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A New Bill Stands to Kill Your Favorite Amateur Porn

SISEA’s supposed goal is to combat revenge porn and sex trafficking — but legal sex workers and crowd-sourced nude sites like r/Gonewild say they’ll take the biggest hit

There’s no place like r/Gonewild. Over the last 12 years, the subreddit has established itself as an amateur porn utopia; a hallowed space where adult exhibitionists can share free, consensual nudes without any pressure or judgment. If you visit, you’ll be met with an abundant stream of selfies — mostly featuring boobs, butt plugs or vulvas — and a sea of adoring, rapturous comments. With more than 2.5 million daily page views, it’s easily Reddit’s most popular NSFW sub. The thing is, it may not be around for much longer.

Gonewild, along with pretty much any site that shares sexually explicit content, is currently being targeted by a new piece of legislation known as the Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISEA). The bipartisan bill, which was announced in December, would force porn sites to implement rigorous new moderation systems. This includes the introduction of 24-hour helplines, heightened security and a full identification process. In other words, if you want to post a sexually explicit image or video — either for money, or just for fun — you will legally have to provide the site with your full name and ID.

The thinking behind SISEA is honorable enough. The bill was introduced to help tackle trafficking, revenge porn and child exploitation, and ensure that all adult material is consensually uploaded. According to Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who drew it up, SISEA’s principal purpose is to go after “the monsters who profit from rape.”

So far, so good.

But a closer look at the bill’s contents reveals vague wording and heavy-handed methods that will likely cause major collateral damage. For starters, there’s the financial implications of it all. As briefly mentioned earlier, SISEA would force all sites that host pornographic content — whether that’s Pornhub, OnlyFans, Reddit or Twitter — to set up 24-hour helplines for users, as well as their own carefully monitored victim databases. They would also have to increase site moderation, ensuring that all reported content is removed within a two-hour window. If this target isn’t met, they’ll be fined up to $1,000 a day until the flagged, “non-consensual” content is removed from the platform.

In short, it’s an onerous new system that would require way more resources, leading some sites to just opt out of allowing for adult material altogether. After all, if permitting pornographic content on your platform means hiring a ton of new staff and putting yourself at risk of hefty government fines, it probably doesn’t seem worth it, particularly if your site — like Twitter or Reddit — would run just fine without it. As with Tumblr and Instagram, they may just ban all NSFW material entirely to save themselves from the hassle. (There have been rumors that Twitter has already started doing that, with some sex workers accusing the site of shadowbanning their accounts.)

But for both sex workers and Gonewild posters, the biggest concern is the threat to anonymity. Again, if SISEA is passed, pornographic platforms would require that all participants share their full name and identity, as well as provide signed consent forms from everyone who appears in the uploaded image or video. For sites like Gonewild, which is basically powered by anonymous posts, this could be a deadly blow, putting users at serious risk of hacks and doxxing. It also creates more admin for the mods, who have to ensure that each uploader’s personal information is recorded and stored somewhere secure (given that they get around 3,000 submissions a day, this is no small task).

When I raised the prospect of SISEA to some of Gonewild’s most prolific posters, the majority seemed unaware of the bill. But when I talked them through the implications of it, they reacted with outrage. “I don’t show my face for a reason, and I would 100 percent not give my personal data out,” Sweetheartxo21 tells me. That sentiment is echoed by another poster known as Lotus-Eyes: “I wouldn’t bother with Gonewild if SISEA is passed. The cost of risking my anonymity isn’t worth it.”

Gonewild does already have a fairly thorough verification process that still allows posters to retain some privacy. Before uploading to the sub, they’re encouraged to share a selfie (their face can be hidden) that shows them holding up their Reddit username. But taking it any further than that, they argue, seems excessive. “I’d be concerned about giving my personal information to some random mod at his house and trust that he’s just going to verify the legitimacy of it, and not sell it off to whoever is willing to pay for it,” says RedsDelight. “I’d most definitely stop posting [if I had to share my full name and details with them]. I don’t want my information out there. I’d prefer it to be anonymous, considering it’s just for fun.”

It’s worth noting that SISEA hasn’t come out of nowhere. In 2018, SESTA/FOSTA, a bill aimed at solving illegal online sex trafficking and blocking “prostitution advertising,” was passed into law. Although it didn’t specify that all online adult content needed to be banned, it did state that platforms would be held responsible for any “sex trafficking” material posted by its users. In response, Tumblr and Craigslist opted to forbid all NSFW material to avoid the stress of increased moderation.

SISEA, if passed, would bring this to another level, and may possibly end up causing the majority of mainstream sites to block all sexual content — even soft nudity and cartoons — for their own convenience. Not only would this be devastating for sex workers, pushing them further into the online world’s murkier, less regulated outskirts, but it would also have a detrimental effect on culture more generally. As Helen Holmes pointed out in the Observer last month, the internet is being slowly dominated by an “ambient cultural conservatism,” forcing artists who use (or perform) art of a sexual nature “to adapt their works to fit ever-more-conservative major platform standards, or else risk seeing their accounts vanish.”

The ironic part is that this cultural conservatism doesn’t solve the problems it’s trying to fix either — if anything, it may end up making them worse. “Deleting and banning sex from social media doesn’t stop sex trafficking or sexual exploitation,” offers Emily van der Nagel, a Gonewild researcher and lecturer of social media communications and media studies at Australia’s Monash University. “Deplatforming sex makes us less able to include sex as part of a healthy, adult life, and gives us fewer opportunities for sexual education, exploration and pleasure.”

For now, the future of SISEA — and of Gonewild — hangs in the balance. Admittedly, the bill is in its early stages, which means, with the right amount of pressure, it could still be amended or never voted on at all. (Along those lines, it died with last year’s congressional session, and while it’s set to be renewed at some point this year, it’s hard to judge the exact timeline). According to a spokesperson for Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, who drew up the bill alongside Sasse, the team have been in active discussion with adult industry representatives to make sure that sex workers’ rights will “continue to be protected.”

Still, as van der Negel explains, “Scope creep is a real issue here. The initial FOSTA/SESTA legislation was meant to stop online sex trafficking, not necessarily ban adult content from the internet, but platforms like Tumblr and Craigslist forbade all adult content as a result. It’s possible, then, that SISEA will mean platforms like Reddit may decide to simply ban all kinds of adult content altogether.”

Of course, that’s if redditors like Exiled_Rose don’t beat them to it. “A lot of us, if not most of us, can only post nudes anonymously, which is what makes Gonewild so special,” she says. “I would lose my job; I’d piss off family members. I just couldn’t do this if anyone knew my real name or knew who I was.”

Do Not Sell My Personal Information