Kids' TV has a porn problem
May 7, 2020 12:37 AM   Subscribe

'If anything has changed since the early years of Rule 34, it’s been in the opposite direction. While groups like the bronies were making the connection between porn and kids’ TV animation almost mainstream, the link was growing inside the industry as well. Today, online porn, whether created by fans or by the staff themselves, hasn’t just become a normal part of the children’s TV community. It’s become acceptable.'
posted by low_horrible_immoral (84 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Man I dunno it felt a lot easier to accidentally run into porn when I was a kid, because search engines weren't very good. It is of course much easier to intentionally find porn now if you're looking for it, even if you're probably too young to be looking for it, but that's a slightly different issue.

I worry a lot more about kids getting tricked into making fetish content by YouTube "challenges" etc.
posted by atoxyl at 12:57 AM on May 7 [18 favorites]


Criticism of this article from cbr.com.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:03 AM on May 7 [25 favorites]


For years, it’s been easy for kids to find disturbing sexual imagery of these characters just by looking up their names on Google Images, even with SafeSearch enabled. Search anything My Little Pony related and you’ll quickly come across extreme fetish art.

ok i'm bored and have no idea what this is all about. So I did googled my little pony, then image search "twilight sparkle", "pixie pie", "rainbow dash", &c. I got a lot of cartoon ponies. clicked around some more. what am I missing?
posted by pingu at 1:04 AM on May 7 [25 favorites]


It's honestly very hard to me to read this as much else but moral panic. Just as one example, trying to paint Paul Robertson as a guro artist is wildly misleading - he does incredible pixel art and has actually been mentioned here on the Blue multiple times.

> ok i'm bored and have no idea what this is all about. So I did googled my little pony, then image search "twilight sparkle", "pixie pie", "rainbow dash", &c. I got a lot of cartoon ponies. clicked around some more. what am I missing?

Agreed 100%. From the article: "Suppose a child liked the way that Batman looked in DC’s Justice League Action and wanted to find out who designed him. A quick name search on Google of the show’s lead character designer, a man who got his start at John Kricfalusi’s studio Spümcø, brings up a wall of his porn artwork." The man in question is Shane Glines, and I get no porn when I do a search on his name, just regular art.
posted by reductiondesign at 1:07 AM on May 7 [24 favorites]


This is such an awful piece, it's making my head explode. It was and has always been easy to find graphic porn online. The algorithms in youtube for children are designed exploitatively and deliberately - they have no problem complying with Germany's rules but the rest of the world gets links. I set my kid as a child and still crap comes in so I have to supervise all fucking youtube access. Our rule is netflix only if I'm not around.

And this idea that children go from a No Gender/No Sex/None of That Stuff and suddenly at eighteen it's magically all okay is just straight up (hah) censorship. There is a huge spectrum of stuff going on between fusion (what the hell? Who is claiming peridot is a child? She's not written that way at all) and graphic sex is such a slippery slope cliche.

And the idea that people should be blacklisted for working on sexual animations, especially fanworks. If they've groomed people or been involved in child porn, prosecute and blacklist them. But sexualised content that is aimed at other adults has NOTHING to do with children.

(to find brony porn, you have to have safe search off or look a while. I have a kid who was for a while obsessed with pregnant cartoon characters (and anyone pregnant basically - we watched a lot of Call the Midwife during that time), so I have had to search for fanart with her out of the room so I could filter the hell out it to print her paper dolls, but it took some deliberate searching and the sites they were hosted on were aimed at adult fans).
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:11 AM on May 7 [24 favorites]


This is like those people who got super upset that anyone wrote porn about Harry Potter because "think of the children!" Yeah, that's why my kids aren't allowed on fanfic.net or AO3, and they're restricted to frigging pinterest. Because I'm not a sanctimonious idiot.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 1:13 AM on May 7 [20 favorites]


ok i'm bored and have no idea what this is all about. So I did googled my little pony, then image search "twilight sparkle", "pixie pie", "rainbow dash", &c. I got a lot of cartoon ponies. clicked around some more. what am I missing?
Back in the late 90s when the internet was just starting to come into limited public use in the UK, horror stories abounded of people whose kids had typed in some seemingly innocent child-friendly search term and got - gasp! - a screen full of porn. This kind of thing reminds me of those stories, mostly of the "bloke in a pub told me his mate's sister's kid did it" variety.

In my 25(!) years on the internet, I've never accidentally found porn while searching for something that's not porn, even when searching for frequently sexualised topics like transgender issues. You really have to key in explicitly sexual search terms or be searching PornHub to find porn. I suspect these types of "accidental porn" stories were invented by blokes who had been caught with porn in their browsing history.
posted by winterhill at 1:32 AM on May 7 [37 favorites]


I personally know people who draw art of adult characters from animated shows, in pornographic situations, who are themselves adult, and are targeting an audience of other adults, behind links that clearly state it is 18+ NSFW content, tagged with all the tags that someone would filter out to avoid that kind of content. They have "18+ blog" in their title, and "under 18 don't interact" in their twitter handle.

(I say "animated shows" because I'm leery of saying calling them "kids shows" -- some adults enjoy them and I don't see an issue with that.)

These people get ENORMOUS amounts of harassment and abuse from people who call themselves "antis," a term that started as "anti-shipper," whose sole purpose in life (it seems, at times, when I am comforting these friends) is to go specifically seeking fan content that makes them uncomfortable and heap cruelty on the creator for making it, cruelty that sometimes bleeds over into the real world.

So no, I can't really engage with this as a "problem."

Also I searched some of the terms they are pointing at (the batman artist, my little pony characters) and got nothing untoward.

It is easier than it has ever been before to avoid content you don't want to see or that you don't want your kids to see. There are so many tools at your disposal. Use them, and leave alone fan creators who are really doing their best to be responsible with what they enjoy (to a degree that is totally unprecedented online.)
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 1:40 AM on May 7 [19 favorites]


It does happen but much more likely is: kid has older sibling who introduces it, and kid shows friends. Aka the exact way my kid found actual legit porn on YouTube. Or having the pseudo-porn and fetishy stuff come up because algorithms are terrible. Or stumble over things their parents have - I study fandom so algorithms in my house are influenced by that, even with kid profiles.

And as uncomfortable as I am with a lot of creepy edgy porn art of cartoons for kids etc...it existed when I was a kid pre-internet too. Not the same but the inclination is there. And I heavily mistrust analysis that does not address things like the CBR article includes - where hyperbole and outright misinfo is used to marginalise the marginalised artists using a veneer of 'appropriateness'. The statement and link to guro art is a prime example where that's a political statement being described as guro. Amidst concerns about art and children.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:42 AM on May 7 [12 favorites]


Also, and I can't believe I have to add a comment about this... The gems in Steven Universe have never struck me as looking or acting like children or preteens. Peridot may be neuroatypical-coded but neuroatypical does not mean "childlike" and it genuinely bothered me to see that link being so confidently drawn in the article, given the history of people using neuroatypical status to infantilize adults.

I have seen some pretty egregious examples of "it's ok because I'm 1000 years old" and Steven Universe does not strike that note at all as far as I can see.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 1:49 AM on May 7 [24 favorites]


I never accidentally found a screen full of porn, but I did find out about NSFW fanwork when I was a teenager by finding that the site hosting a SFW fan story I wanted to reread was suddenly blocked for "mature content" by my parents' browser settings.

I put two and two together and very quickly found a way to evade the censorship.

I'm still not sure what lesson to draw from that besides agreeing with dorothyisunderwood that it's a spectrum and that there's a very messy phase between puberty and being an adult where young people are both going to be navigating growing out of "kids stuff" and growing into "adult stuff" including sexuality, and ... I'm just glad I'm not a parent having to help their child navigate that right now.

All I know is that pretending like sex doesn't exist and leaving teens to figure it out themselves... might not go well?
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:06 AM on May 7 [7 favorites]


Maybe Google is responding to this writer's research interests in fetish art and obliging with results.....not everyone gets the same search results
posted by thelonius at 2:09 AM on May 7 [35 favorites]


It takes a certain amount of hubris to look at search results the machine has been tailoring for you personally and think you’re seeing a societal problem. Make your case starting from a clean account, at the very least.
posted by mhoye at 2:23 AM on May 7 [44 favorites]


I suspect these types of "accidental porn" stories were invented by blokes who had been caught with porn in their browsing history.

Per my first comment I recall it happening once in a while in the mid-late 90s. On e.g. P2P services it was pretty easy to have it come back in the search results, too (that was also the first place I searched on purpose) though actually downloading it took explicit action. I don't recall it happening at all since "Google SafeSearch" became a thing.
posted by atoxyl at 2:37 AM on May 7


The man in question is Shane Glines, and I get no porn when I do a search on his name, just regular art.

His "regular art" does seem to involve a whole lot of sexy lady sketches and pinup-y stuff. It's fair to say the tone of the article had me imagining something more hardcore, though.
posted by atoxyl at 2:48 AM on May 7


Oh no, the adults that work on animated shows aimed at younger audiences are also adults!
posted by darksong at 3:36 AM on May 7 [11 favorites]


“Safe search” makes a huge difference.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:37 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


Historically it did happen. At the turn of the century. I worked for a site for a seniors organization and magazine that (horrifically) had a dash in the URL: xxxxx-xxxx.net. The non-dash version was a porn site featuring seniors. About 10% of our customer service email was WHY THE PORN. Always kind of amazed me they could get the email address right.

I haven’t accidentally run into porn much since though.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:58 AM on May 7 [10 favorites]


Back in my day we had to find it in the woods.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:59 AM on May 7 [43 favorites]


Animators are, in aggregate, the horniest perverts on Earth, and god bless them for it
posted by theodolite at 4:25 AM on May 7 [8 favorites]


A kid I care for was reported to the authorities for using pornographic language, when she was 8 or 9.
I'm pretty sure she had found the sites through the gamer videos she watches, but also because she was using her dad's computer where he watches porn (I' m thinking she heard words or phrases she didn't understand and tried to look them up). She also found the sites on my kiddies only iPad, though, and there she was deliberately searching.

When we have the information search lecture during my history course (a librarian comes over), we talk about using a "clean" browser for searching when studying (I'm probably not using the right English language for this, since it is a class in Danish). You'd be surprised what can come up if you ask a 20 year old guy to google just about any subject in my course. Not so much porn, though I tell them it is a risk when I sit next to them and ask them to google something, but games, conspiracy theories, contrafactual "history", animations. Hold it up next to my screen and it's a completely different world they see.
posted by mumimor at 4:47 AM on May 7 [16 favorites]


Animators are, in aggregate, the horniest perverts on Earth, and god bless them for it

CalArts does provide an emphatically thorough education.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:23 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


folks, I googled “Superman penis” and you’ll be shocked, SHOCKED, at what I found
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:27 AM on May 7 [17 favorites]


This reminds me of elementary teachers having to buy beer in the next town over. People who work with children or children's things do things besides that.
posted by zabuni at 5:42 AM on May 7 [17 favorites]


I tracked the adult MLP fan community for a bit and, honestly, I didn't run into that much porn, even back when the internet was supposed to be rife with it. Maybe that was just my pretty-good perceptual filter, which was bolstered through use of Google and the avoidance of sites that were known to traffic in it, but the biggest site, Equestria Daily, had, and I believe still has, a strict no-porn policy. That's got to mean something.

I have seen someone unironically call Rebecca Sugar a pedophile on Twitter. I assume it was because of an Ed, Edd and Eddy "thing" she drew, but, and this is important, she drew it while she herself was a kid, and she lived a fairly typical, highly-online life when she was growing up. At the time she didn't know she was going to become famous. Kids are allowed to work these things out for themselves, right?

I've always been a bit suspicious of what has been called in the UK "paedogeddon." Pedophiles do exist, but I have long suspected that the problem has been overstated, usually by people with axes to grind and authoritarian perspectives to push. This seems to go beyond even that, it's very moral panicky in my eyes.
posted by JHarris at 6:15 AM on May 7 [19 favorites]


If we're going to blacklist children's content creators who have also created porn, we're going to have to get rid of some fairly celebrated authors: Shel Silverstein for sure, possibly Dr. Seuss. M.E. Kerr, whose YA books I liked a lot as a kid, wrote lesbian pulps.

I don't have kids, and I will defer to people who do, but this seems a little moral-panicky to me, too. I can definitely understand why parents would be concerned about the sheer volume of porn to which kids have easy access, but this doesn't seem to be the thing to focus on.
I worked for a site for a seniors organization and magazine that (horrifically) had a dash in the URL: xxxxx-xxxx.net. The non-dash version was a porn site featuring seniors.
Wasn't whitehouse.com a porn site back in the day? I definitely remember running into porn by mistake in the olden times, but I can't remember the last time that happened.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:16 AM on May 7 [15 favorites]


Back in the late 90s when the internet was just starting to come into limited public use in the UK, horror stories abounded of people whose kids had typed in some seemingly innocent child-friendly search term and got - gasp! - a screen full of porn.

"Whitehouse" used to work quite well.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 6:37 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


I had to find it in the alley.
posted by SoberHighland at 7:02 AM on May 7


In my 25(!) years on the internet, I've never accidentally found porn while searching for something that's not porn,

Oh it definitely happened. I worked tech support in the late 90s and I remember when Alta Vista started serving up porn when you would search for Eudora errors and the like. It happened almost overnight going from appropriate results to the first several being porn.

There also was a period of time where google’s image search did not have a safe search option.

Somewhat recently (in the past year), I was using a computer in the campus library and I managed to land on a website that got me into an old school porn pop up window loop and The windows were opening faster than I could close them. (I was so embarrassed I tried covering the computer screen with my hands. That doesn’t work on a large 26” screen. ) I was searching for a pdf for a paper or book I didn’t have available through the library and didn’t have my computer so couldn’t use Scihub.

Early internet at least was rife with porn, and it’s still possible to stumble on to accidentally, though I suspect at others have said, the author’s prior results have probably influenced what has been served up in future results.

Unfortunately early internet exposure to incidental porn has almost turned my brain off to noticing it. The only reason I noticed the campus one was because I was in public and so beyond embarrassed.

(Also I remember the first time I showed some less internet savvy friends what google image results were with safe alert off because they didn’t understand “the internet is fueled by porn” idea. Heh)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:20 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


Here I have been complaining that Google and social media have made the internet *less* weird. I feel like in the late 90s/early 2000s when I was a teen, every site was a hop skip and a jump away from, like, that guy who "made love" to dolphins or Mr. Hands. Apparently all this time I've just had to Google tame terms from children's shows?
posted by muddgirl at 7:22 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


(I say "animated shows" because I'm leery of saying calling them "kids shows" -- some adults enjoy them and I don't see an issue with that.)

Man, just because some adults like whacking it to a kids' show it doesn't mean it isn't a kids' show
posted by ominous_paws at 7:29 AM on May 7 [11 favorites]


If anything the general content policing/consolidation of internet sites to social media platforms has more thoroughly walled off porno to places where you have to look for it specifically. Tumblr shutting out horny content was a fairly significant moment of "the commoditized internet is PG whether you like it or not"
posted by Ferreous at 7:30 AM on May 7 [6 favorites]


If you haven't accidentally found extremely disturbing porn, you clearly haven't used Bing.
posted by selfnoise at 7:31 AM on May 7 [12 favorites]


I did a Google image search for "Paul Robertson Art" and the 5th result has a pixel schlong with the 7th result featuring two ladies 69ing. But whatever! His art is amazing.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:33 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


If we're going to blacklist children's content creators who have also created porn, we're going to have to get rid of some fairly celebrated authors: Shel Silverstein for sure....

Exhibit A.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 AM on May 7 [1 favorite]


There are some legitimate concerns in here, in the sense that there are some useful cords in that box of cables that has been gathering dust in my closet. But it is extremely hard to tell what they are when the author conflates Steven Universe, Rebecca Sugar, and bronies. Rebecca did work exploring kids' feelings when she had just very nearly been a kid. SU addresses LGBT visibility, love, relationships, and consent. Those other guys BrazyDay is talking about did porn that degrades girls and young women either directly or through young female-coded animals or entities. That is, if they did things that are as terrible as the article implies, which I don't know whether or not to believe, considering.

Tumblr shutting out horny content was a fairly significant moment of "the commoditized internet is PG whether you like it or not"


Funny thing is, if their intention was to make Tumblr less horny, they failed spectacularly.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:36 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


Who is claiming peridot is a child? She's not written that way at all

The acknowledgment that Peridot is widely considered to be autistic and heralded for the representation of neurodivergence in the same breath it’s insisted that she’s a child was just, holy shit. Just recently, a friend of mine said it was “gross” to want a Cole romance in Dragon Age because he’s “child-coded.” No, he’s an autistic adult, and you just seriously insulted all the autistic adults who relate strongly to him. Also, his character arc is “rather than letting those possessed by demons slowly go insane, I will act as a spirit of mercy and offer them the choice to die swiftly by my hand rather than suffer forever” which is far from a child’s moral perspective. You’re also concerned about romancing him, but it’s fine to bring him along on your MURDER PARTY?? ALSO HE GETS A WIFE??

I don’t know, man. I’m so sick of the infantilizing of neurodivergent people. I know that’s not a major part of this piece but it’s so associated with this attitude that it’s hard for me to ever tell what’s valid in these kinds of rants.
posted by brook horse at 7:42 AM on May 7 [38 favorites]


Well, gosh. In my day (by which I mean fifty years before my birth), we had to make do with buying Tijuana Bibles from a mysterious stranger at the barber shop.
posted by northernish at 7:46 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


Oh my god, there's PORN on the INTERNET? I'm going to need a complete list of all websites that contain porn. So I can block them on my router. Of course.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:10 AM on May 7 [15 favorites]


I'm so glad that most everyone here had the same reaction to the article that I did. Some of the stuff that the author dug up may require some context to understand; for example, Paul Robertson's "Custer's Revenge" is a satire on an actual videogame of some decades past. Mostly, though, this is just two-bit cheap-shot scandalmongering. Holy crap, Shane Glines did some pin-up sketches? Wait'll they find out about Bruce Timm! Robert Crumb used to work for a greeting card company, etc.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:17 AM on May 7 [8 favorites]


All I'm gonna say here re: porn is I recognize the existence of /r/unacceptable (which has currently been shut down due to threats against the moderator.).

Also, talking about Adventure Time specifically. I watched that show as an adult, and wow, much like Steven Universe, the person making the show (Pendleton Ward) obviously touched on some very "adult" subjects in that show. Death, family separating, floundering family reuniting, etc. It's part of what made it a strong show for children, in that it explored difficult subjects. Further, Ward just released a completely adult-oriented series, The Midnight Gospel which is basically all about death and sex and spirituality.

Yes, adults who make cartoons are "adults" with adult brains, adult thoughts, and adult desires. They are allowed to have those thoughts as well as attempt to produce media that is aimed at children.

But I guess we're right back to "SpongeBob is making everybody gay" panic somehow. Because of course.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:20 AM on May 7 [13 favorites]


Back in the late 90s when the internet was just starting to come into limited public use in the UK, horror stories abounded of people whose kids had typed in some seemingly innocent child-friendly search term and got - gasp! - a screen full of porn.

Ooh, I have a story. Roundabout the time I was applying to university (so, this would've been sometime in '97) there was a piece of software to facilitate that called, straightforwardly enough, "Apply" (or something like that. I was unsure on the specifics myself and in the intervening 20 years I've barely thought about it). I think it had, like, fill-out-and-print versions of several application forms. Naturally, since my school's guidance office was my primary source of information on university contact information, I walked in and asked the secretary whether they had copies of, or had a line on, this "Apply" thing (giving what was probably a considerably less garbled description of what this product was than I can come up with now). Alas, this poor secretary, who had never heard of it, did not choose to say "nope, never heard of it", or "don't know about it myself, but I can ask the counselors", or anything like that, but rather called up a search engine on the computer (this was '97, so probably Altavista?), type in the word "Apply", and hit enter. At that point I would have been just as happy not to have embarked on this journey, because it was clear this person wasn't going to do anything for me that I couldn't do better myself, but it's rude to just say "thankyouforyourtimebyenow" and walk away, so I watched in horror as they poked unenthusiastically through the top results on a search for a common English word. At some point something moderately sexually explicit showed up (I really forget the details) and they seemed to be personally offended, as if I had set them up to do this knowing this was going to happen and was responsible for the presence of the lewd material that bubbled up through search engines with regularity.

Needless to say, that sort of thing doesn't happen much any more. Google's porn-filtering is not perfect, but they're actually pretty good at not letting sexually explicit material wander into searches which don't specifically request it.
posted by jackbishop at 8:25 AM on May 7 [7 favorites]


What really disgusted me was the first line of the article, in which the author creates the thesis that the animation community was responsible for creating predators (predators, mind you, the community openly rejected and expelled once their actions came to light) because the adult members of said community have adult interests.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:35 AM on May 7 [10 favorites]


Some of the stuff that the author dug up may require some context to understand; for example, Paul Robertson's "Custer's Revenge" is a satire on an actual videogame of some decades past.

I don't see the satire in this one. It's just the same thing in higher resolution.
posted by Cezar Golescu at 8:43 AM on May 7 [4 favorites]


Historically there was more MLP porn showing up on safe search. So the community's response was the Safe Search Wrap Up initiative, to deliberately find those images that weren't supposed to be there and report them to google—not to have them removed from the whole internet, but to have them removed from safe search. I doubt it's still going on, but it did make at least some inroads into other communities as well, and hopefully it improved google's algorithms in some way.
posted by one for the books at 8:51 AM on May 7 [14 favorites]


Methinks the author doth protest too much.
posted by symbioid at 9:08 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


Methinks the author doth protest too much.

The protesting too much and the fact that all of us MeFi pervs can't make the same results show up with Safe Search turned OFF (since Google gives tailored search results no less) leads me to believe this is one of those "I'm so ashamed of my kink I'm going to throw everyone with the same kink under the bus" kind of deals.

Also, yeah, really gross to throw at the start that John K. is a pedo out and then talk about fucking Rebecca Sugar like those two are even remotely alike.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:10 AM on May 7 [17 favorites]


The title of the critical response linked upthread says it all: “Cartoon Fandom Has a Puritanism Problem
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:15 AM on May 7 [9 favorites]


Fandom generally has a puritanism problem. A lot of people out there mistaking their authoritarian impulses for controlling ones--they're about five to ten years from living in the suburbs, narcing out HOA violators, and complaining that their kids "had to see" a homeless person existing somewhere. Before 2016, I had a little more tolerance for this, but these days anyone who considers this kind of criticism/protest to be a form of activism gets no sympathy or patience from me. The degree of folly and self-absorption required to make this your supposedly progressive project in the Trump era is intolerable even in a twenty-year-old. You want to "protect kids," start with the ones in fucking cages.
posted by praemunire at 9:29 AM on May 7 [28 favorites]


i liked this piece when it came out last year bc it spoke to my experiences w this stuff. just skimmed it again and i can see that it's not super coherent about some of the points it's making, but, like, this line, "it normalizes the entire idea of hypersexuality being present in children’s spaces, often in its most extreme forms," is entirely what i grew up in. was harmed by this culture in a couple ways. nowadays it's just extremely offputting to see the pseudo-commodification of it the last bit of the article talks about. sucks to be a kid online
posted by gaybobbie at 9:31 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


I wish more people could say "this squicks me out" and then stop there, instead of having to make A Statement About Society. Like, I'll fully admit that I find a lot of this kind of thing creepy and off-putting. But that can be (and is!) where my engagement with it ends.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:45 AM on May 7 [9 favorites]


I don't have much to add here because everyone covered it pretty well actually but my late 90s internet inadvertent porn search story was when I was researching a term paper my Sophomore or Junior year of high school and needed some federal government policy information and typed in 'www.whitehouse.com' and oh boy here comes the porn login page.

I shut the window quick but apparently it got flagged and I got the talking to later. None of my protests were accepted ("You should have came and told us immediately if it wasn't on purpose then you wouldn't be in this predicament!", me: "Uh ok, I'd rather have had it be a non-issue so I rolled the dice, but whatever") and that's the story of how I lost all internet access from the gifted/advance placement classroom for the remainder of the semester. Thank you all for listening to me on The Moth radio hour or something.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:09 AM on May 7 [20 favorites]


That's such a weird thing, Roland. I went to an extremely conservative Christian high school (to the degree that my friend had me hold his Terry Pratchett books because his older sister kept trying to take them and burn them), and when *we* had to do online research, our teacher specifically warned us in advance about whitehouse.com and told us to be sure to enter the .gov instead. I'm a bit flabbergasted that there was something where my school was more lenient and understanding than another school.
posted by Scattercat at 10:27 AM on May 7 [7 favorites]


If we're going to blacklist children's content creators who have also created porn, we're going to have to get rid of some fairly celebrated authors

To these authoritarian social activists, this is a plus, if not the end goal. Calling someone a "pedo" is now a common attack to try to get people canceled on social media, and if its successful, consider who the targets are going to be: not just Rebecca Sugar, but creators like Katie O’Neill, Miranda Mundt, Foz Meadows, and pretty anyone who crrates LGBTQ work. "Think of the children" is a weapon, and it's never been so easy to use.
posted by happyroach at 10:34 AM on May 7 [17 favorites]


Yeah back in the late 90s there was a game you could play—I think it originated in an Andy Ihnatko column from the back pages of MacUser, actually—called "Web That Smut" (his name) or "Zero to Porn" (my friends' name for the same concept) where one person picked a starting page and the other person bet how many clicks it would take to get from that page to porn. You could almost always do it in around 5 clicks, as I recall, and always in 10 or so. And this was just clicking on links, using a search engine was cheating. A staple of bored kids in school libraries, at least among my peers.

The Internet has always been full of porn. I think you have to make a more decided effort to look for it today than you did in the whitehouse.com days, due to Safesearch and 18+ login walls on community sites like Tumblr and Imgur.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:02 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


What exactly do you mean by this?

Not sure, but I think daedaluspark may have read my comments as directed at the people posting in this thread, rather than at the original article. My bad for not being clear.
posted by Ragged Richard at 11:04 AM on May 7


"Think of the children" is a weapon, and it's never been so easy to use.

I grew up in a community where sexual abuse of girls was rampant, and seeing people on the internet thinking that they're striking some sort of blow against molesters by calling the creators of Big Mouth pedos makes me arrrrrrrggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh
posted by LindsayIrene at 11:17 AM on May 7 [20 favorites]


People are busy saying "this squicks me out" and then stopping there when it comes so Nazi's and fascists so your mileage may vary.

I'll be concerned when the Bronies have a body count.
posted by zabuni at 11:20 AM on May 7 [3 favorites]


hasn’t just become a normal part of the children’s TV community. It’s become acceptable

As people seem to be down on TFA, I'll share my personal annoyance, which is simply that in a form of sentence "it's not just A, it's become B", B would have to be more extreme or developed than A. But the spectrum that would contain both normal and acceptable in it would run:

Unacceptable => Acceptable => Normal => Obligatory.
(Never => Occasionally => Usually => Always)

So their sentence doesn't make any sense.

Just to prove that the article includes something to annoy everybody.
posted by Grangousier at 11:24 AM on May 7 [8 favorites]


My own late nineties research stories had to do mostly with picking a thesis first and then cherry-picking, eliding, equivocating, and in some cases straight-up bullshitting to make my "research" fit my predetermined conclusion. And the thing is, I always knew when I was doing it. I just didn't care. Because I was in high school.

This article isn't just full of shit. It knows it's full of shit. And if the primary target is Rebecca Sugar (as it appears to be) then I'm happy just to say a big "fuck off" and let it fester in a corner on its own.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:36 AM on May 7 [13 favorites]


Animators are, in aggregate, the horniest perverts on Earth, and god bless them for it

I mean, most of them were probably just starting to get a good grasp on realistic depictions of the human form at the exact same time they were entering into puberty. When I was that age, I would have considered that to be practically a superpower.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:47 AM on May 7 [2 favorites]


What a world we live in, where the truly degenerate site full of pictures of filthy, gross people doing extremely vile things that should be unacceptable in any civilized society turns out to be whitehouse.gov after all
posted by chavenet at 11:48 AM on May 7 [26 favorites]


Feels like there should be a [SLMedium.com] warning/disclaimer on this one.
posted by 3j0hn at 12:09 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


I jyst popped up an incognito window so as to get a blank slate search history and did an image search on Google for several My Little Pony characters. I found only one even kind of inappropriate image and I had to scroll a fair way down to get to it. And that's with safe search off.

Now, sure, if you include porn terms you'll get all manner of porn. But I don't see kids innocently searching for their fave characters and accidentally stumbling across pony orgies or whatever.

I'd also note that yes, in Steven Universe fusion can be seen as a sort of stand in for sex. And that there are some disturbing shows where fusion is very cleverly used as a sex metaphor in non consensual contexts. I think that's good thing.

SU has done of the best depictions of the ways relationships can be bad that I've seen in any children's show. It also shows how relationships can be good.

I'd argue that fusion in SU is representative of intimacy, there are occasions where that can be seen as at least somewhat analogous to sex, and times where is clearly isn't.

The linked article seems to be another in the ongoing and eternal iterations of breathless moral panic over nothing articles. Remember the mythic "rainbow parties" people like the linked author were freaking out about a few years ago? Or the obviously made up lurid tales of middle school kids and collared shirts indicating availability for public use sex?

This seems like more of the same to me. Click bait for people who live to be scandalized, not evidence of any actual scandals.
posted by sotonohito at 12:18 PM on May 7 [15 favorites]


Waiting for the widespread enforcement of Rule 43: If there is kind of porn, there exists wholesome content based on it.
posted by otherchaz at 12:28 PM on May 7 [6 favorites]


I do think there's a conversation we gotta have about YouTube algorithms serving up weird shit to kids (sexual or not) & red-pill radicalization shit to people ripe for it.

I think what bugs me about this piece is that it sets the purity bar for being an animator -- not even specifically a children's animator, because Americans code any non-adult-rated cartoon as being for children -- at "only ever create child-friendly content, & never have gone through an edgelord phase online; deleting your Ed Edd & Eddy porn will not absolve you."

Also the part where the author goes "Fusion is OBVIOUSLY code for sex and Peridot is OBVIOUSLY a child in an adult body so there you go, I found child sex in a cartoon" is unconvincing, especially since IIRC Sugar has talked about fusion as a metaphor for love & relationships in general.

(Also also I once tried very hard to find mpreg Steve from Blue's Clues and could not, which I think we can all agree invalidates the entire premise of the article.)
posted by taquito sunrise at 12:48 PM on May 7 [16 favorites]


When I was a kid I loved Archie comics, and Dan DeCarlo who was one of the head artists was known for pinup work and stuff. (also the teenage girls in archie comics are drawn very sexy!) Shane Glines work reminds me of that. Also, MAD magazine was targeted at pretty young kids and they ran comics by Robert Crumb, most of his work is pretty risque - some of this was even before the internet really - where did I get a robert crumb book? the library? my parents did let me get ANYTHING out of the library! I think if I'd come home with "the joy of sex" my mom would have been like "ok."

I read at a pretty high level for my age and I read the alanna books when I was like, 10 years old, they have sex scenes, and then I was into like, Anita Blake books by the time I was 12. Those books get pretty porny!

Every guy I know had a secret copy of Leisure Suit Larry tucked into the middle of an encyclopedia or something! Trying to keep your kids away from all porny stuff has always been a fools errand!
posted by euphoria066 at 1:03 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Accidental porning was certainly a thing in the early days of the web. I was doing client level support and used to prove this all the time by trapping people into pulling up whitehouse.com instead of the .gov site (probably helped that Canadian Government sites don't use .gov) Sample script:

Outraged User: "I caught my student/husband/daughter/son on a porn site and they said it popped up by accident. How stupid do they think I am?"

IT Professional: "It can happen. For example pull up the Whitehouse's web site"

Outraged User: *Types whitehouse.com* *stares in shock* Often: "How'd you make that happen?

ITP: short or long explanation of how the internet works.

This sort of exchange got easier once IE added the misfeature of automatically appending a .com to any single word typed in the address bar. Miskey the period in a TLD and you'd get some random internet page.

Also all search engines suffered from the internet's unfilled namespace. Every possible topic didn't have a webpage (remember Yahoo started as a MANUAL directory of the web) so if you searched for something that wasn't sexual, but was sexual slang or something (EG: creampies) and that had a web presence you'd get the porn page.

Even after Google came out if the grandmother down the street put up a site for her bakery which sold delicious baked goods; her grandchildren could still get in trouble for searching for "Barb's Creampies" because the site rank of some random porn site would be way higher than Barb's new site.
posted by Mitheral at 2:35 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


I had to find it in the alley.

We used to dream of finding it in the alley. We found ours in a paper bag in the woods, if we were lucky.
posted by The Bellman at 2:55 PM on May 7 [7 favorites]


Funny enough, at my high school back in the 90s, the administration had excellent results by backing the IT guy's refusal to use any of the completely terrible filtering software that was available at the time. He insisted, correctly as it turned out, that (literally) asking the kids to "do the right thing" and explaining what was acceptable and what wasn't when it came to using the Internet would deal with the problem more effectively than any technical solution.

Sure, the occasional inadvertant porn happened since it was the time of Webcrawler and Altavista, but I can count on one hand the number of students who were found to be abusing the trust they were extended.
posted by wierdo at 3:12 PM on May 7 [6 favorites]


I can count on one hand

I see what you did there.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:38 PM on May 7 [11 favorites]


Wow I'm so glad to see so many people coming down hard on this article. After being on Tumblr for a bit in fandom that has a vocal minority of people who absolutely believe all the points in the article, here's my thoughts on this:

https://subdee.tumblr.com/post/616130182200295424/how-come-it-is-that-people-on-the-web-site-tumblr

Also, I keep a collection of posts on what's called "discourse" on Tumblr, which is mostly the discussion of these topics:

https://www.are.na/subdee-subdee/tumblr-infowars

I absolutely believe that kids on Tumblr searching the main fandom tags are - or were - seeing a lot of stuff they didn't want to see, because Tumblr is where fandom went in 2008 when livejournal started banning journals on the say-so of social conservatives who threatened to tell the advertisers about all the pedophiles.

Fandom went to Tumblr *because* it allowed NFSW content. Now that Tumblr has banned NFSW content, fandom is slowly moving to twitter, which also technically bans this content but has more options for private and locked accounts and an abuse team that actually investigates harassment claims.

Anyway, TLDR I'm sure there are many teens who can relate to the article because online social media spaces are less moderated now than they were back in the day. They are moderated by an uncaring, unanswerable algorithm and not by humans who can identify trolls and bad actors.

But also, 100% I believe that conservatives with a pro-abstinance, anti-LGBT agenda are targeting these uncomfortable, always-online kids and teens and selling them conservative Christian values under the guise of "activism".
posted by subdee at 4:58 PM on May 7 [9 favorites]


If, after posting that link, I get a bunch of anonymous hate on tumblr I'll know I was right about this post being a professional hit-job by the way.

Anyway, in Poland ***right now*** congress is debating a law to ban all sex education in schools because it 'sexualizes children'.

Find a way for kids who don't want to see sexual content to browse in peace, sure - look up Lawrence Lessig's "Law of Code" article from 2000 this was a concern back then too - but also be aware that rolling back sex ed, teaching abstinence only and making sure that kids won't see any queer content online that might make them question their sexuality is the goal of at least some of these activists.
posted by subdee at 5:06 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


subdee: I am absolutely certain that the point of this piece is to demonize Rebecca Sugar for making Steven Universe a phenomenally popular queer-friendly space.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:11 PM on May 7 [16 favorites]


Google's porn-filtering is not perfect, but they're actually pretty good at not letting sexually explicit material wander into searches which don't specifically request it.

You say that, but I got quite a different impression from a man I met in a pub.

I often strike up conversations with strangers; they seem drawn to me. I suppose it's because of my open and honest face. On this occasion I was collecting my glass at the bar and looking for a seat. I wouldn't say the pub was full, exactly, but most tables were taken by little groups and one doesn't want to intrude; on the other hand one doesn't like to drink alone. I know many people do and I'm not criticising, mind. But I don't.

Well, this man was sitting by himself and he was gazing morosely into his glass as if he regretted it and everything around him. I don't like to see someone that way, and I was looking for a seat, as I said, so I asked if I might join him. He grunted assent and I sat down. For propriety's sake I waited a minute or two and then asked him what was wrong. He looked up from his glass and told me.

He was a fitter and turner, he said, although he could turn his hand to most things - "And fit in anywhere," I asked, but he must have missed my point because he didn't acknowledge it at all. He was mostly retired but he did odd jobs and maintenance at a church, and the vicar had asked him whether he could restore an old church bell he'd got hold of somehow. Now, I don't know much about campanology so what I'm going to tell you is based on what he told me, but I think I have most of it right. If any of the little details are wrong it's scarcely germane in any case.

The problem with the bell was that many years of misuse had damaged its rim, and consequently its tones had been muddied. Bell restoration is more of an art than a science, and the trick is to set things up so you can sound the bell as you gradually adjust its tone. You can't just clamp it in place, because that would dull its vibrations: you must build a frame and support the bell with pegs that hold it steady from behind while you restore it, gently striking it with your fist and observing how the tone changes as you smooth the rim by giving it a gentle lick of the file. Well, these were things that he knew, but it's always comforting to have the details fresh in one's mind. So he borrowed the vicar's computer and started doing internet searches for the things he needed to know.

There's a lot of information out there on the Internet but very little about bells. He was after the confidence that you have when you've brushed up on specialised knowledge so he tried all the technical terms in different combinations. He didn't find anything useful so he decided to just do the best he could, and he was changing into his overalls when the vicar walked in. In retrospect he should probably have not left the laptop running, but we're all wise in hindsight I suppose. Anyway, the vicar found him stripped to his underwear with browser windows containing searches for PEGGING FROM BEHIND, RIMMING BY LICKING, FISTING, and SOUNDING.

This had all happened a couple of hours ago and apparently the man had been asked not to come around anymore, with a strong suggestion that the police might be called upon to investigate what had been going on. I happen to think that the vicar had over-reacted, but in any event his point was that Google was really at fault and I couldn't disagree.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:36 PM on May 7 [22 favorites]


@Navalgazer Yes thank you, it's a hit piece.

It's driving me a little crazy to see how well these tactics are working on the young and always-online. I think it's a little bit similar to reddit and the alt-right, but targeting mostly left-wing and LGBTQ+ teens.

You remember that Washington Post article,"What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son Joined the Alt-Right"? The kid in that story was Jewish and his parents were actively involved in his life in a positive way.

It shows that online spaces really have tremendous power, and so many of the tactics people use in these spaces are incredibly dishonest, even if most "normal" people might agree in the abstract that there shouldn't be porn of kids cartoons.

My favorite take on this debate, by the way:
https://fiction-is-not-reality2.tumblr.com/post/180352048592/ive-been-seeing-a-lot-of-people-gloating-about
posted by subdee at 5:36 PM on May 7 [4 favorites]


Rule 34 meant Strawberry Shortcake porn. It meant Arthur porn. Thomas the Tank Engine porn. Caillou porn. Dora the Explorer porn. Avatar: The Last Airbender, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Phineas and Ferb, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Animal Crossing porn. Ben 10 porn. SpongeBob SquarePants porn. Doug porn. Kim Possible porn. Ducktales porn. Powerpuff Girls porn. Even Bob the Builder porn.

Did anyone else suddenly read this and think of the shrimp scene in forest gump?
posted by _cave at 5:42 PM on May 7 [6 favorites]


The gem-fusion-as-metaphor-for-sex is the most obvious when the show is discussing consent. I think that's a positive influence for children, that Rebecca Sugar found a way to tell stories about consent without them being about actual sexual acts.

Whereas with Chris Savino and John Kricfalusi, they were exploiting their position in an industry where a lot of young people are "I want to become an animator but how can I break in??" and then creeps go, "Well, I am a famous creator, I will help you, anyway you owe me a little something-something, it would be a shame for you to lose this golden opportunity that I've given you ..."

So they have very different levels of respect for consent. But kids can't consent. Okay, but that doesn't mean they can't learn, and what lessons will they learn from Steven Universe? If you want to stop, that's okay. Consent is ongoing. I guarantee that's the opposite of what someone like John K. would use when trying to groom someone.
posted by RobotHero at 6:03 PM on May 7 [17 favorites]


subdee: "But also, 100% I believe that conservatives with a pro-abstinance, anti-LGBT agenda"...

...can say "I was just researching to protect the children" when someone takes a look at their browser history.
posted by chavenet at 1:19 AM on May 8 [5 favorites]


@chavenet LOL you are so right, funny how these culture warriors can somehow always find the most terrible, triggering shit that the rest of us just minding our own business never seem to stumble across.
posted by subdee at 5:51 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]


My random porn-finding story is from 2005ish. I was reading a book that mentioned quicksand and realized I'd never actually seen real quicksand or learned anything about it. So I went to google and searched for quicksand. The top hit was wikipedia. Everything under that was porn.

Like, not just one site. The whole first and second page of hits were all porn (fetish? There wasn't much nudity) sites featuring videos of people in quicksand, which turns out to be really silty mud in estuaries, which ironically enough I grew up with in my backyard without knowing that's what it was. Estuary mud smells strongly of methane when you dig into it, which only added to my growing astonishment that this was A Thing.

After some investigation, I realized it was some sort of bondage adjacent thing, with the occasional but disturbing snuff-film edge of people getting sucked under (all fake, I hope). I got to an animated gif of a cartoon giraffe sinking into quicksand, abruptly realized some out there had masturbated to this gif, possibly dozens of times, and decided that was enough internet for that day.

Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.
posted by ananci at 7:17 AM on May 8 [9 favorites]


There are problems with children being sexualized, with children being groomed online, with adult culture coming too close to the insinuation of child pornography and having it being glossed over.

This ain't it, tho
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:39 AM on May 8 [10 favorites]


Historically it did happen. At the turn of the century. I worked for a site for a seniors organization and magazine that (horrifically) had a dash in the URL: xxxxx-xxxx.net. The non-dash version was a porn site featuring seniors. About 10% of our customer service email was WHY THE PORN. Always kind of amazed me they could get the email address ri

Out of curiousity, did you ever go to the porn site? If the aim was to deceive by not having the dash and have users go to porn instead of legitimate site, I wouldn't be surprised if their mailto: address for "Problems? Contact webmaster" was also aiming to deceive and resolved to legitimate site e-mail versus porn site e-mail.

This reminds me of elementary teachers having to buy beer in the next town over. People who work with children or children's things do things besides that

Ha. When kiddo was in second grade or so, I was in line behind their elementary teacher for the year. "Oh my god, this is so embarrassing," the teacher said. This was in a town of ~60k people. I told her if anyone should be embarrassed, it should be me for buying the cheapest vodka the store had. (She was shopping for a bachelorette party so had a pretty decent shopping cart.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 5:05 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]


experts-exchange.com. I swear I was just trying to get some tech support!
posted by bendy at 10:11 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]


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