Just a brief one, and definitely no pictures.
Blogger's owners Google has announced that sexually explicit blogs will be forcibly made 'private' - available only to individuals the author personally invites to view.
As you may have noticed, Plashing Vole largely eschews sexual material you're one of those discerning souls who flushes at the thought of a well-applied preposition or a neatly-turned phrase. You I welcome. In short, there's nothing 'blue' to be seen here, though a look through the search terms used by people who land on Vole implies that a lot of people are a) sick and b) very disappointed quite quickly.
As perhaps the least sexy author and blog in cyberspace, I protest. Google, Apple (another deeply prudish company) and various other tech corporations are happy to spy on us, spy on us for governments, avoid their taxes, promote a politics which disempowers the citizen in favour of oppressive states and oppressive, unaccountable corporations, and yet they fear the expression of sexual appetites. Reaching back to my days reading Freudian literary theory, I seem to remember an argument that the exchange of money is a fetishised transference of the exchange of libidinal energy – if that's true, Google is the horniest beast in existence.
I don't view pornography for a range of reasons personal, political, social and sensible (for a start, I only use the web at work, and shared offices aren't the ideal setting for a session with the Kleenex; besides, I like my job). But I do want to stick up for my invisible comrades in the blogosphere. Firstly, explicit material is not necessarily pornographic. There are millions of people out there discussing their sexual development and appetites in constructive ways. Human sexuality is a wondrous (bonkers) landscape and take it from this ex-Catholic: not talking about it produces damaged people and societies. I want the gay Saudi or Nebraskan kid to find out that there are people like her or him, and that anyone who feels a bit odd at home has a community of people exploring the same feeling.
Not all sex blogging is pornographic. A large amount of it, frankly, is. I'm largely opposed to pornography but accept that there's at least the potential for 'ethical' porn. My guess is that it's more likely to be found on blogs than on the corporate pages of commercial producers. I'd far rather hear about Hilda and Cyril's wife-swapping parties in Tunbridge Wells than some violent rape-fantasy produced by the Gb in Los Angeles in conveyor-belt fashion. Artistically, too, let's hear it for awful mobile-phone footage and the glories of DIY home decor and (don't blame me; Boing Boing thinks it's cool) Indifferent Cats in Amateur Porn (link is harmless but please, people, shut your bedroom door).
Most of all, I'm bothered that Google is going to be the ultimate arbiter of what's unacceptable. A tiny elite group of mostly-white, mostly-male, mostly-heterosexual elitists is now going to decide what can and can't be written about and shown in one of the few uncommercialised spaces on the web. Yes, you might say, Blogger is a commercial service, freely available on the understanding that content and metadata become Google's profit-making data. It's a pseudo-public space rather than a public one, and it has the right to dictate what goes on under its roof. I suspect Google will claim that this is an issue of public protection, but it doesn't stand up. A Tory MP last year appealed to the Prime Minister to ensure that children are prevented from seeing sexual material. From the party which hates the Nanny State, this is a bit cheeky: how about he do some actual parenting? I don't think children are going to read blogs about shoe fetishes. They'll google the obvious things or view stuff their mates pass on.
I don't think this washes any more. There is no public equivalent of the blogosphere for those who don't have the resources to host their own sites, and without the visibility the comes from being on a major site, you may as well not exist. Yes, there are compromises (WordPress even tracks bloggers through a hidden feature in the typeface) but we should demand at least a clear and accountable process for determining what is and isn't acceptable. My guess is that the ideological and cultural position occupied by Google's censors will disproportionately hit blogs dealing with homosexuality, trans-gender sexualities and other 'minority' positions on the sexual continuum.
I have a sneaking suspicion that big-boobed-babes of the kind purveyed for heterosexual men by Playboy and its multiple imitators will somehow remain visible (bloggers making money from erotic material are banned: you can find corporate porn via Google any time you like).
I don't mind my government passing laws about this stuff even when they're wrong, because I can vote them out if enough people agree with me, but Google et al. are informed by only two things: profit and their own private perspectives on what's 'icky'. That's not good enough when their service is fast becoming a utility.
The old saw about 'first they came for X, and I said nothing because I was not X' applies here. However disgusting you might find them, it's time to stand up for the perverts, not only because someday Google might decide that you're one too, but as a matter of principle.