Sex Vlog: Inappropriate for Minors?

Came across this vlog (video blog) and am still trying to form an opinion around it. For the most part, I’m inclined to like it. Made by 22-year-old Kicesie, it’s of course about sex. Otherwise, why would I even mention it :-)? Some of her videos do seem to be educational, such as this one on STDs. It’s pretty accurate information-wise, but she uses a lot of judgmental language — “gross,” “disgusting,” — which might alienate anyone who already has an STD, or had one in the past. But overall, she’s cute, and delivers the facts in a very calm, approachable manner. And given the fact that most of her videos are getting several 100,000 views, at least people are listening.

But other examples within her 61-video collection make me think differently about her and her motives. Several of her videos simply ask her viewers questions. Like this one on oral sex. First of all, it starts off with a montage of her in cute and sexy poses, then cuts to her in a low-cut top, camera angled for maximum cleavage display. Is she really trying to be an educator or does she just want to show off her bod? Hard to say sometimes.

After some non-linear babble, looking all coy for the camera, she asks her male viewers what makes oral sex great for them, and encourages feedback. And 529 responded. What surprised me, honestly, was that for the most part the comments seemed sincere. I frankly was prepared for a bunch of immature, irrelevant, inappropriate comments (to Kicesie’s credit, she may have deleted those or maybe YouTube did) — but instead I got graphic, but thoughtful advice on how to give good head from a bunch of random dudes. Interesting.

Then there are times when she simply goes on an editorial rant. Here’s where things start to break down for me. Wearing no makeup and filming in black-and-white (a huge contrast to her dolled-up look she tends to adopt for her question asking videos), she complains about the lack of parental monitoring of children when they go online. “Where are the Parents?” she laments. An old and tired question. What troubles me most about this particular post, however, is her blanketed inaccurate statements. She is clearly troubled by the fact that youth under 18 are watching her videos — disclaimers abound about age appropriateness in her vlogs — and she explicitly states that her content is not appropriate for minors in her monologues. However, in this particular post she states that if children are watching her videos they are “probably in chat rooms with people who are much older than them,” and “they are probably open to predators. They have probably been exposed to explicit pornography.” Hmmmm. I think she is better off sticking to topics she can research more effectively.

And then here come the judgment statements again: “How can you parents let that happen? There is no excuse, no excuse at all.” The statement is strong, yet naive. Her accusations are harsh. She says YouTube should be more responsible for ensuring minors don’t get to see her videos. She seems to want to blame someone for the fact that younger people are listening to her.

But is it so bad that younger people are tuning in to what she has to say (I’d say middle school is pushing it on the age level, but mature high schoolers should be fine…)? She talks about STD transmission, she emphasizes the importance of partner communication. Are these such bad messages to get across to her viewers, no matter their age? I think if Kicesie wants to be a celebrity (at least a minor internet one) she is going to have to deal with all aspects of it. And that means understanding that people she doesn’t want seeing her videos tuning in. And possibly learning something.

Seeking Your Support for My Presentation!

Hello Beloved Readers!

I’m writing to ask you to please support my efforts to get the SXSW Interactive Festival to accept my proposal for a panel I would like to participate on during the March 13-17, 2009 conference.

The SXSW Interactive Festival ( is an industry conference held in Austin for web developers and digital creatives, now in its 15th year. These days the conference has become so popular that it gets hundreds of proposals like mine, from people who would like to present at the conference. To help them sort out what people what to hear, the conference organizers now use a web-based panel picker. I’m writing to ask you to please visit and use the panel picker and to place a vote on it for my proposal and leave a comment.

==> Please go to and, in the search box, enter “Sex Ed” in order to quickly find the listing for my proposal, place your vote and leave a comment. Our exciting proposal is called Sex Ed Online: How Teens Self Savvy. The panel picker will be active until August 29. Please act now! It will take you less than 3 minutes and costs nothing, but you must open an account on the panel picker to post a comment.

I would be so psyched to be on this panel. Other members include the esteemed Heather Corinna from Scarlet Teen and Nikol Hasler from the Midwest Teen Sex Show. How cool is that?

We’ll be addressing the following questions:
1. What do teens want to know about sex?
2. How do they use the Internet to find answers?
3. Which social media tools provide the best sexual education?
4. What positive or negative impact can the Web have on teen sexuality?
5. At what ages should online use by children and teens be monitored?
6. Are parents abdicating their roles as sex educators to the Internet?
7. Does online info encourage or discourage sexual experimentation by teens?
8. What role does the Internet play in educating youth about sex?
9. Can the government regulate online sex education and should it?
10. Can online sex info be trusted for accuracy?

I will be most grateful for any support you can offer and hope that you will please use the Panel Picker and vote for my proposal. Thanks!

==> Please go to and, in the search box, enter “Sex Ed” in order to quickly find the listing for my proposal, place your vote and leave a comment. The panel picker will be active until August 29. Please act now!

When you sign up and vote, you are not signing onto any e-mail lists by giving your information, and you do not need to attend the conference nor must you have attended it in the past in order to vote for my panel. While votes to rate the proposal (1-5 stars) are valuable, I’m told that what really counts with the organizers it is having comments written about why someone would be a good speaker and/or why the topic is of interest. So please vote for my idea and comment!

Hopeful news

I was very moved by this story of a girl who was bullied simply because she had a seizure in class. A simple reminder of how cruel we can be to each other. Luckily, two girls came from out of nowhere and literally saved Olivia’s life — sisters Sarah and Emily Buder read about Olivia’s experiences with cyberbullying and wrote letters of encouragement. News caught on and the result was nothing short of amazing — Olivia was no longer online, so good old-fashioned hand-written letters came to her from all over the place, totaling around 1,000. Olivia’s plans for suicide were replaced with a new sense of faith in people (and a book deal — Harper Collins picked up on this story and published some of the letters).

While I think this story is a hopeful one, I hope that educators take note of some of the more subtle aspects of it. Olivia was teased because of her health condition, yet according the the story run by MSNBC (link above), the teasing took the form of “pornographic emails.” What is the relationship between a seizure and sexually graphic comments? Nothing, except when young people tease, it’s often about sex. Another sign of the importance of acknowledging sexual aspects when designing curricula about cyberbullying, and how sex education should include issues related to internet harassment.

My Virtual Reality

While I was in the Bay Area, I made my way down the Peninsula to my alma mater, Stanford University, and visited the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, which turns out to be housed in my old department, Communication (I graduated with that major in 1990). Ah, what my life would have been like if I were fifteen years younger…

The appearance of the lab itself is unimpressive, to say the least. Just your typical room with some desks, computers, and industrial carpet. But boy do they have some cool stuff there. Thanks to Jesse Fox, one of the researchers, there, I was able to sample the goods. I donned the “happy helmet” and entered a virtual world. The helmet was heavy and clunky — not the sort of thing you would wear if you didn’t have to. And, as Jesse pointed out, the thing was so expensive this is not the sort of toy that is going to be in households across the country any time soon. But it did allow me to blend the concrete with the perceptual. I looked down and found myself standing vicariously close to a deep pit. Virtual board crossing the chasm, I was told to make my way across. I found it hard to balance on the actual carpeted floor, as I struggled to stay on the plank that was nothing more than an image cast by the helmet. But I made it safely across! Jesse said that 1 in 3 refuse to even try. I increase my bravado by “jumping” into the pit on my way back across and was somewhat startled by the crashing noise I made as I jumped an inch in the air, spiraling down a virtual 30 feet, and crashing at the bottom.

Next trick: crossing the road like Frogger. Here is where I horribly failed. I was run over seven times at least, ran into a sign post (virtual) and almost the wall (actual — thanks Jesse for saving me!). It was really hard to balance. But the overall sensation was like being in a video game — but even cooler than Tron. And, since I totally suck at video games, it’s probably not surprising that I pretty much sucked at navigating myself in virtual reality.

Then, onto some of the tasks that are used in actual research. While I won’t disclose the actual hypotheses or findings (none of this is published yet), my last activity consisted of walking up to a life-sized avatar and studying her. The feeling was odd, walking up to a young woman about my height but clearly not made of flesh and blood. There were two women I stood next to, as if in conversation: One wearing jeans and a hoodie, her brown hair collected into a pony tail. The other was a bombshell in a tight t-shirt, short skirt and super cool boots (I want a pair!). I was instructed just to study them. The sexier one, I noticed, was programmed to make eye contact with me as I looked; the stereotypical college student did not.

The overall goal of this study was to document gender differences in examining the avatars and look at attitudes about women based on who subjects were interacting with. Stay tuned for results!

While the experience I had is not likely to be shared by many in the general population, the Virtual Lab is hoping its findings can apply to video games and Second Life. I had some doubts — like, the avatar I chilled with could single me out much more closely than anyone can really in SL and she was literally my size, making her seem more real than the people in most video games — I believe that trying to tie in virtual experiences with actions in the concrete world is one of the coolest things being done in research today.

A Game of Dress-up

Whether it be as a Disney princess in grade school, or as a naughty nurse in college, girls have always enjoyed playing “dress-up.” However, what happens when a 13-year-old “dresses-up” as an 1p-year-old and initiates a sexual encounter with a man 15 years her senior? Trouble.

In early July, Scott Knight, an Aurora, Oregon man was arrested on charges of statutory rape after a 13-year-old girl talked to authorities. After the two allegedly met on Flirt and supposedly talked through MySpace, they then met in person. Knight claims he asked for ID from the girl and then the rest of the details become muddy.

I came across a MyCrimeSpace blog summary of the incident that stuck to the released information, but the comments on the blog prompted me to start thinking, what makes teenage girls seeks out men like this? According to Justine Cassell & Meg Cramer from Northwestern University’s Center for Technology and Social Behavior (who I quoted in a previous entry) most likely this girl has “a greater tendency for conflict or lack of communication with their parents; high levels of delinquency, including committing assault, vandalism or theft; have a troubled personality due to depression, peer victimization, or [has experienced] a distressing life event.” The very first comment asked “what would she gain from setting him up?” A few answers – public attention, “fame” on the news, a book deal, a Lifetime movie even!

I remember being 13 and wanting to be 23, wanting to have an older boyfriend, wanting to be a grown-up; I don’t remember ever thinking that the Internet could be used like this, though. A little part of me is surprised at the lengths this girl would go to in order to make a connection with Knight (finding an internet dating site, getting a fake ID to lie about her age, working to draw in a man who would “fall” for her act) and then a bigger part of me isn’t so taken aback. This girl, rather than turning to her parents (who aren’t mentioned in any story that I can find), she turned to the internet and found adults there.

Is social networking to blame for incidents like this? Probably not. Frivolous Electrical Conversation explains that people blamed promiscuity on the telegraph, the telephone, and even the automobile.

“The telegraph provided users with faster responses to their communication with others, more frequent interactions, and more access to others around the world. It improved access to goods and services, and to knowledge of all sorts. And yet, even while the telegraph (and the internet) led to a revolution in business practices, it also gave rise to new ways to commit crimes, and it was quickly adopted beyond business to the communication needs of everyday people. In the techie magazines of the times (such as Electrical World, the historical parallel to PC Magazine) many authors alluded to a possible loss of a world they idealized, a world threatened by new modes of electrical communication. Media critics of the times described the telegraph as used by ‘talkative women’ who had ‘frivolous electrical conversations’ about ‘inconsequential personal subjects.’ Novels, like the 1879 Wired Love, and other popular culture texts expanded on this theme. The women portrayed in these narratives were näıve and incapable in the face of technical advances, and when they made forays into the world of the telegraph they ended up needing to be rescued, to be protected from technology, in sum. … technical ignorance was a virtue of ‘good’ women. The moral was that women’s use of men’s technology would come to no good end.” Justine Cassel & Meg Cramer in High Tech or High Risk: Moral Panics about Girls Online

Sound familiar?

Then we must ask “Who is responsible?” Another commenter later in the list of postings had a very good point; “they are both responsible for their behavior.” When does a person become “of age” for their own personal responsibility? Minors are held responsible for murders, being tried as adults in courts when faced with such serious charges, but incidents such as these are brushed off as solely the adult’s fault. Whether the adult blamed is the minor’s parent or the adult in the sexual relationship, it’s rarely the minor’s fault. Should parents be punished for the behavior of their teenagers? “At what point do the girls have to take some responsibility about what happened?” So, I ask you, “Where do we draw the line when playing dress-up?”

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