Further, as Anna Reading (and others) argue, as we are the ones who take charge of and direct these media productions, we thereby (re)gain agency and control over our media self-representations. Such mediatized self-revelation may then be experienced as a form of empowerment and liberation in an age of surveillance. The same may be true, at least in part, regarding sexuality and gender: an especially strong argument in favor of online SEMs and their amateur production is precisely that these allow persons to explore otherwise marginalized sexualities (including GLBTq, i.e. gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and/or queer) and sexual preferences (e.g., bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and/or masochism – S&M for short) – and thereby to determine for themselves their own sexual identities and preferences. Pornography* may thus serve nothing less than the (high) modern values of emancipation, autonomy, agency, and equality (cf. Bromseth and Sundén 2011). To be sure, this line of argument directly contradicts ethical objections to pornography* and SEMs as objectifying women and children (and, in some instances, men): encouraging us to see women, children, and/or men as “just meat,” such objectification obscures, if it does not eliminate, their agency and autonomy. And without agency and autonomy, there is no person “there” to be emancipated or regarded as an equal.
Finally, cross-cultural perspectives make all of this that much more difficult. Not surprisingly, judgments and attitudes regarding bodies and sexuality vary dramatically from culture to culture. For example, at least early in this century, material that merely implies sex, such as beauty pageants, counted as pornography* in India, for example (Ghosh 2006); in Indonesia, the term is bound up with laws regulating women’s clothing and demeanor, including public displays of affection. By contrast, in 1969, Denmark was the first Western nation to legalize pornography* – and not accidentally. In Denmark, and Scandinavia more broadly, bodies and sexuality – including the sexuality of children and adolescents – are widely regarded as simply positive aspects of human nature and experience. Especially in Denmark, there is less concern with pornography* as a possible problem, especially for young people. Historically, in European countries more generally, children were more concerned with the problem of cyberbullying than with unwanted exposure to SEMs. While the most recent EU KidsOnline survey data have yet to be completely analyzed and published, one of the striking findings in Norway is that, while sexting behaviors have gone up (e.g., among 15- to 17-year-olds, who report the highest levels of these behaviors, 49% of boys, 36% of girls) – along with exposure to pro-ana, self-harm, suicide sites, etc. – accessing pornography sites as such has somewhat declined: from 46% of children between 9 and 17 years old in 2010 to 40% in 2018