Arts and Culture
This paper analyzes online pornography cultures in mainland China that have grown amidst tightened strategies of government surveillance, censorship and netizen activism. The ongoing war on pornography has engendered its own kind of stability since government censors erase products but also turn a blind eye and leave the industries as such in a “smoldering” state. People can upload and share pornographies as long as their consumption is delinked from a wider reflection about legalization or other activist-political statements in the public sphere. This situation is not unique to Chinese online media as debates and representations of sexuality have become increasingly monitored within massive social networks such Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, following their sexually conservative community standards. According to Hito Steyerl’s theory, social media platforms are guided by inherent “formal politics” and have computational algorithms that automatically block and alter sexualized imagery. This in-built monitoring and tracking of nudity and sex encourages a paradoxical thrust towards self-portraiture and self-thrashing/self-annihilation that has been already been appropriated by dating apps such as Feeld and Wechat. (Steyerl, 2014) But how does this affect people who want to defend the social benefits of erotica and sexualized media, such as artists and activists who may long to reflect on their pornographic involvement? Through an overview of industry and censorships models on the Chinese Internet and a dialogue with independent producers Fan Popo and Max Disgrace, the paper speculates with this contradiction means for contemporary pornographies that are closely tied to models of queer sex and activism.