Article: Safer Internet Day 2018

Tuesday 6 February marks the annual ‘Safer Internet Day’: A day when sex negative influencers in the political world will, no doubt, try to remind us all of just how bad consensual and feminist porn apparently is, and how horrendous the internet it when it comes to exploring sex and sexuality in general.

A pessimistic way to start this article? Probably, but almost completely accurate too.

That being said, a few bad apples don’t spoil an entire pack of rich, juicy, delicious ones. In my own life I’ve taken to feeding the bad apples to my pet snails, so they’re not even wasted.

Moral of the story: Make snail food of your detractors and enjoy the rest of the juicy and enriching experiences out in the world…or something like that.

But, Anyway. Back On Track.

My main point being that, although some people will be using tomorrow to shit on sex positive advocacy, internet safety is something that is important and relevant for all of us, especially when it comes to sex.

We live in a world where, although the majority of sexual content is freely given, gets exchanged without issue, and has an overall positive impact, there can be incidences of revenge porn, sexual slander, and even sexual abuse or assault. Consent and safety are hugely important, and are things that we should address and discuss in all spaces, including the internet.

So, how does one make sure that their boundaries (and the boundaries of others) are confidently, enthusiastically, and securely protected online? Let’s go through a few of the fundamentals.

‘Create, Connect, and Share Respect’

The first (and perhaps most fundamental) aspect of proper internet safety actually comes from the Safer Internet Day site itself, which is using the following slogan as the slogan for its activism:

Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you.

One of the greatest ways that we can all be safer and more secure online is by fostering a sense of mutual respect, and by creating meaningful and enriching connections in order to foster positive relationships.

If this sounds victim-blamey at all know that this is not my intention at all. If someone doesn’t give you the respect you deserve then you are not at fault for their actions, no matter what their behavior was come the end of it all. If someone breaks the law, disrespects, or abuses someone in any context or to any degree then that’s on them. No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’.

However, we may all sometimes be accidentally responsible for not considering trigger or content warnings on certain posts, or of sharing content that (although we feel is justified in an enraged state) may be a bit OTT or present ourselves or our cause in the wrong way.

Fuck, I’ve done this accidentally twice recently. Twice. It happens.

In such instances how you move forward from the situation is as important as what you did to breach someone else’s safety (or safe space) in the first place. Practice empathy, see it as a chance to learn, and find gratitude in anyone who chooses to engage with you with the intent of productive change.

Alternatively, in the case of bigger backlashes, take some time to protect your own mental and physical safety by backing away from the situation for a while and returning to it when you feel more secure in your own health. Fucking up doesn’t mean that your own wellbeing is suddenly null and void, and never allow it to make you feel this is the case.

Sure Up The Basics

This is the standard stuff that we all know (and most of us assume we have in place) but that can easily be overlooked or, in a worst-case scenario, inadvertently changed or altered during a site update or similar.

Check you privacy settings on your social media accounts routinely and make sure that they’re set in a way that you’re comfortable with. If you’re unsure test them out with a friend or an incognito tab in order to really test the waters.

‘Password protect’ your boundaries (also use passwords).

Make sure that your passwords are varied, mix letters, numbers, and symbols, and change them routinely. Hands up who knows this is good standard practice but doesn’t do it nearly enough? I’ve got my hand up too. We’re all lax with this one, it pays to change that.

If you feel like your identity needs to be protected for any reason then consider using a pen name, making new email accounts, and perhaps even using a new browser system for your adult accounts that isn’t linked in any way to your SFW content. This one will be harder, mainly because our devices, browsers, and social media accounts are deliberately designed to try and link everything (ever wonder why the ads you see are oddly specific to your recent Google and Amazon searches?) so be very vigilant with this one. If in doubt then consider having locked accounts that can only be seen by those you personally authorize.

Password protect your phone or use fingerprint identification. ‘Fraping’ is a thing (and also kind of reflects how fucked up we’ve gotten – considering it’s typically seen as funny and yet literally breaks down to ‘Facebook raping’…ew).

Never Share Anything Online You Wouldn’t Also Share In Person

I know – the internet makes us feel braver at times. There’s something about that digital disconnect from reality which allows us the distance to feel braver, more sure of ourselves, and suddenly capable of posting nudes online or sharing that sexy imagine with the person we’ve yet to show our body to in person.

But, as a general rule of thumb, it’s good not to share or disclose anything online that we wouldn’t feel comfortable with disclosing in person.

Apply the same logic here as you might with troll or flame comments.

So, when posting such content, consider the people who may see it, the ‘IRL’ equivalent and whether or not you’d realistically be okay with sharing the same thing in the same manner when confronted with that audience physically standing in front of you.

This won’t always be applicable (and it certainly doesn’t mean that IRL sharing has to occur before you can share the equivalent content online) but it should serve you well in most instances.

The same goes for discussions, debates, and potential insults too: If you wouldn’t say something to someone if you were face-to-face with them then consider why that’s the case and rephrase or reapproach as is necessary.

I.e. Don’t be a troll or a jackass. Trolls are so early 2000’s that they hardly even seem relevant now, and jackasses are just jackasses. Being a douche online won’t endear you to anyone.

When Taking Photos/Film Moderate Your Identity

If you do choose to share nudes or adult media of yourself online then consider the following:

  • Whether you’d be comfortable doing the same in person.
  • Who the audience will be.
  • What the implication is when sharing this content (considering your own health, your partner/s, family, employment, activism, etc.).
  • What the implication would be if the content were to be shared beyond the boundaries you are comfortable with.
Do it Sabra JohnSin-Style: Show what you decide to on your own terms.

If you are fine will full disclosure of your identity, body, and sexuality then more power to you – go nuts with your nuts (or other genitals). My only addendum being that, as with any other media we release to an audience, although you may release your content with full autonomy and control, you may find that changes once the content is released. Once you give something to an audience they will add their own interpretations and narrative, and that may not be in keeping with what you intended or desired.

At times you may even feel grossly misrepresented. Knowing this, do make sure that you have a mental resilience in place to audience criticism, interpretation, etc. This will be essential in remembering the fundamental power that you had (and retain) in putting yourself out there rather than having someone else put you out there in a way you didn’t consent to.

For anyone else, who may need to protect their identity, always conceal your face, hide any noticeable tattoos and piercings, mute audio if needed, and don’t use names or accounts that are easy to track. Keep business and pleasure separate as much as is possible. Not just for safety but also because your pleasure deserves its own space, and you owe it to yourself to indulge in that with complete and utter self love and celebration.

Aaaand, finally…

Practice Safer Internet Day Activism (Especially With Younger Audiences)

Safer Internet Day is, at its core, a day to help children and young adults have a safer digital experience which equips and allows them to explore everything the net has to offer in a safe, secure, and autonomous manner.

As such, if you’re a parent, a sexual educator, or a carer in any capacity, it’s important that you practice positive activism by helping reach this cause.

This was just in the UK. Let’s take a proactive approach in mitigating this shit.

For parents and carers the SID website encourages people to sit down and have open, honest, and informed conversations with the younger individuals in their life. It accepts that there is some pretty fucked up shit on the net, but it also urges parents and carers not to freak out or take a hard line approach. To quote the site again:

As parents it’s natural to feel worried about the risks posed by your child being online, but for young people the online world is exciting and fun, as it brings so many opportunities for them. Connect with your child by asking them to share with you their favourite things to do online, as well as discussing the risks they might come across.

Talk regularly with your child about how they use technology, and find out what their digital life is like, including what their favourite sites and services are and also how being online makes them feel.

Seriously, this site is kind of awesome.

From such discussions it’s so easy to start talking about and encouraging safer sex practices and age-appropriate sex and relationship education, and SID encourages this where appropriate.

By helping those in our lives have a safer and more informed internet experience we can also make sure they have safer and informed sexual experiences in general. And, if I’m being honest, I’m kind of so fucking done with hearing about just how many sexual assaults have been casually overlooked by our society, so anything we can do to help avoid more sexual abuse from happening in a sex positive manner is pretty much a cause I’m all on board with.

That’s All For Now!

A lot of these recommendations are a given but life can be busy, priorities can get skewed, and it’s so easy to neglect this stuff in the long run.

So why not take tomorrow to readdress that and make an active effort to sure up your own internet safety and the safety of others.

Consider it a digital and sexual cleansing of sorts: A reboot of your sexual identity and a introspective check of what you are and aren’t comfortable with when it comes to your own sex and relationships and the impact that has on you and others around you.

Why? Because sometimes stuff like that matters, and you deserve to feel fully comfortable with your sexual identity and safety, digital or otherwise.

Take care my lovelies. x

The SID Hotline.

A Professional Online Safety Helpline.