When there’s something wrong with the internet connection at home, it is not my grandparents who are fixing it. It is not my mum or dad. It is my boyfriend. It is my brothers. It is me. We are the first generation who are brought up in the digital age – in a world wide web with Wikipedia as our library and Skype as our phone. In the case of internet, it is not necessarily the parents educating their children, but us learning our parents about You Tube and Facebook. We have to recognize that internet is a place where people gather, share and connect – and that young people, young men and women, are at the forefront of that. With this in mind, I was happy to discover that at the IGF, there were a lot of session who touched upon child and youth issues. But how did they manage to turn all workshops on protecting child rights – including the right to access to information and the right to privacy - into discussions focusing mainly on internet's challenges, such as child abuse? Why wasn't there any panelist below the age of 50 at this morning's Honorary Host Country Session on youth issues, the importance of youth participation and youth involvement at this year's IGF? And how come most debates on internet and sexuality are surrounded by negativity – by words like 'blocking', 'child pornography' and 'obscene'?

Young people, like other human beings, have a curiosity towards sexuality. And let me tell you, there is a lot online on sex – just as there was probably a Playboy under the bed of my dad. That’s fine. It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s healthy. In debates about internet and sexuality, there’s often being referred to the importance of protection children and youth to dangerous online content, but we also have to admit that watching porn online is in most cases not that harmful. What we could do – what we should do, is think creatively about age-appropriate access to pornography and about developing content which is more gender-just and frankly. About encouraging people to protect their sexual health, for example by using condoms – both in the online and offline world.

Internet provides us with great possibilities, in terms of freedom of expression, protection of privacy and – very important – openness. Internet is an almost unlimited space for people to engage in dialogues on sex and sexuality. It is a place where you can find others with the same thoughts, ideas or concerns - people belonging to the same group or minority, regardless of your physical distance. Internet provides us with the opportunity of posting thoughts on any topic you want – anonymously, if you want so or need to.

You can find it all out there: what a blowjob is, what double Dutch means and other things your peers, parents or school teachers might not tell you. Ever asked about the secret and sexy things they do at the world wide web? The facilitator of the session in which I was presenting, was smart enough to open up the workshop 'Content regulation, surveillance and sexuality rights – privacy, agency, security' with a question on that. While waiting for technology to be fixed, we heard some interesting experiences of being young and being online. 'I do my taxes through internet.' Yeah, sure.

Wieke Vink

Responses to this post

Internet and many other electronic communications have a los of sexual expressions now. This is a new research space we are interested in, to try to understand better other new sexual practices/expressions.
Thanks for coming with this discussion here.

what a fresh, honest and open article that i learnt from! thank you. what a relief to read this and i agree that we do need an edition written and researched by young people.

what a fresh, honest and open article that i learnt from! thank you. what a relief to read this and i agree that we do need an edition written and researched by young people.

The best sex talk on the IGF! I think we should have a GenderIT Edition or feature or blog written only by young people. Educate us please.

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