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Look, you can’t hide porn by sweeping it under the rug

So now it’s speed cleaning videos. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I just told you, so you are welcome to see a specimen for yourself. Yes, that woman was actually washing a fucking crocodile, but that’s beside the point; as you may have noticed, the focus of the clip were the upskirt shots.
Some people like the voyeuristic rush of peeking at literally the most intimate details of the lives of strangers. Lots of people, actually: so many peeping toms as to warrant the existence of a whole genre of videos where very common-looking ladies are captured while they actually clean their houses, as if KonMari’s evil(er) twin was stalking them. It doesn’t even matter how dressed or less so they are: online voyeurs just can’t have enough of staking out for the fleeting frames where you can sorta see the panties line emerge from their jeans, or a hairy armpit flash while window cleaning, or a footsole slip out of a spongy slipper. Fetishisms are, indeed, endless. Is this creepy? You betcha. Is it funny? Well… ok, it is, actually. And yet, something quite different is hiding beyond these gut reactions.

Are you familiar with the term ‘pornocalypse’? Very briefly put, it refers to the political pressure imposed on businesses to make their products “family friendly” – which basically amounts to conforming to extreme conservative, possibly bigot and fanatic views. You know, the kind of god-fearing, righteous outlook that considers exposing children to over 11,000 televised displays of violence per year perfectly right, but then censors historical art masterpieces on social networks because adults might get upset by the glimpse of a nipple.
Of course websites and other online operators can just keep an open policy about that… but then again, the frequent result of such sensible adult behavior is to see payment merchants freezing your assets, fiscal harassment and disruptive protests by “concerned citizens” associations that are, more often than not, just unwitting tools of much darker groups. In other words, the name of the game is playing by their rules or not being allowed to play at all.

Satisfying the “moral majority” [Spoiler: not the majority at all, but a few powerful entities whose morals only concern their financial and political interests] is the real reason why the world must suffer laws that actively harm sex-positive people, why Tumblr had to shoot itself in the foot and lose 40% of its user base in one day by banning adult content from its platform, or why erotica has such a hard time in general.
This, however, is just a backstage issue. For all but the most naive users, accessing grownup stuff online remains a quick matter of finding copycat websites or other alternatives. Or getting really creative.

It has happened before, of course – like, in 1907 Japan, when the introduction of the still-current Article 175 of the Penal Code meant that genitals were to be censored on every media. Besides an immediate spike of interest toward now-illegal porn, the effects were far from what had been expected. For example, erotica began to include more and more underage characters, following the logic that their hairless bodies implied they were sexually immature and therefore clearly incapable of being represented as pornography. Also, straight penetrative sex was out… so the imagery shifted to “non-sexual” subjects such as torture, degradation, bondage, toiletplay and other perversions. Not only that, but if human sex was unacceptable, alien creatures, fairies, furries and the such remained fair game – and while explicit intercourse was bad… more oblique setups like tentacle rape, bukkake and even abstract porn were just fine. In fact, while the general outcome was a disaster, the mess also gave rise to a few legitimately artistic phenomena, like the ero-guro genre.

In our digital age, creativity tends however to take rather unusual forms. One of the oddest effects of the pornocalypse is the percolation of porn – and very odd porn at that – onto totally mainstream platforms like, just to name one, YouTube. Yes, the site you may know for its procedurally-generated, cannibalism-advocating Peppa Pig cartoons; for its deep fake, reality-shattering videos, or for the hijacked animated shorts with added suicide instructions for kids.
Or, more recently, for the scandal about the pedophile community metastatized in the comments section of innocent clips featuring children going about their daily lives. See what I meant?

As stomach-churning as it is, the latter example is but one proof that you cannot expect to regulate people’s sexuality by authority: their impulses, fantasies and tendencies will remain unchanged, and just creep through the façade in subtler and possibly more upsetting ways. Or weirder ones, as somewhat healthier phenomena appear.
Remember the 2014 argument around ASMR, also known as ‘pleasantly whispering and tip-tapping in your ears’? What happened there was that, as soon as the strange sensory reaction was popularized, a bunch of “ASMR performers” suddenly popped to turn that oddity into an erotic product that enraged the wholesome, first-wave ASMRs. Well, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Do you know how I became aware of the speed cleaning fad? It was due to this reproaching clip by another youtuber, incensed by the alleged incomes earned by the cleaning ladies… compared to hers. Why toil at producing “content” if you just could cash in by fake-sweeping the floor, she asked? And why YouTube allows such horror? Why indeed, ask similarly-enraged unboxers, videogame commenters, nail polish reviewers, serial smilers and other shining champions of Fordist productivity.

If you ever complained about the questionable average quality of the entertainment industry… you were totally right. Fact is, the digital era and the possibility of creating products for the global market at a ridiculously lower cost compared to the past overturned the so-called business model.
Or, in layman’s terms: instead of investing time, resources and money into building detail-perfect masterpieces, today it is much more convenient to offer as many and as cheap options as possible, see what sticks, then barely push it until the next fad arrives.
What is happening, then, is the encounter of two definitely current phenomena.

The first is, as mentioned above, the obsession for making actual porn theoretically hard to reach. Try banning adult material from your home, office or state network, and its users will just grow even more obsessed for seeking out prurient content somewhere else.
The second is another obsession: monetizing non-work.

I know I sound even more antiquated and curmudgeonly than usual here. Look, maybe turning fifty made me certifiably ancient, but… get real, guys: sticking Mentos candies in your nostrils and sniffing Diet Coke to become a human volcano, or whatever you kids are doing today on video, is not a real job. Not because it is not grueling enough, but for the exact opposite reason: producing hundreds of hours of visual inanity in the hope that the YouTube gods reward you with a couple dozen dollars for “impressions” is just not remunerative enough compared to a regular job. So why even do that when any sane person can see it is pointless, useless and plainly – dare I say it – corrupting for society as a whole?
The answer is, naturally, a combination of the lure of fame, lack of reliable social climbing opportunities,  a skewed narrative and other totally serious reasons. Which won’t change the fact that most persons will always favor watching “shocking”, “forbidden” or “crazy” stuff over, say, actual content no matter how wonderfully presented anyway.

Above all, the answer also is that what looks just like oddball fun to you to us is actually real money for the social networks, video platforms and other Internet big players out there. Their job is to “create engagement” (read: keep people watching the ads as long as possible, whatever it takes), and enabling clueless wannabe online celebrities to manufacture new fads is a great strategy. You do all the work, and in the remote case something resonates, they reap the earnings. This, my friends, is why YouTubes and cohorts “allow such horror” and even encourage it.
Form that point of view, having porn-starved hordes visiting their sites in search for alternative titillations is just perfect. Just don’t make it explicit enough that your local blockhead politician recognizes it, kid, and of course we’ll host your pedal pumping videos, your patience face clips and your speed cleaning marathons. Whatever floats your boat.

Whatever floats your boat, indeed. The only aspect I really can’t swallow is the sheer lack of ethics of it all. Not only towards the content creators, but towards the public. Say, do you really think YouTube and its all-powerful machine-learning comment moderation engines didn’t know about the (mostly virtual) child molesters exchanging creepy notes under those kiddy dance class videos? Do you really believe nobody ever told them? Well, think again because I, for one, did a few years ago already. Many others surely did the same. Still, blocking the comments wasn’t really profitable until the whole thing erupted in a high-profile media scandal. Only then losing that traffic became more economically advantageous than plain losing advertisers, and the issue got solved in a blink.
The saddest thing is that enabling a pedophile community apparently only gained the platform about $4,000 a month, or 0.0012% of its revenue. Was it really worth it for them? And for the children and their families? For anyone, for chrissakes?
By the way, mere hours ago a report came in with the news that, according to research, Facebook and its subsidiaries have been instrumental in enabling half of the child grooming incidents in UK. I’ll go out on a limb here, and predict that The Zuck will soon declare he just couldn’t ever imagine anything like that, and that he has already set up a whole office to prevent further incidents. You know, like they did for that tiny thing of breaking the electoral process of several nations, or enabling civil wars.

Back to our subject, at the end of the day it seems that you can try negating reality and desperately attempt to banish erotica. It just won’t work, however – and something way more dangerous can arise in its place. Maybe blindly following the Dollar Gospel isn’t really a smart choice after all, is it?  

 

P.S.
Do you know who makes the most actually innovative clip on Porn Hub these days? That would be mr. RyanCreamer, specializing in… well, see it yourself.

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