Vice.com on Sex and Silicon Valley

Mar 8, 2016 8:24 AM PST

LOS ANGELES — The tech sector’s balancing act between consumer demand and corporate censorship came under the scrutiny of Vice.com, in a recent article by Lux Alptraum, entitled, “Silicon Valley’s Very Confusing Relationship with Sex.”

While adult entertainment is a remarkably tech-forward industry, especially in this era of interactive Internet porn, many of the companies that provide the industry’s necessary infrastructure are either shying away — or being forced away — from this market.

This pressure stems from the positions of prudish stakeholders and stockholders, and the morally motivated extortion efforts of groups such as NCOSE, which makes companies reluctant to be portrayed as enabling pornographers and “child exploitation.”

Alptraum cites overreaching examples such as the initial release of Apple’s iOS HealthKit in 2014, which while positioned as a comprehensive app for monitoring the user’s health and wellbeing, provided no ability to track a woman’s menstrual cycle or fertility.

“Not surprisingly, this annoyed more than a few iPhone users — in particular, the ones whose everyday health and wellbeing might be affected by how likely it’d be that they’d be bleeding out the uterus on any given day,” Alptraum explains. “Though the oversight was corrected with the release of iOS 9, the gaffe underscores an uncomfortable issue facing Apple and its peers: sex is a significant part of life, and one that most tech companies don’t know how to handle.”

The article goes on to explore how tech companies are trying to distinguish between “sexual health” and “sexual pleasure,” passing on a judgment that health is acceptable, while pleasure is sinful and not to be acknowledged, encouraged or supported.

With gray areas such as condoms, pelvic floor exercisers, and sex education products and services, tech firms not only grapple with decisions about producing these items, but also face marketing challenges, where advertising can be approved or denied based on the ad’s context and the whim of the corporate gatekeeper tasked with a yeah or nay — which often prohibits sexually-oriented items from ad channels.

Alptraum fights the easy outlook that Apple, Facebook, Google, and their peers are out of touch with the tide of social progress, and points to payment processor regulations and other factors that affect the choices made by today’s technology companies as they seek to define “the boundaries between what’s ‘naughty’ and what’s necessary.”

“As tech companies continue on their mission to strip away the layers of privacy and infiltrate every aspect of our lives, they’re going to keep running into the question of sex,” Alptraum concludes. “If they want to be the only device, or platform, or website we need, they’re going to have to figure out how to incorporate sexuality and sexual wellbeing into their vision of a tech-enabled lifestyle — and the choices they make will have very real effects on all of our lives.”

To read the full article, click here.

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