Is porn culture feeding a new route for sexual harassment? Recently we’ve been working on a new training course we’ll soon be releasing for parents, bringing them up to speed on the latest apps that kids are using. As part of this we’ve been experimenting with Periscope, the live video streaming app owned by Twitter, and we’ve been observing live feeds and comments. There’s plenty of great things on the platform, interesting stuff like broadcasts of music concerts and live pictures of tornado’s whistling through the countryside, right down to totally mundane things like “chat to me while I do the dishes” and “I can’t sleep,” live pictures of someone dozing off. Through all of this it’s been an interesting experiment but it’s one area of the platform that has left us stunned and in some ways not very surprised.

Within 1 week of casually observing the top feed list in the app, when we had the time, we’d come across women flashing their breasts, men exposing themselves, 2 people masturbating, 1 couple having sex, another couple petting heavily, all being egged on by people in the comments. Now it’s not really that surprising, in this day and age ultimately any platform like this will be used for sex and grabbing attention. That’s the sad reality. What has surprised us is just how raw and explicit the comments are. Innocent or maybe not so innocent girls, are egged on from the word go even when they are just logging on for chat, no sexual trysts anticipated.

Just this morning, when looking at a feed from 2 girls who were giving an update about their sport event at college, there were comments flying. “You’re hot” “Show us your t**s” “Tweark for us” “Lift that top up” “Kiss” “Boobs” “What color are your nipples?” “Where’s your ass?” It went on. Luckily the girls didn’t respond to the comments and kept on with their feed, then logged off. The unfortunate thing is that it’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen and it seems to be a very regular occurrence on this platform.

What really concerns us about this behavior is that it demonstrates that people are out there surfing the platform, looking essentially for live porn. Someone they can watch or convince to do sexual things for them live. In most cases the people that they are trying to convince are just normal people, potentially underage and in some cases innocently on the platform for non-sexual reasons (there are some professional sex stars who use the platform but we haven’t watched their feeds.. for obvious reasons).

The thing that’s baffling us about this behavior is that you would never say things like this to people face to face in a shopping center, or at work, it’s just not right.  In most countries there are laws about treating people like this. Here in Australia it’s called Sexual Harassment, overseen by the Australian Human Rights Commission. You would never get away with it and would be dragged through the courts if you tried it. Plus, absolutely no human is deserving of it. No woman should be treated like a sex object, spoken to with explicit language and bombarded with comments to try and get them to show their wares. But on new platforms like Periscope, it seems it’s regularly gotten away with. Frequently women (and rarely, but sometimes men) are treated like sex machines, purely there for viewing pleasure. Something you can get off to and enjoy.

We know that porn has a huge part to play in this. It regularly represents people, especially women, as sex objects, put there for the viewer’s pleasure. And often they are contorted in positions and scenarios that really aren’t pleasurable but are great to look at and get lots of views online. Yes, there’s some men who are treated this way but often it is the women who are treated with such contempt. Because society is so used to seeing women and men purely on screen for sexual pleasure, when people appear on other platforms such as Periscope, they seem to be getting treated in exactly the same way, as live sexual objects that interact with you and do what you ask. From what we’ve observed on Periscope, often very little concern is given for the human at the other end of the live feed. They are people who have dreams and talents. Desires and needs. They are someone’s sons and daughters.  They do not deserve to be served with such explicit comments and treated this way. It’s inhumane.

The good thing is that Periscope do have a content policy that says that users cannot post pornographic or overtly sexual content and they encourage viewers to respect one another. What we don’t know is how they police that. It seems that with over 10 million users and over 2 million viewers’ active every day, it’s become very difficult to police and monitor what’s happening on the platform. The online streaming app does have a new service that allows a comment to be flagged by a user for being abusive, where after, a randomly selected jury of a few users will be asked to vote on whether the comment is spam, abusive or if it looks fine. With 47 people currently working on the Periscope team, they’re going to need all the help they can get!

Our advice, approach these platforms with caution and don’t be part of the crowd egging people on. If you’re a parent, make sure you understand the dangers of such apps. Periscope is just one of many that allow this kind of behavior to flow relatively unchecked.


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