What is the linkage between sexuality and the internet? Why is the protection of users from the 'harm' of pornographic content often the principal reason given to regulate the flow of information and exchange over the internet? How does it work in reality, and how does it impact on our ability to access information, form relationships, build communities, create knowledge and exercise self-determination in terms of our sexuality and sexual rights?

The "EroTICs: Exploratory Research on Sexuality and the Internet" project is a two-and-a-half year research project that aims to answer some of these questions. This edition of GenderIT.org presents some of the initial findings of the project, and highlights from each of the five county research partners in Brazil, Lebanon, South Africa, India and the United States.

The focus, space and context of each country are rich in its diversity, and yet in the reading, common threads can be seen emerging from this research area: the complexity of private/public and 'privacy', the slippery definitions of 'obscene', 'illegal' and 'harmful' content, the immense value of the internet in the articulation and realisation of sexual identities and rights especially to those who have lesser access to 'offline' spaces for this reason, the role of morality, culture and social surveillance in content regulation and more.

The research concludes on December 2010, and we look forward to your thoughts and reflections in this edition. Jac sm Kee, coordinator of the EroTICs research project.er

‘Does your mother know?’ Agency, risk and morality in the online lives of young women in Mumbai

Manjima Bhattacharjya and Maya Ganesh, the India partner of the APC's EroTICs Project, open their input with the evocative lyrics of a Swedish pop group ABBA: “And I can chat with you baby / Flirt a little, maybe / But does your mother know that you’re out ?” This article is about middle-class women digital natives in Mumbai, the city with the highest internet use in India, and the initial impressions of their online lives as drawn from interviews and survey data gathered for the ongoing EroTICs research project.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Internet?

"Clearly, one cannot speak of sexual rights activism in Lebanon without speaking at length about internet usage, as both are tied together at levels from personal identity and relationships to political activism and mobilization," claims Nadine Moawad, the APC's EroTICs project partner. In this article, she assesses the role of the internet in the rise of sexual rights activism in Lebanon, and explores connections between internet regulations and attitudes towards sexuality.

Negotiating transgender identities on a South African web site

Jeanne Prinsloo, the APC's EroTICs project partner in South Africa, looks at the use of the internet by South African transgender people, and examines the internet's role in the process of transitioning from one gender identity to another. She concludes that the internet provides a critical space for trans people to access support, to rehearse their new identity, to hear marginalised narratives and to assess the risks they might take. Jeanne argues that calls for content regulation should not result in censorship and surveillance practices that would curtail the trans people's freedom of expression and their internet use.

What Is 'Harmful to Minors'? US EroTICs Partner Investigates Library Search Filters

In this article, Kevicha Echols and Melissa Ditmore from Sex Work Awareness (SWA), researchers for the APC's EroTICs project, investigate the use of filters on public library computers with internet access. People in the United States (US) enjoy a great deal of access to information in print and online media due to the first amendment of the US constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, and, thereby, its flip side, access to information. However, many people in the US, particularly youth and the economically disadvantaged (who are disproportionately people of colour), rely on school and library computers to access the internet for information, so legislation affecting information available on these computers affects their ability to access information. (Photo: Audacia Ray)

Internet regulation and the Brazilian EroTICs context

Authors Sonia Corrêa, Marina Maria and Jandira Queiroz document how gender and sexuality have been at the heart of internet regulation debates in Brazil. However, this centrality does not necessarily translate to the discourses, analysis and the political claims of social actors involved in sexual politics, on the one hand, and digital politics, on the other. In the authors' view, there is no clarity or positioning among feminists and LGBT activists regarding the ways in which gender and sexuality issues are at play in the political dynamics of internet regulation. Further no strong interaction exists between communication rights advocates and the world of sexual politics. Nevertheless the authors perceive cyber activists' commitment to privacy rights as very auspicious for sexual and reproductive rights.

How to look at censorship with a gender lens

Heike Jensen and Sonia Randhawa, APC WRP members participating in a gender team of the OpenNet Initiative in Asia (ONI-Asia), talk about how censorship and gender interrelate. Since 2006, APC WRP has taken a closer look at internet censorship and surveillance practices from a gender perspective in order to develop a gender research framework for examining freedom of expression, security and privacy for ONI project partners in Asia, as well as future research initiatives that are looking into the area of content regulation. ONI-Asia is part of a larger OpenNet Initiative, a collaborative project that aims to investigate, expose and analyse internet filtering and surveillance practices.