay community but are known for welcoming any visitors. It has always created a distance and a separation of boundaries from those bodies who do visit the island because they then chose to stay in a small sections of the island where they know it is more family friendly.
Workcited: Valentine, Gil. (2005). “(Re)Negotiating the Heterosexual Street: Lesbian Production of Space.” In The Urban Geography Reader. (263-269). London: Routledge
FireIsland. “The #1 Fire Island Website Sience 1996” WordPress. Web. 1st, February. 2015. http://www.fireisland.com/fire-island/bay-front-home-for-sale/
By: Mirelle Lupovici
The hotel I had in mind has existed since February 2003 (hotels in general have obviously been around for much longer than that). I have only been there four times in all (over the past four years) and, since it costs over a hundred dollars to get in, I am not going to be returning to it for the purposes of this post. This draws attention to the wider issue of access to and exclusion from this space based on class-based factors.
I may not consider myself rich by any means, but I cannot avoid being aware of the fact that, for an entire segment of the population, access to this space is closed off in a way which is even more restrictive than that. Being near a metro station, it can be reached easily enough by people who cannot afford to drive and who must rely on public transit to get there. The entrance has an access ramp so the hotel can accommodate the entry of people in wheelchairs, and there are supposed to be facilities in it that are specifically designed to be usable by people with physical disabilities.
Thinking of the ‘Fumeur’ misguide reminds me that the fact that the entire hotel insists on remaining a non-smoking environment makes it somewhat less accessible to smokers, who can theoretically enter but who must go outside to smoke, even in the winter cold, which must be taken into account. Having known someone who worked in hotel service a few years ago but quit after having had a hard time with it, I wonder about the quality of the working conditions of the cleaning staff who work there, and how they get treated as part of their own particular chain of command. It is often assumed that more among hotel cleaning staff are likelier to be non-white, possibly immigrants trying to make ends meet with hotel service, and that more hotel customers are going to be white, although in practice of course non-white clients and white cleaning staff are still present in most hotels.
Hotel rooms exist in a strange place in relation to the public/private dyad: on one hand they are theoretically accessible to all, which makes them public, yet while they are rented they ostensibly become private space for the people who are renting them, on the other. One may wonder about the previous and next occupants of the room one is renting, with no way to find out anything about them, but Sophie Calle’s stint as hotel cleaning staff making inferences about room renters by going through their trash raises the question of just how private a space they are. I ask myself, if I could not afford to rent the hotel room I have to clean, how kindly would I judge those who rent it?
Whereas American hotel rooms all have Bibles, Canadian hotel rooms have no such thing and, asking myself what I would want in a room if I could choose, it occurs to me how ‘modular’ this space must be, ‘reset’ from client to client. It would be intriguing to be able to leave a message to the next renter, encouraging them to leave a message to the following one, and to return later to see how far the exchange continued, yet that the space must be ‘wiped’ each time makes this impossible. Gender performance may be relaxed in private although, if two men rent one room, staff will assume they want two beds. Free Wifi invites virtual space in to superimpose itself on real space, with curtains closing off the outside glare.