How Google influences our relationship with sexuality


A little less than a year ago, when you typed the word “lesbian” into the Google search bar, you only came across pornographic sites.
Videos, pictures, news, anything that was listed on the search engine with the word “lesbian” was associated with pornography. The one and only representation of love between two women was strictly sexual, and by the way, distorted by the heterosexual male prism.
After a wave of media mobilization behind the #SEOLesbienne collective, Google has finally tweaked its algorithm to make news, press and associations appear on the front page.

Google, the preserve of “heterosexual standards”

Am I a lesbian? “,” am I obsessed? “,” am i asexual? “,” homosexuality vs straight test »… Using Google has become a reflex to find the answer to these questions, especially among young people.
Almost 80% of them say they have already searched the Internet for information about sexual practices, reports the “SEXI” survey for “SEXuality, Internet”, conducted by two sociologists from the National Institute for Youth and Popular Education (INJEP), published in 2018.
But, in the event that a young girl is wondering about her sexuality and when she types “lesbian” on Google she only finds images that are explicitly sexual, what does that imply? What is the individual impact? Is there a societal impact?

In general, the Internet, and Google in particular, only reflect our relationship to the world, and therefore to sexuality. ” They are a mirror of social norms, that is to say of what isnormalandacceptable“”, Explains Caroline Janvre, psychologist and sexologist, specialist in health promotion. Consequence: this reinforces the “normative” character of our sexuality mediated on the Web.

Google, source of discomfort for “deviants”

On the other side of the ” mirror “, the ” deviant “, Those who do not follow this standard, may find themselves” locked up “In stereotypes – or worse to be totally” invisible “.
Back then (and sometimes still today), there were two possibilities on the Internet: either the word “lesbian” was banned, or it had a pejorative connotation. », Remembers Fanchon Mauyaudon-Courtel, founder of the movement cyberhackivist #SEOLesbian.
I did not recognize myself in these representations! “This over-sexualization and / or marginalization of lesbianism is the perfect example of the ban on sexual practices” out of the ordinary “.

Over the pages of results on Google, the images she judges ” dehumanizing Continued to parade under his totally scandalized eyes.
At the individual level, the damage can be colossal. ” Mental, physical and even social health “Of the individual are in danger, explains the sex therapist.
The main danger is to internalize homophobia. In other words: integrate shame, guilt, no longer having self-esteem, endangering one’s physical integrity, by exposing oneself to violence or taking risks during sex, for example. Which can result in the total isolation of the individual … without knowing why.

Google, a biased sex shop?

And like the media, movies, books, websites for the most part show “normalized sexuality” – therefore heterosexual – it is difficult to ” determine the source of the discomfort She continues. ” Just because you’ve never read, seen, seen other examples of what it feels like, you can’t tell where it came from. The power of the standard is that it is insidious. In the end, what you don’t see doesn’t exist, as long as you don’t name it “.

Now, naming, referencing, sorting millions of web pages is Google’s primary task. This categorization according to keywords is done from a body of “benevolent neutrality” documents – most of them from Wikipedia pages. Today there is a ” lesbianism “On Wikipedia, but no” lesbian “page while there is a” gay “.
The reason ? Only 12% of contributors are women, according to figures from the Free Digital Encyclopedia. This lack of diversity inevitably reproduces the biases already present in our society.

If the eye of Google conditions, it also impoverishes our imagination. If such and such a thing is only represented in a uniform, fixed and rigid way, how can we know that behind the word “homosexuality” hides a plurality of realities, personalities, couples. Otherwise, the message sent is as follows: ” You do not exist, you are not worth to exist or only in this form.

Google, a “room of your own”

Correctly listing all sexualities is therefore a public health issue, but also a personal development issue. In the sociological study SEXI, the two sociologists show that, for 18-22 year olds, the “room”, a personal physical place, has lost its importance in favor of the “ddevelopment of an intimate dematerialized space, where items of privacy, similar to a diary, can be stored […] made possible by the widespread use of smartphones. “So that provided it is equipped, Google can become a huge playground, on condition of anonymity, a” own room “.

What types of experiments? And why do ? The same sociological survey reveals that the Internet makes it possible to ” take liberties with social assignments: masquerading as someone older or the opposite sex in discussions, talking about practices they would not talk about apart from online anonymity “.
Have the opportunity to be someone else. For example, a girl who wants to watch porn may pose as a boy, on whom the moral ban will weigh less.

The Internet can also be used to “prepare” for changes in identity, one of the resolutely contemporary themes, before sharing them with relatives. Some testify ” pathways of young homo-, bi- or transsexuals, but also in the pathways of young people with practices that do not conform to their social or family environment “, Reveals the SEXI study.

Google, a weapon to become visible

Google has the power to make the invisible visible. Because we see discrimination, we name it, we can better fight it. Information is accessible to everyone, as is mobilization. ” VSis a weapon with enormous potential », Emphasizes the psychologist. The #SEOLesbienne activists know this.
Last year, Google bowed to their mobilization behind #HackonsGoogle, which ignited social networks. Faced with the pressure, the search engine had to repair this algorithmic inequity while the warning messages sent directly to the company had been ignored until then.

Despite everything, the fight for equality continues. On Facebook, the word “lesbian” is still banned. ” We had to request a waiver to create our official page », Is still surprised the activist Fanchon Mauyaudon-Courtel.
On Google, some change the “s” for a “z”, bypassing the now corrected algorithm. Sure YouTube, different treatment for LGBTQ + videographers are still being denounced. And the list of grievances is growing. On the search engine, transgender people are still the target of degrading representations, just like the gay community, no information (or almost) is yet available on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) between lesbians … Fanchon Mauyaudon-Courtel smiles: “ In fact, there is everything to create, it’s super stimulating! “.

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