Ben Cohen, the former England rugby player and star of BBC TV’s “Strictly Come Dancing” has called in his lawyers following the appearance of an online video of him (as the newspapers put it) “pleasuring himself”. It appears that Ben was recorded whilst taking part in a sexual video Skype call.
He is not alone. Other celebrities have had “sex tapes” released online, either by disgruntled former partners, by mistake, or by criminals. Indeed, a fairly regular online crime is to entice people into believing they are having an online relationship, then to get them to engage in a video phone call whilst performing a sex act and then to blackmail them in order to prevent the tape from being made public.
Ten years ago such activity was not possible. Indeed, group video calling was only possible a couple of years ago on Skype and uploading videos to YouTube didn’t really start until 2006. Even if you had a video recorded of you engaging in some sexual activity, the chances of it being shared were remote. Nowadays, a celebrity can masturbate in front of a partner on Skype and the recording can be shared and viewed by millions before they’ve put their pants back on.
The question is not really why do people share such videos, but why do people so easily get enticed into having a video made of themselves during sex. After all, these people are not porn stars who make a choice to earn a living having sex in front of the camera. The people who get their sex tapes shared are TV stars, actors, and more frequently what you might call “ordinary folk”.
Why do people want their sexual activity recorded?
Sometimes, of course, the person masturbating on a Skype call is not aware the video is being recorded. They think they are just taking part in a shared sexual activity and they are doing it because they enjoy it. Others do want the video recorded; they might want to see themselves, or they may want to engage in other sexual activity watching the video with a partner. There are countless motivations for wanting to record yourself.
The problem during sexual activity is that you are largely out of control. Your mind is completely taken over by emotion and logical thought isn’t possible. Indeed, the parts of your brain that are active are those involved in pleasure, emotion and pain. Those grimaces people make when having an orgasm – they arrive because of the involvement of pain centres in your brain; you pull a similar face when you stub your toe…!
While your brain is busy devoting most of its resources to pleasure and emotion and your body’s blood supply is diverted to your sexual organs and your skin, your normal functioning is set aside for a while. You cannot think straight.
So, if you are being video recorded you have no way of imagining what might happen if the recording is shared. You cannot even consider the consequences of the video getting into the wrong hands. Or, worse, what might happen if your children see it online. None of those thoughts arise, because your brain is far too busy making you feel great.
When your brain stops thinking
It is not only during sex that your brain stops thinking. It fails to operate your logical senses during other times of high emotion. You cannot think straight when angry, for instance, nor can you get your brain into gear when you are laughing out loud. Whenever a major emotion is in play, your brain shuts down its ability to help you think logically.
This means that you are liable to make online mistakes when emotional. You are really happy, record a selfie and publish it online to “show the world” what a fab time you are having. Of course, if you had been thinking logically you wouldn’t do that because the image reveals where you are and who you are with, which might not be too good an idea if you are meant to be somewhere else, like at work…!
Similarly, you get really angry at something you have heard on the radio and you lash out with a Tweet venting your spleen. With the ability to think logically you wouldn’t have done so because the angry Tweet could damage your business reputation, for example.
The emotional Internet is a problem
These days, the Internet allows you to engage in a great deal of emotional activity – from sex acts to showing how angry you have become over some injustice. The problem is that whatever emotional state you are in, you cannot think logically about the consequences of what you are doing online. It is not just celebrities having sex tapes exposed, but ordinary folk losing jobs because of what they say online or insurance companies determining your risks according to what you say on Facebook, amongst many other potential problems.
So what can you do about this? You cannot control your emotions, whatever you might like to think. But you can control your logical thinking. So the time to think logically about the consequences of emotional activity online is before you engage in such activity. Think about the problems that you might have if you have a video sex call; for some people it will be an issue if the recording is public, for others it will not be a worry. Similarly, think about what might happen if you are “Mr Angry” on Twitter. If that is going to be a reputational risk, then avoiding Twitter when emotional is what you need to make a habit.
The Internet is awash with emotional potential. The only way to avoid the problems this might cause is to consider the impact of using such emotional technologies before you use them, because when you are using them, you cannot think.