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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Just how censored is the Internet in China, anyway? The title of a new study out of Harvard University yields a possibly surprising answer: “…Censorship in China Allows Government Criticism but Silences Collective Expression.” In other words, you can complain about whatever you think is wrong; you just can’t suggest that you and your fellow Chinese try doing anything to fix it.  

    Harvard researchers Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts co-authored the study, which they call “the first large-scale, multiple-source analysis of the outcome of what may be the most extensive effort to selectively censor human expression ever implemented.”

    To do this, the researchers devised a system that automatically downloaded just-posted content from various Chinese social media before censors could remove whatever they found objectionable, then compared the content of censored and non-censored posts. The results?

    Contrary to previous understandings, posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored. Instead, we show that the censorship program is aimed at curtailing collective action by silencing comments that represent, reinforce, or spur social mobilization, regardless of content. Censorship is oriented toward attempting to forestall collective activities that are occurring now or may occur in the future—and, as such, seem to clearly expose government intent.

    The study explains that Chinese Internet censorship comes in three forms. The first is the so-called Great Firewall of China, which prevents Chinese from accessing various foreign websites—including Facebook and Twitter—from anywhere in the country. The second is keyword blocking, or making it impossible to post anything containing certain keywords. In practice, keyword blocking does little to prevent freedom of speech “since netizens do not find it difficult to outwit automated programs [using] analogies, metaphors, satire, and other evasions.”

    The third type of censorship, applied to posts that make it past the first two barriers, involves actual human censors reading content and removing whatever they deem objectionable. The Harvard study, naturally, focuses on the results of this third type: download raw content posted onto a Chinese site, then revisit the site to see if the content is removed, and how quickly.

    The researchers noted that “The censors are not shy, and so we found it straightforward to distinguish (intentional) censorship from sporadic outages or transient time-out errors. The censored websites include notes such as 'Sorry, the host you were looking for does not exist, has been deleted, or is being investigated' and are sometimes even adorned with pictures of Jingjing and Chacha, Internet police cartoon characters.”

    Turns out the Chinese censors work very quickly—most censored material was removed within 24 hours of its original posting, though posts occasionally stay up as long as five days before coming to a censor’s attention.

    Of course, as the researchers themselves admit, there are limits to what can be gleaned from their study’s methods. They have no way of knowing how much stuff was censored before they could download it or how much self-censorship Chinese bloggers impose on themselves. Perhaps more importantly, “We have also not studied the effect of physical violence, such as the arrest of bloggers, or threats of the same.”

    Turns out approximately 13 percent of all collected Chinese social media posts were censored. While discussing the coding methods used in the study, the researchers mentioned how “conversation in social media in almost all topic areas (and countries) is well known to be highly ‘bursty,’ that is, with periods of stability punctuated by occasional sharp spikes in volume around specific subjects. We also found that with only two exceptions—pornography and criticisms of the censors, described below—censorship effort is often especially intense within volume bursts.”

    In other words, when lots of Chinese suddenly start blogging about a particular topic, the Chinese censors will pay close attention. Most of the censors’ focus is on political topics but any sort of call for collective action is censored, even when it’s entirely non-political.

    Notably, one of the highest ‘collective action potential’ events was not political at all: following the Japanese earthquake and subsequent meltdown of the nuclear plant in Fukushima, a rumor spread through Zhejiang province that the iodine in salt would protect people from radiation exposure, and a mad rush to buy salt ensued. The rumor was biologically false, and had nothing to do with the state one way or the other, but it was highly censored; the reason appears to be because of the localized control of collective expression by actors other than the government. Indeed, we find that salt rumors on local Web sites are much more likely to be censored than salt rumors on national Web sites.

    The researchers listed other examples of censorship before reiterating that “collective organization is not tolerated by the censors, regardless of whether it supports the government or criticizes it.”

    In conclusion, individual Chinese citizens apparently do enjoy a great deal of freedom to criticize their government, leaders and laws, to the point where “government policies sometimes look as bad, and leaders can be as embarrassed, as is often the case with elected politicians in democratic countries, but, as they seem to recognize, looking bad does not threaten their hold on power so long as they manage to eliminate discussions associated with events that have collective action potential.” Indeed, by allowing criticism, and thus getting a feel for what the people are thinking, while simultaneously stifling all collective actions (even those as innocuous as a fad for buying extra salt), the Chinese government might actually be stronger and more stable than if it tried stifling criticism in addition to collective action. This has worrying implications; the researchers said that China “is probably being watched closely by autocrats from around the world.”

    Art by Jason Reed for the Daily Dot

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    "BEING GAY IS NOT OKAY. THANK YOU JENSEN ACKLES FOR BANNING GAY QUESTIONS AT CONVENTIONS," a Supernatural fan wrote on Tumblr in the middle of a fandom-wide meltdown that took place this weekend over Supernatural New JerseyCon. 

    On Saturday morning, multiple fan reports surfaced alleging that a con organizer had refused certain ship-related questions because Jensen Ackles, who plays the dreamy Dean on the CW's long-running testosterone candy, was "uncomfortable" when faced with the show's enormous contingent of Dean/Castiel shippers. The problem? Dean is a guy, and Castiel is a male angel. Questions about the show's notable homoerotic subtext were first disallowed, then booed by audiences—and notably rebuffed by Ackles, a lead actor on the show.

    Was Ackles suddenly stricken with homophobia? Well, this is fandom, and it's a lot more complicated than that. The shippers are part of the enormous slash fandom that has long fueled Supernatural's popularity, pushed it to eight seasons with no end in sight, and made it part of the trifecta of Tumblr fandoms to rule them all: Superwholock. Supernatural (SPN) has had intense shippers for as long as it's been on air. But none of them can hold a candle to Destiel, the huge Dean/Castiel ship that has swallowed fandom whole ever since Castiel strode into the show's fourth season and raised Dean from perdition and into the annals of slash fandom's megaships. 

    But after eight seasons, the actors' discomfort with the subject of Destiel seems to be increasing along with the subtextual support for the ship on the show itself. Addressing the ship directly would potentially result in either a denial or an affirmation, either of which would spoil the plot or upset shippers. So while questions about Destiel have long been a part of the actors' environments at conventions, as time goes on it's getting harder to answer.  

    The question "Is Castiel in love with Dean?" did make it into a Saturday panel because the always fandom-friendly Misha Collins, who plays the angel, doesn't mind handling potentially awkward questions that may only cause pain to shippers. But a question about Dean's sexuality supposedly never made it past a con organizer because those questions made Ackles "uncomfortable." The fan who asked both questions identified herself as "Jen," an 18-year-old. While fandom rejoiced at Misha's straightforward answer, it proceeded to implode over the thought that Jensen might be putting a moratorium on talk of shipping—especially male/male shipping. Some fans went even further: 

    Perhaps inevitably, this happened:

    Photos via itsjustjensen/Tumblr

    As the crowd booed the questioner who started to ask about homoerotic subtext, Ackles commented on the fact that it was the very first question of the evening, then told her not to ruin it for everyone, and brushed off the question—which never got fully asked—by saying he was "going to pretend not to know" what she was about to ask. 

    If SPN fans thought they had it bad on Saturday over the unasked question, the drama on Sunday over the one that went through was overwhelming. After Jensen dismissed the fan, she was supposedly found crying. It was exactly the worst-case scenario for a fandom already tremendously polarized around the subject of Destiel. And it came at a moment when fans were already divided intensely over whether asking questions about the show's rampant gay subtext—this season so far has found the two would-be lovers embracing and telling each other "I need you" at crucial plot moments—would be invasive, or a perfectly understandable response to the show's own pandering to its slash fans. 

    As fans lashed out in anger at Jensen, the questioners, and each other, the #NJCon hashtag briefly trended worldwide.

    Still, not everything was negative.

    But the general good vibes at the convention were completely overwhelmed by the emotions Ackles's dismissal stirred up from fans on Tumblr, LiveJournal, Twitter, and beyond. 

    The creators and the actors of Supernatural are used to these questions. From the beginning the show has had its share of Wincest shippers, fans of the incesty brotherly love of Dean and Sam; more than a few conventions have also seen an intensely devout subset of Jared/Jensen RPF tinhatters, fans of the real-life relationship of Jared Padelecki and Jensen Ackles, who play the brothers on the show. The fan devotion to and enthusiasm for these ships have made Supernatural conventions occasionally uncomfortable places for both actors and fellow fans in the past. 

    But Destiel is not an entirely fan-created ship. And Supernatural, known for killing off its textually gay characters, is often derided for "queerbaiting"—dabbling in "Ho Yay" only to turn around and declare "No homo." Ackles himself is not immune, and Destiel fans have had plenty of moments like this from DVD commentaries, panels, and extras to encourage their shipping:

    Photo via onamelancholyhill/Tumblr

    The wink-wink-nod attitude of the show towards its many slash fans is not only frustrating to fans, but problematic, considering the incredibly long line of shows that utilize queerbaiting in order to build their fanbases, without any intention of ever following through. The lack of acknowledgment that queer romance could be a possibility for prime time's most compelling relationships is a core part of the reason slash fandom exists to begin with; and while fandom has grown decidedly more mainstream since the days of Kirk/Spock, the attitude creators have towards the idea of two male characters falling in love on a show that's already established them as straight has undergone virtually no change at all.  It's why, at a core level, so many slash fans still desperately hope and believe that their ship could become canon—most notably, Sterek fans and Destiel fans. Both Teen Wolf and SPN fans can be found frequently talking about their ships as if they are "endgame"—holding out hope that the show's creative team will do the diverse thing and allow their presumably straight characters to be queer and in love.

    But as far as Supernatural goes, it seems unlikely. In addition to the show's abysmal track record when it comes to women, the show has also never shown much respect for the enormous female population of shippers who comprise the majority of its fanbase. On episodes where SPN parodies its own fanbase, it portrays it entirely inaccurately as being mostly comprised of male geeks with a few outlying, rabid, and crazy female slash fans in the minority. The show's own attitude of contempt towards the many slash fans in its midst catalyzes the need for slash shippers to have some acknowledgment of the Destiel pairing from the actors and creative team—and encourages the other parts of the fandom to be dismissive and contemptuous of it in their turn.

    "Jensen would never support a gay relationship between Dean and Castiel," insisted sunflower-garden-utopia on Saturday. "Dean isn’t gay. Jensen isn’t gay. Normal people are not gay."

    Many people are wary of slash shipping, claiming that slashers can exhibit a fetishistic attitude that refuses to acknowledge or celebrate platonic male intimacy or push for more honest queer representation. But at a basic level, Ackles's dismissal of the question of Dean's sexuality—from a girl who claimed to be bisexual, no less—smacked of erasure. Many, many fans from around the fandom declared themselves angry, hurt, and marginalized. Others vilified the behavior of the fans who refused to respect Ackles's boundaries and pushed the awkward questions upon him to begin with. Tumblr user heartensoul, who uploaded the video of the incident, was struck by the crowd's behavior as much as by Jensen's:

    When I heard the crowd collectively booing ... I got really uncomfortable with my own response and also theirs. When I heard Jensen’s response, I was stunned into silence and didn’t record, take pics, or really even hear the questions for a bit.

    What happened was not okay. Jensen needs a better response. Fandom needs a better response. We need to safeguard against this, either through screening questions or the actor being a bit more adult about it and owning up by saying “that’s not how I intended to play it, but you’re welcome to your interpretation.” These types of questions are not going away; we need to learn how to interact with them like adults. All of us.

    As fandom grows more and more mainstream—Tumblr and slash shipping are almost synonymous at this point—it's not just SPN's creative team but any number of shows who need to consider the question of how to deal with questions from slash fans at conventions like this. 

    Especially if, in the case of Supernatural, the show is only getting slashier over time.


    Update: Tumblr user themysterygirlfromnjcon has come forward claiming to be the fan who asked the question, apparently creating a Tumblr account to explain what her full question would have been:

    I’ve loved seeing Dean’s character become more comfortable with himself this season. As a bisexual, I’ve noticed some possible subtext, as seen in Everybody Hates Hitler, that Dean might be coming to accept himself as something other than straight too? I know you’ve said you know Dean better than anyone, so, in your professional opinion, as the preeminent scholar on Dean Winchester, if you see that as a valid interpretation of what’s going on with the character this season.

    Another Tumblr user, wonderfulwincestxx, also claims to have left the convention early after having a question related to the It Gets Better project rejected before she could ask it.

    Illustration by nasyu/DeviantArt

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    The United Nations is pretty picky about who it follows on Twitter. Although the global organization has nearly 1.5 million followers, it only follows 536. Among them are the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

    And, until earlier today, one big busty porn star.

    The main Twitter account for the organization was spotted following the account of German adult actress Penelope Black Diamond, a.k.a @BigBustyStar.

    It's not entirely clear how or why the U.N. came to follow the 31-year-old porn performer, though it is not following her any longer. In the public interest (it's your tax dollars that fund the U.N., after all), here's some of our theories as to why the U.N. was keeping tabs on Black Diamond.

    It was a huge mistake

    The most likely, and most boring reason. Maybe someone clicked on the follow button on her profile by accident after one of her tweets popped up in a search. It's a logical turn of events.

    Account manager meant to follow from a personal account

    There are many, many instances of people using their work Twitter account by mistake. Perhaps the person running the feed thought they were logged into their own account. It's an easy mistake to make. It does raise questions as to why the person handling the U.N.'s account was checking out porn stars' feeds at work.

    The U.N. used an auto-follow tool

    There exist myriad tools dedicated to automatically following people who follow your account, or use a certain term in one of their tweets. While it's entirely possible Black Diamond used a certain word or phrase to trigger the U.N. into following her, it seems unlikely the U.N. uses such a tool. It only follows 536 people, and would likely have many more followees if it used such such software. It's also very unlikely an auto-follow tool was used to follow back those who opted to follow the U.N.: Penelope Black Diamond does not follow the account. How embarrassing.

    It was helping out the European Union

    Earlier this year, the European Union voted against a ban on porn in the region. Who knows? Perhaps the U.N. was carrying out some background research on the EU's behalf.

    Twitter had a random blip

    Maybe, just maybe, the notorious Twitter unfollowing bug (where it would erroneously unfollow accounts on your behalf) flipped on its head and added the U.N. to Black Diamond's list of followers without either side knowing.

    Black Diamond used the forced follow bug

    A few years back, a Twitter bug allowed anyone to force another Twitter account into following them. For instance, I made Oprah Winfrey follow me for a few minutes before the bug was stamped out. Perhaps Twitter didn't get around to restoring the U.N,'s legitimate list of people it was following after Black Diamond maybe possibly took advantage of the bug. As this bug was squashed years ago, though, this theory seems unlikely.

    Black Diamond used to be someone else

    It's simple to switch the username, display name, and profile of a Twitter account, bringing your followers along for the ride. It's a trick occasionally used by people who run parody accounts reacting to a certain event: delete your existing tweets, change your username, profile photo, and bio, and presto! You already have an audience with which you can share bad jokes and ads.

    The chance that happened here is a remote one. I can't fathom any circumstances under which the U.N. might have been following an account which converted to become the property of a porn star who started tweeting four years ago.

    In all likelihood, someone at the U.N. was merely checking out a titillating Twitter account and hit the follow button by mistake. If the U.N. investigates how this happened, surely the perpetrator will be hoping they have diplomatic immunity.

    Photo via Sean Davis/Flickr

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    Think your prom date was cool? If he or she was a human, think again. One Tumblr teenager put the TI in inventive when she took her calculator to prom.

    "No one asked me to prom, so I took my calculator," wrote high schooler Regina Reynolds last week. When asked to provide pictorial proof, she ponied up in a post tagged "Reasons I am better than you," with a bucketload of pictures featuring herself and her Texas Instruments graphing calculator attending prom in a hand-sewn silk tuxedo.

    The calculator, named TI, received star treatment as she whisked him around prom, introduced him to all her friends, and slow-danced with him.

    If that's not enough to make you immediately starstruck with Reynolds, then maybe you deserve a prom date who knows the logarithmic curve to your heart. We can't all be so lucky to design our own perfect gadget romance, but we can stalk Reynolds Tumblr (don't you wish your Tumblr name were as great as "ishipitlikeUPS"?) to see what insight we can glean from a math geek with a fannish inclination and a dazzling amount of self-confidence.

    Reynolds's Tumblr invites her visitors to Taste the Awesome. It tastes like a mix of fandom, feminism, humor, and hedgehogs. After her story went viral and landed her on a wash of major news outlets, Reynolds received word that she was trending on Twitter, and promptly signed up for the service so that she could interact with the likes of The Mary Sue and Texas Instruments—who were, of course, pleased with Reynold's sudden popularity.

    She also, inevitably, got steamy calculator fanfic.  

    It had been an amazing, romantic night of dancing and having fun at prom, but the night had only just begun. Her white dress had been torn off in a burst of frenzied passion, flung into the front seat of the car like a page of frustrating Calculus homework. …

    “Oh, baby, I love it when you push my buttons like that,” T.I. whispered. 

    As the notes on her calculator prom post continued to climb, Reynolds reacted with panache, boggling at the media coverage and dishing out helpful advice to other geeks in love with their gadgets/would-be prom dates:

    Frankly, Rebecca, don’t let nobody dull your sparkle~

    She also roundly delivered the smackdown to a few people who failed to appreciate her genius:

    Is it possible to ship Regina/Awesome? Because we're starting to. 

    Theres so much we don't know about Regina. Is she a junior or senior (Regina, call us!)? Can she take more intangible badassery to next year's prom? If not, well, at least we know she's in good hands.

    H/T Betabeat | All photos via ishipitlikeups/Tumblr

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    Over the weekend, an anonymous editor defaced a Wikipedia page on the Washington Wizards 2012-2013 season by referring to Jason Collins as a "faggot."

    Collins recently made headlines for becoming the first active athlete in a major sport to come out as gay. He was also member of the 2012-2013 Wizards team before becoming a free agent this summer.

    On Sunday afternoon, an anonymous Wikipedia editor disparaged Collins' coming out by adding "Jason Collins was on this team. He just revealed he is a faggot!" to the page in question.

    Photo via Wikipedia

    The derogatory statement was viewable on Wikipedia for a whopping six hours before another anonymous user edited the sentence to read "He was the first active male professional athlete to come out as gay." As of this writing, that’s the version of the statement that remains on Wikipedia, but you can still see the offensive edit in the page’s edit history.

    Wikipedia publishes the IP addresses of anonymous editors. A cursory search on IP Tracker reveals that the disparager used a Verizon Wireless device,  but doesn’t give any more clues about the poster’s identity.  

    It's unclear what motivated this user to use such hateful language—Immaturity? Bigotry? “The Lulz?”—but, in the words of the great Charles Barkley, this was "a turrible idea."

    Photo via Jason Collins/Twitter

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    During the next six months, you're going to be hearing the name Orson Scott Card a lot. Card is the author of Ender's Game, one of the greatest works of science fiction and children's literature ever written. In November, an all-star film production of Ender's Game is hitting theaters, and along with the buzz, there's sure to be lots of controversy. 

    Why? Because in addition to being one of the most critically acclaimed writers of science fiction, Card, or OSC, as he's dubbed in sci-fi circles, is also one of the most openly bigoted. Card is the great-great-grandson of Mormon icon Brigham Young, and his politics are deeply linked to his lifelong Mormonism. Card has been openly railing against what he calls "the homosexual agenda" for decades.

    Earlier this year, DC Comics found itself embroiled in a public relations fiasco after it hired Card to write its latest Superman adventure. Already rather beleaguered on the subject of diversity, DC caused a public outcry when it announced the anti-gay Card would be scripting a story about the American icon, and finally had to put the issue on hold indefinitely.

    But Card has been in the science fiction business for decades, and has become one of the powerful and influential authors in the industry. He is the only author in history to win sci-fi's two biggest awards, the Hugo and the Nebula, back-to-back: for 1985's Ender's Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead. He's the winner of the John W. Campbell Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Locus Award—nearly every prestigious sci-fi/fantasy award on the planet. He runs a yearly "boot camp" for sci-fi writers, teaches at Southern Virginia University, and serves as a judge for the annual sci-fi Writers of the Future awards. 

    Photo via digitalthom/Flickr

    In 2008, the esteemed Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) awarded Card its Margaret A. Edwards Award, annually given to an author whose lifetime has been spent "helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world." The decision inevitably caused controversy, but YALSA argued that Card's personal views should not diminish the impact of the Ender's series, which is stridently anti-war and progressive in its depiction of intergalactic cultural clashes and the societal cost of violence.

    But Card remains a polarizing figure in a corner of the publishing industry that's long been criticized for its commitment to upholding a mostly male, mostly white standard of excellence. It matters that when Orson Scott Card talks, the world of sci-fi is listening; because so often what Orson Scott Card has to say overshadows the iconic Ender and its sequels.

    Despite being a Democrat, Card also has stridently right-wing political views that verge on neo-conservative. He also hates fanfiction, even though he frequently writes it. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the paradoxical mishmash of Cardian beliefs that might provoke some brain-scouring and heated debate among sci-fi fans near you as the buzz for Ender's Game starts to grow.

    OSC and the “Homosexual Agenda”

    In 2008, Card lamented that he had for so long been labeled a "homophobe" because of his stated positions on homosexuality. Here's a run-down on what he said. Notably, he's become far more vocal and politically active in the fight against gay marriage in recent years.

    1990: Card argued that states should keep sodomy laws on the books in order to punish unruly gays--presumably implying that the fear of breaking the law ought to keep most gay men in the closet where they belonged.

    2004: He claimed that most homosexuals are the self-loathing victims of child abuse, who became gay “through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse.”

    2008: In 2008, Card published his most controversial anti-gay screed yet, in the Mormon Times, where he argued that gay marriage "marks the end of democracy in America," that homosexuality was a "tragic genetic mixup," and that allowing courts to redefine marriage was a slippery slope towards total homosexual political rule and the classifying of anyone who disagreed as "mentally ill:"

    A term that has mental-health implications (homophobe) is now routinely applied to anyone who deviates from the politically correct line. How long before opposing gay marriage, or refusing to recognize it, gets you officially classified as "mentally ill"

    Remember how rapidly gay marriage has become a requirement. When gay rights were being enforced by the courts back in the '70s and '80s, we were repeatedly told by all the proponents of gay rights that they would never attempt to legalize gay marriage.

    It took about 15 minutes for that promise to be broken. …

    If a court declared that from now on, "blind" and "sighted" would be synonyms, would that mean that it would be safe for blind people to drive cars?

    No matter how sexually attracted a man might be toward other men, or a woman toward other women, and no matter how close the bonds of affection and friendship might be within same-sex couples, there is no act of court or Congress that can make these relationships the same as the coupling between a man and a woman.

    This is a permanent fact of nature.

    Card went on to advocate for, literally, a straight people's insurrection against a pro-gay government: 

    [W]hen government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary... Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down....

    2009: He joined the board for anti-gay lobby The National Organization for Marriage, which was created to pass California's notorious Proposition 8, banning gay marriage.

    2012: He supported his home state North Carolina's constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage by arguing that gay marriage "will be the bludgeon [The Left] use to make sure that it becomes illegal to teach traditional values in the schools."

    Homophobic Subtext in Card's Writing

    While subtext is a tricky thing to address, Card's subtext is often, well, text.

    Hamlet's Father: In 2008, Card wrote this hilariously painful Shakespearean fanfic that posits that Hamlet's father was a pedophile who molested most of the royal court, with the implication that the abuse made them all gay. OSC joked that he left Shakespeare's version "in shreds on the floor." You don't say.

    The Homecoming Saga. This book is Card's fanfic retelling of the Book of Mormon—in space. It also features a gay male character who gets married for the good of society, because he recognizes that procreation is his duty. The book espouses the joy and love of his relationship with his wife, though, notably, Card doesn't attempt to "cure" the gay man, and sex continues to be a chore for him.

    Ender in Exile. In this book, as in several others, Card sets up a situation where civilization is in the early stages of formation, which means it's largely dependant on high fertility rates and stable, monogamous heteronormativity. This sets the stage for Card to spend time rhapsodizing about the benefits of straight sex. Ad nauseum. "In between things actually happening it's ALL lecturing about marriages and heterosexuality to the point of propaganda and driving me insane," writes one Goodreads reviewer about the book.

    Songmaster. Songmaster was Card's attempt to show that he could write fairly about gay people—more specifically, gay men, since his writing seems to pay little attention to lesbians. However, Card's well-meaning (sort of) attempt at depicting homosexual love is muddied by the creepy overtones. The main gay love story features a young man who was groomed to be mostly homosexual in a pederasty-based society similar to Ancient Greece. He falls in love with a 15-year-old castrati.

    To make things worse, the 15-year-old has the body of a 10-year-old. To make things even worse, when they finally have sex, the 15-year-old in a 10-year-old's body loses his virginity, only to nearly die because of a plot point that leaves him unable to have sex ever again. Card addressed Songmaster in his 1990 essay, and described the relationship as a "mutually self-destructive path":

    What the novel offers is a treatment of characters who share, between them, a forbidden act that took place because of hunger on one side, compassion on the other, and genuine love and friendship on both parts. I was not trying to show that homosexuality was "beautiful" or "natural"—in fact, sex of any kind is likely to be "beautiful" only to the participants, and it is hard to make a case for the naturalness of such an obviously counter-evolutionary trend as same-sex mating.

    So basically, Card wrote a novel whose main plot point involves punishing homosexual sex, in the guise of identifying with mostly gay men. Did we mention the older lover was also in a straight relationship? With a kid? Once again, reproduction trumps all.

    Orson Scott Card and Fanfiction

    In 1989, Orson Scott Card wrote a story called "The Originist." It was a work of Isaac Asimov fanfiction, published in an anthology alongside other Asimov fanfics. Card later explained that although fanfiction is terrible and unimaginative, he wanted to write it to prove how much better his fanfiction was than everyone else's fanfiction. In the 1990 anthologyMap in the Mirror, Card first expostulates that "Written science fiction has an author-driven audience. The real science fiction audience doesn't want to read [works written by one author in another author's universe]." He then goes on to tell how he gleefully jumped at the chance to write Asimov fanfic:

    [F]or this one anthology, Dr. Asimov was allowing the participants to set stories within his own closely-held fictional universes... Suddenly I was sixteen years old again and I remembered the one story I wanted so badly to read, the one that Asimov had never written... 

    Card explains that even though he has laid down the law regarding franchised works and other forms of fanwork, the rule doesn't apply to him "because I had a compelling story to tell."

    Card also went on to write the novel tie-in for the franchise The Abyss.

    In 2004, he went even further, bluntly stating on his website that "The time to write fan fiction is 'never,'" and that "to write fiction using my characters is morally identical to moving into my house without invitation and throwing out my family."

    In a post-Fifty Shades publishing environment, however, Card has rapidly thawed out. Last year he hosted a fanfiction contest and told the Wall Street Journal that "Every piece of fan fiction is an ad for my book. What kind of idiot would I be to want that to disappear?" 

    Taking Card at his word, then, we are happy to direct you to our favorite repositories of Ender's Game fanfiction on the Internet. Enjoy the gay, gay slash fanfiction—or write some of your own.

    Ender's Game fanfiction at Highlight: "Ender is forced to pleasure his brother, Peter. Routine, dismissed in the face of desire. Two wills, pitted in a game of lust and control."

    Ender's Game fanfiction at Highlight: "Ender encounters Alai at night. Boy/boy, but the fluffy sort, with conversation."

    Ender's Game fanfiction at Archive of Our Own. Highlight: an extra-sultry Arthur/Eames Inception crossover alternate universe story, just because we can.

    The ins and outs of Card's bibliographical representation of gay men may not be relevant to everyone. But with Card already taking center stage this year for the DC comics fiasco, and the first trailer for Ender's Gamedropping today, soon a great number of people are going to be revisiting their childhoods, and revisiting the views of one of their favorite authors in the process.

    Whether you think a writer's works should speak for themselves, or whether no great work can be read without context, between now and November, you're likely to have no shortage of debate around sci-fi's most hotly debated author. 

    Illustration by Jason Reed

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    "It's almost a big opportunity to do a lot of bragging and show off how tough they think they are."

    That's Harris County, Texas prosecutor Bill Hawkins talking about the extreme measures some inmates are taking to smuggle smartphones into prisons so they can post selfies to Facebook. Houston's prudish KPRC NBC affiliate didn't elaborate beyond that comment, but they did post an x-ray photograph that made the implications clear as a colonoscopy: Prisoners are stuffing clunky, vibrating, rectangular blocks of silicon and glass up their butts. So they can use Facebook.

    Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook kingpin and the world's biggest social media pusher, must be so pleased.

    While the main motivation for prisoners seems to be posting photographs of themselves, investigators say many others use the phones to orchestrate all manner of crimes outside the prison walls—from stealing identities to ordering hits.

    "Gangs use the cell phones not only to communicate with people in the free world and coordinate all types of activity, but often times they're talking to offenders on other units," an official told KPRC.

    Meanwhile, victims' rights groups say the problem makes their healing process that much more difficult. Their tormentors are supposed to be behind bars, but thanks to the ubiquity of the social network, they can reach out and touch almost anyone in the world.

    "It just opens the wounds," Tonya Hardin, member of the Houston-area Parents of Murdered Children group told KPRC.. "It's just another way to make us victims all over again."

    Texas isn't alone. Across the United States, smartphones are becoming a hot piece of contraband, a small tool of extraordinary versatility. And while much of that activity is dangerous—say, filming officers as they make their rounds to show other inmates their patterns—inmates are just as often using Facebook for the type of self-aggrandizing fluff that typifies the social network. Just last week, 70 inmates (many of whom were murderers or rapists) in 14 prisons across Tennessee were disciplined after they were caught posting photos of themselves posing with piles of drugs and cash.

    Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III

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    Derek, an 87-year-old grandfather who served in Britain’s Royal Navy during World War II, has no doubt seen it all. War. Foreign territory. An ever-expanding family.

    Recently, he saw something brand new: the power of Reddit.

    Redditor Steven Withey, who goes by the handle stevieboy1984, is Derek’s grandson, and recently helped him set up a new computer. In a blog post, Withey, the "go-to IT guy in the family," described how part of the setup process included viewing a batch of old photographs of Derek during his time in the service.

    "While helping him out, I sorted out his photos, which I had backed up from his old PC, and he showed me a crumpled photo of a photo of him back when he was in the Navy. The image had been emailed to him by a relative, so I forwarded it on to myself to see what could be done with it."

    Photo via stevieboy1984/Imgur

    Withey was unsatisfied with the photograph's weathered condition and turned to the subreddit r/picrequests for help. The community, which is home to over 14,000 subscribers, takes requests to digitally manipulate submissions.

    "I don't have the PS skills to tidy it up myself and would be really grateful if someone could have a go at it!" Withey wrote in his request.

    Within hours, redditors worked their magic on the photograph. The ultimate "winner" was redditor unhi, who put a little over three hours into the restoration, producing a clean, crisp, high-resolution version of the original.

    Photo via unhi/Imgur

    While unhi's piece is what eventually wound up in a frame, Withey made sure to show Derek every last retouched photo that was submitted. He even documented his grandfather's awed and humble reaction to the work in a YouTube video, which has received almost 100,000 views.

    "That's wonderful," Derek says over and over, while staring at the photographs. "Do I owe anybody anything for this?"

    In an article on the widespread act of generosity, the Huffington Post identified unhi as Dave Humphreys, who was just as awe-struck at the attention his retouching job was getting.

    "One minute I was just putting my talent to use to help a stranger on the Internet and the next it's getting thousands of views on YouTube," Humphreys said in an email to the Post.

    While each redditor tackled the project free of charge, Withey nevertheless expressed his gratitude for the amount of time that was spent.

    "I gifted some Reddit Gold to the users who contributed as a thank-you," he wrote.

    H/T Huffington Post | Photo via YouTube/Steve Withey

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    If you ask officials in Sandusky County, Ohio, how Jacob Limberios died, they'll claim that it was a suicide. Anonymous doesn't think so.

    The hacktivist collective has launched a new op, #OpJustice4Jake, demanding a second look at what caused Limberios's death. 

    Limberios died of a gunshot to the head in his house in March of last year. It was ruled a suicide based on three witnesses' testimony, which Anonymous believes was accepted uncritically. Their argument: There was no autopsy, no tissue-sample test. The case has been characterized by multiple instances of deviation from accepted practice in death investigations.

    The op's press release asked a number of questions:

    “Why was no proper forensic investigation conducted immediately after the incident? Why was no autopsy conducted immediately after the incident? Why did the family have to pay an expert to do the county's job? Why did it take a lawsuit to move county officials to act? Why are clear conflicts of interest being ignored? 

    Is it a matter of overworked officials? Is it a matter of simple incompetence or is there something more nefarious involved?

    A video discussing the op (see above) describes these witnesses as people who “may have caused or contributed to Jake’s death.”

    “Dean Henry, the world now awaits your explanation of why you continue to serve despite a clear conflict of interest,” says the masked figure in the video. “We make no threats, we only seek for the truth to come out and justice to be done.”  

    Henry is “a private attorney appointed by Sandusky County prosecutor Thomas Stierwalt to defend the county in a lawsuit filed by the Limberios family seeking a competent cause of death ruling in their son's death,” according to the Sandusky Register

    An Anonymous representative argues that it's a bit of a conflict—the special prosecutor in charge of the death investigation is the same person defending the county.

    The county has refused to respond to Limberios’s family’s request for reburial of their son. 

    Supporters have started a petition, asking Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to take the investigation out of the hands of Sandusky County’s officials. 

    The press release referred concerned followers to the official Twitter account for the op, @OpJustice4Jake.

    Illustration by Jason Reed

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    One of the most successful managers in soccer history, Sir Alex Ferguson, announced Wednesday that he is to retire this summer. Predictably, Twitter went bananas

    The Manchester United boss, 71, has brought 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League trophies, and many other cups to Old Trafford over the last 26 years. He broke thousands of fans hearts when he made the announcement than he was stepping down to become a director and ambassador for the team. One chap was even sent home from work after the "devastating" news.

    Manchester United's press office shared the news on Twitter with about as dry and boring a tweet as you could imagine. 

    Twitter said in a blog post there were more than 1.4 million mentions of the story on Twitter within an hour. It added that the news accounted for eight for the top ten trending topics in the U.K. for a time, and four of the worldwide trends. #ThankYouSirAlex was the top worldwide trend within eight minutes of the press office's tweet.

    As of 9.30am ET, #thankyousiralex, Fergie (his nickname), and Man Utd were all trending on Twitter worldwide. Everton was also trending at that time, presumably because that team's manager, David Moyes (also trending earlier), is heavily rumored to be taking over from Ferguson.

    However, some Twitter users were confused (or just trolling). They perhaps forgot how mentions work or even thought that the curmudgeonly Ferguson had in fact allowed hell to freeze over and joined Twitter himself. They lamented the retirement of @fergie, who, of course, is a singer with the Black Eyed Peas and not a soccer manager. 

    Ferguson will soon pack up his manager's office. If he doesn't move everything into his new director's office, he'll have to drive it home. We have to wonder what he's gonna do with all that junk in his trunk.

    H/T The Guardian | Photo via TDTRHD/YouTube

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    A high school student impatient to hear whether he'd been accepted to University of California, Los Angeles, started bugging the school on Twitter.

    Bernie Zak, 18, found out last month he was on the waiting list. The final decision would be made June 1. He couldn't wait that long, he told the Boston Globe. So he started sending the school reasons they should recruit him

    Zak, a student at Brookline High School in Brookline, Mass., fell in love with UCLA on a campus tour and said it was his top choice because of the university's mix of high academic standards, strong community, and good sports programs. 

    His sister Elana, a social media producer at the Wall Street Journal, helped him come up with a plan to convince UCLA he should be a student there. The Twitter campaign had a hashtag, because that's how things are done these days.

    A poignant message the day after the Boston Marathon bombings stood out.

    A few weeks after starting his campaign, the UCLA student paper caught wind and wrote about it. On April 29, he found out he'd been officially accepted.

    A UCLA spokesman said the school was aware of Zak's Twitter efforts, but insisted a "Twitter campaign by any student would have absolutely no influence on our admittance ­decision." Students can provide an additional essay or updated grades, however.

    Zak does think #ACCEPTBERNIEUCLA had an impact, since he found out about his acceptance long before the university said it would tell him. 

    That's a fair point. Perhaps the UCLA spokesman only publicly dismissed the campaign to stop others from clogging up the school's Twitter mentions with really annoying copycat campaigns. 

    On that note, what are the chances that Zak was going to get accepted anyway and UCLA wanted him to stop bugging it? He's clearly smart, so the odds are high.

    Photo via WHDH

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    The only thing worse than TV spoilers on Twitter is people complaining about TV spoilers on Twitter.

    Thank the old gods and the new that a bright young developer has come up with a way to keep Game of Thrones spoilers off your feed until you actually have time to sit down and watch the latest episode.

    What's especially great is that this tool, a Google Chrome extension called Twivo, is not the brainchild of a well-paid team of developers. Instead, it was created by a 17-year-old girl named Jennie Lamere at a hackathon. What's more, she was the only female to present a project from around 80 attendees, and the only one to offer a solo project. She won the grand prize.

    Lamere, a high school senior from Nashua, N.H., took part in the TVnext Hack event in Boston on April 27. An event spokesman told Mother Jones that while he believed other women took part, no others offered a completed project.

    One issue when it comes to avoiding spoilers on Twitter is that of context. Filtering out mentions of Game of Thrones or #gameofthrones on TweetDeck is relatively simple. But it's much harder to account for people excitedly tweeting about a character's death or other major event. For those who use Twitter's website, there's no clear way to filter out tweets you might not want to see.

    Lamere is trying to fix that by blocking out the names of characters from your feed.

    She cooked up the idea the night before the event, and it took her 10 hours to create Twivo. You can type in the words you want to block and set a timer for your filter. Lamere told Mother Jones Twivo is still in demo format and needs a couple more weeks' work before release. However, a tech company called Furious Minds has already offered to help her market the app.

    She won the sub-category, "best use of sync-to-broadcast," along with the Best in Show title to earn her goodies like iPad minis and an Apple TV. Lamere even beat out teams sent by sponsors of the hackathon, including ESPN, Klout, and the Echo Nest, where her dad is director of developer platform.

    After graduation, the teen will enroll at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and plans to major in software engineering. She eventually hopes to work for Google.

    In the short term, Lamere's focus is on finals and finishing up Twivo. Perhaps she will find a way to allow users to block all keywords associated with a show by clicking a single button; needing to manually enter terms you wish to block is cumbersome and you might miss a few relevant phrases, causing you to accidentally see a spoiler in your feed. 

    Nevertheless, Lamere's creating a tool that could prove invaluable to TV fans and even those who can't make it to a big movie on opening weekend. Spoilers might be the worst, but Lamere's certainly the best in class.

    Photo by @plamere/Twitter

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    If you're reading this right now, you're likely helping someone else make money.

    In the digital age, everything you do online is creating data—and that data has become a powerful commodity. Companies like Facebook and Google make billions of dollars every year collecting information about our online habits and using that data to tailor ads.

    One man has had enough. Federico Zannier of Brooklyn, N.Y., is tired of seeing his data harvested and sold off to the highest bidder by someone else. So several months ago he an idea: He’d harvest and sell his own data.

    For several months now, Zannier has been personally tracking and storing info about all his online activities, including GPS information, app usage, websites history, even mouse position. And last month, he decided to put it all up for sale on Kickstarter. For $2 a day, anyone can buy all this data about Zannier.

    "In 2012, advertising revenue in the United States was around $30 billion," Zannier says on the campaign page. "That same year, I made exactly $0 from my own data. But what if I tracked everything myself? Could I at least make a couple bucks back?"

    It turns out he can. So far, Zannier has made $192 selling his data to 22 backers. Most have chipped in $2 to receive one day's worth of data, which includes a list of the 70 odd websites he regularly visits, 500 screenshots, 500 webcam images, a recording of all his cursor movements, his GPS location, and app log. Bigger donations buy more data and an app that would allow users to similarly track their information.

    It's Zannier's hope that other Internet users will begin to follow his example as a way of protesting the current market model. He says marketers should pay users directly for their data, rather than allowing middlemen to collect all the profits.

    "Corporations have been using my data for their own profit," Zannier says. "They use and sell my data. Often we don’t understand that by signing the terms of service we give away the rights to all our own data."

    But he's not the only one irked by this business model. Last year, representatives from some of the nation's leading data-mining companies were called before Congress to testify about their companies' business practices. Companies like Epsilon and Intelius defended themselves, arguing that their business is perfectly legal as it merely aggregates and organizes publically available information. And many supporters argue that it's ultimately good for consumers.

    "I don’t think there’s anything scary about it," personal finance reporter Erica Sandberg told Mashable. "Why wouldn’t they look at it? It's public."

    But the Congressional committee investigating these matters didn't see it the same way, vowing to "push for whatever steps are necessary to make sure Americans know how this industry operates and are granted control over their own information."

    Concern over data collection is not just a U.S. issue. France is currently considering a tax on companies like companies that practice data mining. The French are taking particular aim at Google, which makes an estimated $2 billion in advertising revenue in that country alone last year.

    But while domestic and international lawmakers tackle this issue head-on, Zannier and others are trying to raise awareness through elaborate publicity stunts and protests. Earlier this year, a German performance artists, Johannes P. Osterhoff, began publicly displaying information about every book he read on his Kindle and emailing it directly to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Osterhoff said his goal was to devalue the data on which so many others are turning a profit.

    "To make the data I generate public, is to devalue it," Osterhoff told the Daily Dot. "This is why I prefer to share data in an open format."

    Photo by Federico Zannier/Kickstarter

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    When we last checked in with Hostgator Dotcom, he was looking to raise $4,000 to permanently remove several URLs for porn sites and online casinos he had tattooed on his face. Now, thanks to the generosity of one such company, it looks like the human billboard is getting his wish.

    On Tuesday, Hostgator Dotcom—known as Billy Gibby before he sold his name to a web hosting company—confirmed to Vice that, one of the porn sites whose name is inked on his face, has agreed to pay for the laser removal treatment.

    "They advertised on my face a long time ago, read the Vice story, and decided they wanted to help me—they're just doing it to be nice," Hostgator Dotcom told the publication. "I had my first laser removal treatment last week."

    This is definitely a wonderful resolution for the Anchorage, Alaska, native, who raised $50,000 by selling advertising space on his body more than a decade ago. But if you think Hostgator Dotcom is done with crazy money-making antics, you're most definitely wrong.

    Dotcom told Vice that he's thinking of selling ads to be placed on his casket once he dies, something he hopes doesn't happen any time soon.

    He's also entertaining the idea of going back to basics, of using his body as an advertisement board. This time around, it's his manhood that he's willing to tattoo if the money's right, contradicting his previous stance on the matter.

    He didn't say how much he would do it for, but Dotcom noted that "it would have to be quite a bit" because "that's a good 12 inches of advertisement space."

    This is most certainly a curious and novel idea, but it's most almost assuredly doomed to fail. The thing that makes advertisements successful is their visibility. Unless Dotcom plans to walk around with his junk hanging out, no one will be getting the most bang for their buck.

    Photo via Hostgator Dotcom/Facebook

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    Warning: This story contains sexually explicit material and is NSFW.

    Natural_Red is married. Young brunette Samantha would stop if she got a boyfriend. Nina1987, a fan favorite, is a medical student. Some worry about being found out. Others have been recognized dozens of times.

    All of them are naked on Reddit.

    These are the ladies of r/gonewild, an amateur porn community where “normal” women, like those at the grocery store or in English class, upload nude or sexually explicit photos of themselves for a grateful, complimentary (and occasionally rude) online audience.

    SEE MORE: A different view of Nina1987

    The rewards vary. Some of the ladies are tipped in Bitcoin, the untraceable digital currency popular in the darker corners of the Web, while others receive gifts in the form of Reddit Gold, a $30 subscription package for increased privileges on the social news site.

    There’s the thrill of the moment—the rush that comes from baring something so private and provocative for the whole world to see.

    But most are in it for what comes next: the support in the way of karma, Reddit’s way of favoriting content, and community interaction. It’s a simple, anonymous, and fairly innocent confidence boost.

    “I wasn't quite sure what to expect, really,” wrote Natural_Red, whose husband sometimes contributes to her posts, in an email. “I had an OK view of myself, but wasn't quite sure how others viewed me. It was more or less an experiment in self-esteem.”

    These are the girls next door, and they’d appreciate your upvote of support.

    Photo via Nina1987/Reddit

    Described as a “mature, low-pressure environment for true exhibitionists,” GoneWild (or GW) is one of the premier destinations on Reddit, with around 3,000 viewers at any given time. The community is overseen by a team of eight moderators, who help manage an average of 278 submissions and 4,779 comments per day, according to Stattit. Both men and women can post to GW, though women contributors far outnumber men. Photos are submitted regularly by users, so the posts update constantly.

    GoneWild anchors Reddit’s much larger NSFW content, with offshoots that include r/gonemild, r/dykesgonewild, r/ladyboners, r/gonewildcurvy, r/gonewildcouples, r/lgbtgw, and countless others for nearly every imaginable fetish. (See this Reddit poem, where “Dr. Seuss” explains r/gonewild.)

    I’ve known about it for a couple years at least and used to peruse it every so often. I’d click through photos and wonder: Who are these girls? Are they like me? Go through enough posts and you start to wonder: Could I ever do this? A big reason I wouldn’t is because I have recognizable tattoos, but the element of “Fuck it” necessary to be a GoneWild girl intrigues me.


    Natural_Red, a 24-year-old who works in advertising and design, came to the subreddit during a rough patch three years ago.

    “I was kind of in a boring slump in my life, going to school and work, then coming home, eating dinner, and going to bed,” she wrote. “This was something new and exciting, so I thought, Why not?

    It’s a common reason for posing nude on r/gonewild. The six women I interviewed said they wanted to do something out-of-character, taboo, and “brave,” something to prove they were secure enough to show their bodies on the Internet. Some just wanted honest feedback.

    Some, like Nina1987, have developed serious fanbases out of the more than 407,000 subreddit subscribers by being particularly hot and particularly generous with their bodies, varying their outfits and positions and taking requests.

    One of the most popular women on r/gonewild, Nina1987 is also one of the few who shows her face. She said she’s been recognized by about 35 different people in her day-to-day life, including her older brother. Not that that’s stopped her from posting.

    On Monday, she and I had coffee at a diner in New York City. In real life, she’s a normal-looking student. She wore a green dress, tights, and black flats and carried a book bag.

    “I would have thought most of the men I know in real life wouldn’t be on GoneWild. They’d watch porn in a video,” she told me. “That’s why I was surprised by people in my life recognizing me. I don’t know what the benefit to them is.”

    Photo via Reddit

    The benefit for men, besides the obvious, is porn with a personality.

    These are real girls being “naughty.” Their fans can talk to them, get to know them, make specific requests: high heels, a tight dress, bent over in booty shorts. It’s like these are their girlfriends sending them “sexts,” not manufactured, removed, done-up “porn girls.” It’s the Girlfriend Experience with someone who could literally be the “girl next door.”


    Along those lines, Nina, who is 26, said her popularity comes from being a bit withholding, leaving something—if not much—to the imagination. Nina’s nudes are often silly and sexy—not extremely explicit or numerous. Often, after a few months, she’ll go back and delete old posts.

    “You want them to wait for it, so I’ve been told to space [my posts] out,” said Nina, who often lets months go by between submissions. “You can’t saturate the market.”

    One r/gonewild girl, Chelsea, who posts videos of herself masturbating with a hairbrush, said she was introduced to the subreddit by an ex-boyfriend. She watched the site for two months before nervously making her first post.

    “I was hoping for any response at all!” she told me. “I had low expectations and I wasn't sure if I was even going to respond to people! When the comments and PMs [private messages] started coming in, I responded without even realizing it.”

    The men of GW prefer women who engage with their comments. In a recent post, a user raved that the model was physically attractive, but really, she was “winning the crowd by actively responding to comments and flirting with her GW fans.”

    Initially unsatisfied with how limp the response was to her images, Samantha, a 20-year-old photographer and administrative assistant with long dark hair, started exposing her face to garner more attention—and it worked, with increased comments, private messages, and upvotes.

    Samantha uses r/gonewild, which she found through another subreddit (r/funny), as motivation to stay in shape. She also sees it as a photography experiment, inspiration to take nudes of herself in different lights. She checks religiously to see what’s being said about her but hardly ever replies to comments or messages. (In contrast, Natural_Red has corresponded with several of her biggest admirers for years.)

    One of the most memorable private messages Nina remembers receiving was from a divorced man who said he thinks about her every night as he falls asleep. In the beginning, she said, she felt pressure to meet with her admirers in person; now she keeps her distance.

    “They’d say, ‘We’ll be friends.’ I’m an adult female. We’re not going to be friends because you saw me naked online.”

    Photo via Reddit

    Reddit is not known for its tolerance. Quite the contrary, the site’s hands-off policy has led to some of most notorious Web scandals in recent memory. Creepshots and Jailbait, two subreddits that posted sexualized photos of unsuspecting, unconsenting, and often underage women, were recently shut down.

    On GoneWild, there are, of course, crude, sexual comments (“stick your tongue out, I’d love to blow a load in your mouth”) and straight-up mean, scary ones (“Your tits are not as good as you think they are”). Once, someone asked Samantha if she was transgender, which hurt her feelings since she’d been called “boyish” before.

    Natural_Red, who serves as a moderator, said when she first came to r/gonewild, it was a much smaller, more solely positive community. Now that the subreddit has attracted more attention, there are more “negative people whose sole purpose is to leave negative comments on posts.”

    Frequently, though, the women are talked about on GoneWild with almost an art aesthete’s appreciative palate. If a poster says she feels unloved by her boyfriend, hundreds of redditors might discuss how they’d treat her better. If a poster says she dislikes an aspect of her body, they may lavish praise on that part of her.

    There is also a marked difference between what the “real men” of r/gonewild consider attractive and what magazines and ads tell women is “beautiful.”

    Most of r/gonewild’s favorite women are of a conventional weight or have shaved their pubic hair, but the body shapes and tones vary wildly. Some have maintained their bushes. Some have large nipples or stretch marks. Some are fit. Some are soft. Some have big hips. Some have small breasts. There are women of all hair colors, all styles of dress, all races.

    The men tend to prefer smiling faces to “sexy” faces and playfulness to “trying.” These are real girls, not airbrushed models or actresses. They are not Vogue-perfect. The voyeurs of r/gonewild are happy to see boobs, but personality wins the day.

    It’s sweet, if not a bit desperate, on both ends. The commenters are like a group of hunters surrounding a deer they don’t want to spook, like they can’t believe a woman with a full understanding of what she was doing would ever post to r/gonewild. Often, if a commenter is rude, he’s chastised by other users for scaring away potential naked girls. If someone is trolling, it’s not long before a knight in shining comment rides in to defend a woman’s right to express her sexuality in any form.

    For some of the young girls, it’s the online equivalent of flashing at spring break. But the risks are more permanent. Nina said because they liked her when she started out, redditors helped her make her profile more secure. They told her what they could find out about her—where she went to school, her home address, etc.—and then told her what privacy settings to change to ensure the information didn’t fall into the wrong hands. Even so, she’s had photos end up in Craigslist scams and on revenge porn sites.

    Some girls have tried futilely to delete their photos only to have them saved and reuploaded by redditors. Natural_Red said a few people have recognized her, but nothing particularly bad came of it because she doesn’t post her face or overshare on personal information. Recently, a girl posted who looked very young; one of the top-voted replies was someone telling her to be careful about revealing her face.

    There’s also positivity in the way the r/gonewild girls treat each other. Like in a real-life strip club, r/gonewild has old favorites and standbys, and there are new girls, most of them in their early 20s, constantly coming through. Some become lifers, some only hang around for short stints. Recently, one of the community’s favorites, a user called thediggitydank, left amid a flurry of fond farewells, to “focus on being a better wife and mother.” The next day, a new girl joined who posed nude in front of video game posters.

    “One of the best leaves gw... And another great girl joins... The circle of GW, guys!” wrote one commenter.

    But instead of cattiness or jealousy that might be fostered by the competitive nature of winning male attention, r/gonewild women compliment each other generously, like something out of a teenage boy’s locker room fantasy. Nina once wrote on another girl’s post, “Each one of your boobs is like a separate miracle.” Another r/gonewilder titled her new post, “I want nina1987 in my bed!”

    Chelsea said her favorite part of r/gonewild is getting to meet and talk to so many different people. “There is a lot more positivity than negativity.”

    Photo via Reddit

    GoneWild exists because of a mutual, innocent (if not unhealthy) dependency between posters and commenters, a change in men’s porn habits and desires, and the equalizer that is the Internet.

    Judgment on either end seems a folly. There will always be more r/gonewild girls, as old ones fall down the infinite scroll and fade back into their everyday lives and as new ones age into legality. Both sides, like most people, are just looking for something to get them through the day.

    “I think GoneWild is a great place for people who are looking for a bump in self-esteem, exhibitionists, and people who are just looking for a little something thrilling in their day-to-day lives,” Natural_Red wrote.

    “It's a win-win. You get a rise out of posting, and other people get boobs.”

    Main image by Jason Reed/Robert Bejil/Flickr | Photos via GoneWild/Reddit

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    Warning: This story contains sexually explicit material and is NSFW.

    I instantly recognized Nina1987 on the street a half hour before our scheduled interview, even though she had her clothes on. She was unfazed. As one of the most popular women on Reddit, she’s used to being spotted by strangers.

    “I’ve broken into fits of laughter on the train when somebody sees me,” she said later, over coffee, covering her face with her hands. “I start laughing. They start laughing, and I’m like, ‘Don’t look at me! Why are you laughing?’”

    Nina, 26, is something of a celebrity on the amateur porn subredditr/gonewild, often referred to as GW. It’s a place on the social news site where young women post nude and sexually explicit photos of themselves for an audience of alternately complimentary and trolling voyeurs. I was on my way to the coffee shop to meet her when I saw her on the corner. I’d been looking at her naked all day, but her face stood out.

    The everyday lives of Reddit’s amateur porn stars

    “I’m very recognizable,” she said. “I actually didn’t realize that when I started. Every single person from every era of my life has recognized me. My best friend’s little brother sent me an anonymous message. My TA sent me a message.”


    Perhaps it’s because unlike most women on the subreddit, Nina doesn’t hold anything back in her photos.

    “The only girl on GW who can not post for months and when she comes back, she is always on the front page with at least 100 comments and a plethora of upvotes,” wrote user chocthunder4 on a recent Nina1987 post. Nina told me a divorced gentleman once messaged her to confess he thinks about her as he falls asleep at night. Of the subreddits more than 405,000 subscribers, the girl’s got some serious fans.

    In real life, Nina (a version of her real name) is candid, funny, and an excellent storyteller. Her stories are, like her naked photos on Reddit, self-aware and showcase someone who is impulsive, adventurous, and often gets into ill-advised, wild situations.

    She’s a normal girl. She has a longtime boyfriend, who knows about her online activities but whom she never talks about on Reddit. (“We’re both really weird,” she said. “We met because we like anime.”)

    Nina also has two undergraduate degrees (English and chemistry), is currently in medical school, and works as a tutor. She got so busy with school, she said, and was so bored that she wanted to do “something ridiculous.” That’s how she started posting to r/gonewild.


    “I’m a thrill-seeking person,” she said. “But I’m also the perfect person to post on Reddit because I’m as ridiculously nerdy as the website calls for. I’m adequately ridiculous and adequately controversial-looking. And you know, the Internet will just pick a person. I never anticipated it.”

    One “controversial thread” involved her admission that her older brother had been shown her posts, but she’d decided to keep posing nude anyway. She ignores negative comments and imagines her downvoters as “a brigade of 10-year-olds.”

    Nina is pretty in person. She’s Hispanic, a mix of Cuban and Colombian, and has light skin but dark hair and eyebrows. She’s got large breasts tucked into a green dress with black tights and flat shoes, an outfit any college co-ed might wear. She’s done her winged eyeliner in Amy Winehouse fashion. She’s often told she looks like the comedian Sarah Silverman or, lately, actress Aubrey Plaza. On r/gonewild, what the men find “hot” often doesn’t match up to what women are told to look like by magazines and other mainstream beauty media.

    “I have never been a conventionally attractive person, but I got so much attention when I was younger, and I was never a tall, blonde-type person. My boyfriend believes I have some kind of pheromone,” she said.

    But what’s conventionally attractive is not attractive to most men. Especially if they’re intelligent. A man who is in charge of what he thinks? He knows what he thinks is hot.

    On Reddit, Nina’s photos are often more flirty than dirty.


    A user called TomPalmer1979 wrote, “A lot of the girls here just show their boobs and that's it. No personality in their poses or faces. I mean don't get me wrong, yay boobs, but I need more than that. Nina is always flirty and playful and projects a ton of spunk, sexiness, and personality into her pictures.”

    With her fanbase and her savvy, it’s oversimplifying to ask, “Why not just do porn?” A not uncommon comment is typified here by a user called Often Rude, who wrote, “I like this subreddit but I never understood it. Are girls not aware that this is exactly the same as porn, except you don't get paid?”

    Nina said she’s considered it and has had offers. One of her cousins posed for Playboy. Her photos are already being used by Craigslist scams, Twitter hoaxes, and Facebook revenge-porn pages with no money coming her way. (She deletes old posts when she finds the pictures on other sites.) But ultimately, Nina said, she’s not a porn star, she’s a medical student. She’d also rather have control over what she does.

    “I’m just very strange. I’m very silly. That’s how I do things,” she said. “I’m not one to, like, spread my ass—I wouldn’t do that in bed, so I also wouldn’t do that in a photo. I’m more reserved in a way, if you can be reserved and post on GW.

    “I’m demurely naked.”

    Her personality on Reddit isn’t so different from what she’s really like, although she does cringe when she re-reads comments she’s left, worrying she sounds “stupid.” None of her friends, some of whom she’s actually re-connected with after they found her on GW, were surprised to learn she was posing nude. The sexy Internet photo vixen is able to coexist with the woman studying to be a doctor.

    “Some of my clients in tutoring would be floored,” she conceded. “They go to Ivy League schools and their parents are professors and I do want their respect but I can’t say what I do on GW is wrong.

    “If I’m not doing anything morally wrong that hurts anyone, then I should be able to do it. If somebody were to find these pictures, I wouldn’t let it blow up. I wouldn’t play into it and be like, ‘I’m so sorry.’ I’m not going to do that.”

    She shrugged. “Everyone is naked under their clothes.” During the interview, Nina even encouraged me to post, saying I have a cute face that would get a lot of positive comments, especially if I left my thick-rimmed glasses on. I was flattered.

    Posting to GoneWild for an anonymous audience of thousands is empowering in some ways and sad in others. This lax attitude toward nudity stems from, Nina said, her traumatic childhood. She was sexually abused by a relative for years, and in late 2007, she was roofied at a party and left for dead in a stairwell, an experience she doesn’t remember but, she said, has fundamentally changed her.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s that I’m damaged and that’s why I’m posting,” she said.

    “I would say that a person who has gone through many traumatic sexual experiences comes to face things that are so traumatic, they no longer care. A lot of people never have to face those things and they have a lot of insecurities, but once you’ve kind of been broken down to be rebuilt again, you’re happy in a way.”

    She smiled. “Like, I feel happy. I don’t have any hang ups anymore. I’m beyond that at this point in my life. I’ve been able to move forward.”

    Is that element of trauma and tragedy pervasive among the women of GoneWild? Some of the other r/gonewild girls I spoke to have had pretty mundane lives. Some are in loving relationships. Not all have been abused. Nina said she thinks younger girls might just be posting for fun, because they’ve grown up with the Internet and don’t see it as a big deal. But most of the older ones, she’d argue, probably have a trauma background.

    “The most reckless people I know are people who have had traumatic lives, whether it be sexual or family problems,” she said. “If you have zero hope, you tend to be extremely reckless, like, ‘Fuck it, let’s just do anything.’ And that’s kind of where I get sometimes.”

    Nina told me that she recieved my interview request when she was in class and showed it to one of two friends who knows what she does.

    “He goes, ‘You totally have to do this because people probably think you’re a stupid slut. But you’re not. You’re a smart slut,’” she said, laughing. “He says, ‘I don’t know why you do any of the things you do.’ But neither do I! Everything is so haphazard with me.”

    “You’re not stupid,” I said.

    Nina smiled. “I guess there’s an element of social intelligence that they’re referring to there,” she said, “and I wouldn’t disagree with that.”

    Photos via Nina1987/Reddit

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    Manchester United spoiled the identity of its new manager on Facebook before publicly confirming his appointment.

    Reports Thursday suggested the team was in discussions with Everton to acquire the services of that club's manager, David Moyes, following the news that long-serving United boss Alex Ferguson is to retire at the end of the season.

    However, before any public confirmation emerged that Moyes is in at United, the team ruined the big reveal by confirming his appointment through Facebook. A keen-eyed redditor spotted a new app on the team's Facebook page, in which it encourages fans to send a message of support to Moyes.

    Sky News also reported the error.



    United told the BBC that no deal had been struck at the time the app was spotted and it was not sure how its Facebook page was updated. The app was quickly deleted.

    Soon after the errant Facebook app was found, Everton confirmed Moyes is to leave the team with United his intended destination.



    Two hours after the appearance of the errant Facebook app, Moyes was confirmed as manager on a six-year contract.

    As a publicly traded company partially listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Manchester United is required to immediately disclose any significant information regarding the running of the club, so it certainly seems a mistake that the app would appear before the news was public.

    Such was the case when rumors of Ferguson's imminent departure spread across the soccer world earlier this week. The announcement was made before the NYSE opened for trading Wednesday.

    United was certainly confident in getting its man, though it jumped the gun in adding the Facebook app.

    Photo of Moyes via Beanyman62Sports/YouTube

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    We all knew it was too good to be true. Snapchat, the photo-texting app designed to delete your pictures soon after they’re received, is supposed to be a completely safe way to send naughty pics to your significant other without consequences.  

    But for $300 to $500, you could retain any photos a person has sent you. Want your sexy snapchats back? Just call Richard Hickman, of Utah security firm Decipher Forensics, who says he can get back the photos in just six hours.

    That’s because the photos remain stored deep inside Android smartphones—in a folder called RECEIVED_IMAGES_SNAPS. Rather than deleting the files, Snapchat actually just turns them into reusable data with a .NOMEDIA extension, which makes the photos invisible to most people. But do a bit of forensic research and voila! The pictures are viewable once again.

    The photos can then be passed on to parents, lawyers, revenge-porn sites, and the police.

    Snapchat, the ninth-most popular free app, has become popular with teenagers and 20-somethings as a way to send sexts without immortalizing them forever. But it looks like that’s not even totally true anymore, thanks to Hickman and his firm.

    Hickman, 24, is also said to be that guy who raises his hand in class and reminds the teacher that she forgot to give out homework.


    H/T Betabeat | Illustration by ryan.nagelmann/Flickr

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    Remember the cop who bought the homeless guy a pair of boots? This is like that, but cheaper—and you don’t have to wash the feet of the poor if you’re not quite up to going full Jesus on the least of your brothers. 

    If you think the hacktivist collective Anonymous is nothing but a punishment brigade, #OpSocks might change your mind.

    “Anonymous has always tried to help those that can't help themselves,” @TheLulzDept wrote on the Pastebin page announcing the campaign. “Homeless people aren't asking for help but they desperately need it. It is come to our attention that socks are very important to helping homeless people stay healthy on the streets.”

    Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission hands out over 15,000 pairs of socks every year, about 50 pairs per day. 

    Helping out, the organizer writes, “would mean a great deal to not only the homeless people but to the thousands of volunteers that help the Union Gospel Mission every year.”

    The op is asking that Anonymous members and others visit the Union Gospel Mission’s website and buy six pairs of socks for about $10 via Amazon, which will send them to the mission. 

    Alternatively, you can buy the socks yourself and send them to the mission yourself. 

    The op seems to be capturing the imagination of folks on Twitter, who are gathering around the #OpSocks hashtag. It’s simple in concept and execution and it’s something virtually everyone can agree is a base-level decent thing to do. 

    “If you want a better community surrounding you, it is imperative to work towards making it better,” said @TheLulzDept. 

    Photo by Partie Traumatic/Flickr

    0 0

    YouTube has deemed a video starring a prominent disability rights activist too steamy for the video-sharing site, dumping it amidst dubious claims it violates the company's terms of service.

    The video is part of a campaign by Come4, the porn nonprofit that wants to turn the world's predilection for pornography into a cash cow for charities. It stars Asta Philpot, who suffers from a congenital disease called arthrogryposis that severely limits his mobility and leaves him confined to a wheelchair. In the video, while highly erotic images play across the screen (including brief glimpses of nudity), Philpot details the life-changing trip he took to a brothel with a group of disabled virgin friends. That trip was the the subject of a 2007 documentary on the BBC, which Philpot used as a launching pad for a new sexual advocacy organizaition, the Asta Philpot Foundation.

    A YouTube spokesperson claimed the video broke violated the site's community standards:

    "[YouTube] has community guidelines which govern what content is acceptable to post on the site. When people see content that they think is inappropriate they can flag it and it is reviewed by our staff. If the content breaks our guidelines, we remove it."

    But how did the video violate those community guidelines? Here's the section on nudity:

    Most nudity is not allowed, particularly if it is in a sexual context. Generally if a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube. There are exceptions for some educational, documentary, scientific, and artistic content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not gratuitously graphic. For example, a documentary on breast cancer would be appropriate, but posting clips out of context from the documentary might not be.

    The advertisement remains on Vimeo. Watch it below, and judge for yourself if it violates YouTube's TOS:

    Did the ad intend to be sexually provocative? Yes. But the guidelines suggest there's some wiggle room: "There are exceptions for some educational, documentary, scientific, and artistic content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not gratuitously graphic."

    You could easily argue Come4's ad is both artistic and educational. It's message, ultimately, has less to do with smut and salaciousness than it does with sexual rights and freedom. So why pull it? Who was it hurting? It's not like YouTube doesn't already have a massive porn problem

    The Guardianreached out to Philpot to see what he thought of the whole affair:

    He describes YouTube's decision as "pretty disgusting" and feels that if they'd seen "beyond the naked breasts" and recognised the message behind the film, they'd have realised that "it's actually ethical. A friend of mine died without ever having a [sexual] experience and I don't ever want to let that happen again."

    Screengrab via YouTube

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