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Sex & Censorship

July 12, 2023

Sex is inextricable from a true understanding of the digital age. Or, as Camille Sojit Pejcha puts it, the “internet as we know it wouldn’t exist without sex.” This dialogue between the internet and sex is the very focus of Samantha Cole’s book, How Sex Changed the Internet and the Internet Changed Sex, and it shapes the conversation Pejcha has with Cole and Jessica Stoya, a writer, performer, and pornographer.

Pejcha’s interview with Cole and Stoya travels the reader back in time, to what Stoya terms the “Wild West days of the internet,” which, albeit imperfect, were rife with normalization of sex and kink. And it’s also an excruciating recounting of our present: a time where banks join Silicon Valley in sex censorship. Stoya recalls the earlier days of a less-censored internet, where critical education about sex, identity, and sexual health was common. Cole comments on how now, morality policing is at the forefront of the internet.

Indeed, critical attention must be paid to morality policing online. Sex workers can’t find a bank. Menstrual blood is banned in porn (ask your credit card company why). More generally, sex censorship might just have killed the internet. And though sex censorship most certainly disproportionately harms sex workers, queer users, and artists, if that doesn’t make you care, remember that in the end, it harms everyone. Jillian C. York notes that with sex censorship, we’re more likely to be without “positive and realistic depictions” of bodies and without promotion of pleasure, particularly that of women and trans and nonbinary folks.

We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation firmly oppose sex censorship. We join Pejcha, Cole, and Stoya in urging for a better world, including online.

illustrated image of two bodies on a computer screen

Illustration of two naked people facing each other and embracing. The image is on a computer screen and there are three illustrated bars with asterisks on them blocking the entire image from being seen. The computer sits in front of a black background. (Ashley Vargas for Mashable)

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