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Lazy Guide to Net Culture: NSFW

If you want to appear like you’re at the cutting edge of net culture but can’t be bothered to spend hours online, then never fear. Scotsman.com’s pathetic team of geeks, freaks and gimps will do the hard work for you. While you sip wine, read a book or engage in normal social interaction, they will burn out their retinas staring at badly designed web pages and dodge creeps in chatrooms to prepare for you: Scotsman.com’s lazy guide to net culture.

One of the challenges of writing a column about net culture is dealing with the internet's more unsavoury elements. And, boy, are there a lot of unsavoury elements.

I'm talking here about those images and sites that are usually linked to with the acronym NSFW.

This stands for "not safe for work", meaning the link points at material that is likely to offend co-workers and could lead to your being hauled before your company's IT manager and skinned alive.

As well as the perverse, obscene and downright illegal, there are some truly foul NSFW sites that have become internet icons.

How does a writer deal with them? It would be failing in one's journalistic duty to pretend that vile and gross things do not have an important online role. But how can one delicately write about things that are essentially indelicate, to say the least?

How does one describe and link to sites that would permanently scar someone of a nervous disposition, anyone under the age of 18 (or in some case 38) or any individual who has eaten recently?

In other words, how can I describe something like goatse and its ilk without causing offence?

OK, I can't.

Look away now if you're a normal human being equipped with common decency.

Goatse is an image of a man bending forward. To be more exact goatse is an image of a naked man bending forward. To be even more exact goatse is an image of an unusally flexible naked man bending forward.

Flinging all coyness out of the window, goatse is an image of an unusally flexible naked man bending forward displaying to the camera sections of his digestive tract normally seen only by food.

Quite why this became an online cult baffles me and makes me wonder if we wouldn’t be better advised to start relying on typewriters and telephones again.

Goatse started out as a shock-site - a charming field of net life whereby a "friend" would send you a link described as "a lovely kitten" or "that picture I took of your mum" which, when followed, would lead to the above described image of a strange man's distended ilium (NB: this is entirely different from the epic poem that inspired the film Troy).

There are many such unpleasant places on the web and you can find comprehensive details of them on the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

But goatse has a dedicated following, so imagine the hue and cry when the site featuring the image, www.goatse.cx, was taken down by the Christmas Island Internet Administration. This was prompted by a complaint by a resident, apparently called Rhonda Clarke.

If Ms Clarke did make the complaint, and is the Rhonda Clarke in this photo, then she has become extraordinarily unpopular in some quarters.

Some 12,000 people have signed an online petition stating: "On the 14th of Janurary 2004 goatse was robbed from the on-line community in a direct act of disrespect to all believers of free speech. As a form of protest we have signed this petition and wish to see this internet icon restored to its original domain."

While I fully support freedom of expression online, I'm not too bothered by www.goatse.cx being taken down. If you really want to find it (and believe me you don't) the image is hosted on lots of other sites.

It has also spawned hosts of NSFW imitations and homages, as listed at sam.zoy.org. There's even a fake interview with the goat man himself (nobody really knows who he is, aside from him and the poor demented soul who took the picture) at www.fc-uk.org.uk.

If all this perversion has turned your stomach (or turned it inside out if you're goatse) then why not unwind with an anti-shock site?

If you go to www.oralse.cx, you will see a stern warning at the top of the page: "The oralse.cx lawyer has informed us that we need a warning! So... if you are under the age of 18 or find this photograph offensive, please don't look at it. Thank you!"

The page is titled "sex kitten".

If you scroll down you see a picture called "pussy".

It shows a kitten playing in a field.

And its digestive system is exactly the way it should be.

 
 
 

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