At Technical conferences, there are often presentations which contain suggestive or pornographic content, almost always featuring women. This is an example of a sexualized environment which can be unwelcoming to women.
It's not just women who are made uncomfortable, either. Child attendees and any accompanying adults may find this unwelcome (or frightening, depending on the content) too, and men often also for various reasons do not want to view sexual material. Anyone attending the event in a work context — geek technical conferences often have attendees who are only geeks on work time — will be unprepared for material that wouldn't be welcome when described in their work environment.
- Something at linux.conf.au ca. 2001(?)
- Debconf ftp-masters talk 2003
- Acme::Playmate talk, OSDC 2006
- Spock.com lingerie model incident, Web 2.0 Expo 2007
- SLUG Christmas card talk November 2008
- At Ignite:Velocity in Burlingame, CA in 2008, my talk on open data was bracketed by two porn talks --Skud 20:04, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
- CouchDB talk, Golden Gate Ruby Conference 2009
- Flashbelt slide show, Flashbelt 2009
- EMACS virgins joke, Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, 2009
- Boxee Box Unveiling, 2009
- Casecamp boobies incident, 2010
- Benevolent dictator incident, Wikimania 2012
- CanSecWest security conference:
- Jan Krissler's presentation on biohacking, cropped porno gratuituously illustrating how hi-res photographs can be used to bypass retina scans.
- Patrick Wardle (Synack) presentation, valid tech security terms sexualized with "relevant" images of women's body parts or sexual acts.
Discussion of the general issue of sexualized presentations (discussion of specific incidents should be added to the corresponding page)
- The Porny Presentation Bingo Card (Skud's blog)
- The "controversy" continues
- Shedding Some Light on a Recent Trend
Common justifications for sexualised content in presentations include:
- He's just like that
- That the presenter was aiming for a strong Emotional response
- That the presentation was intended as humour
- That tech culture revels in being anti-establishment and unprofessional
- That there weren't any women in the audience anyway
- That if you didn't want to see it, you didn't have to attend
When is sexual material appropriate?
Some talks are about sexual or related topics, and in this case sexual material is appropriate. Some geek examples might include:
- a talk about sexual activities at, eg, a geeky sex expo
- a talk about censorship at which the speaker wants to show some examples of material that is liable to be censored
Some women-oriented or feminist examples might include:
- talks about menstruation, contraception, reproductive politics, gender transitions or childbirth
However, such presentations should be made to a consenting audience. This means:
- make the expectation of sexual or confronting material clear to attendees in advance (this may be clear from the nature of the event, but if in doubt, explicit statements are better).
- make it clear that audience members may freely leave a talk or activity at any time and for any reason, and that they will not be called upon to explain or justify themselves.
- place emphasis on being inclusive of different sexual orientations and preferences.
- take extra care to emphasize what content or behaviour is not welcome (examples might include repeated sexual approaches, other harassment, hate speech)
- if the entire event is sexual in nature, have a designated "chill out" space for people who don't want to participate in sexual activities or discussions at any given moment.
In these environments, speakers will still wish to consider issues of Body image and Othering in choosing their content and imagery: for example, does it assume that the audience is all male and heterosexual? Does it show a range of body types, or only stereotypically attractive slender young able-bodied white folk?