Alexander Monea at Harvard Book Store
The Digital Closet:
How the Internet Became Straight
April 13, 2022
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes ALEXANDER MONEA, assistant professor of English and Cultural Studies at George Mason University, for a discussion of his book The Digital Closet: How the Internet Became Straight.
About The Digital Closet
In The Digital Closet, Alexander Monea argues provocatively that the internet became straight by suppressing everything that is not, forcing LGBTQIA+ content into increasingly narrow channels—rendering it invisible through opaque algorithms, automated and human content moderation, warped keywords, and other strategies of digital overreach. Monea explains how the United States’ thirty-year “war on porn” has brought about the over-regulation of sexual content, which, in turn, has resulted in the censorship of much nonpornographic content—including material on sex education and LGBTQIA+ activism. In this wide-ranging, enlightening account, Monea examines the cultural, technological, and political conditions that put LGBTQIA+ content into the closet.
Monea looks at the anti-porn activism of the alt-right, Christian conservatives, and anti-porn feminists, who became strange bedfellows in the politics of pornography; investigates the coders, code, and moderators whose work serves to reify heteronormativity; and explores the collateral damage in the ongoing war on porn—the censorship of LGBTQ+ community resources, sex education materials, art, literature, and other content that engages with sexuality but would rarely be categorized as pornography by today’s community standards. Finally, he examines the internet architectures responsible for the heteronormalization of porn: Google Safe Search and the data structures of tube sites and other porn platforms.
Monea reveals the porn industry’s deepest, darkest secret: porn is boring. Mainstream porn is stuck in a heteronormative filter bubble, limited to the same heteronormative tropes, tagged by the same heteronormative keywords. This heteronormativity is mirrored by the algorithms meant to filter pornographic content, increasingly filtering out all LGBTQIA+ content. Everyone suffers from this forced heteronormativity of the internet—suffering, Monea suggests, that could be alleviated by queering straightness and introducing feminism to dissipate the misogyny.
Praise for The Digital Closet
“This page-turner takes its place alongside books by Mar Hicks, Safiya Noble, Ruha Benjamin, and other leading scholars who endeavor to tell a more honest story of how computing has not delivered on its liberatory promise—at least not for women, people of color, or gay, trans, and queer people. So just who is left that this internet is for?” —Sarah T. Roberts, author of Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media
“Alexander Monea’s The Digital Closet powerfully dissects technolibertarian hypocrisy, revealing the heteronormative biases built into our supposedly neutral information tools and platforms that police sexuality and marginalize LGBTQIA+ users.” —Mar Hicks, author of Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing
“Richly sourced and accessible, The Digital Closet is an exercise in pornoliteracy, offering a compelling reading of the internet as structurally heteronormative.” —Shaka McGlotten, author of Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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