A family friend had a baby this morning! Yay! My five year old was quite put out that he was not able to watch the baby being born. As a consolation prize, I promised to YouTube some birth videos for him in lieu of tonight’s bedtime stories. I had a nice set of links emailed to me for my women’s health class by a local birth attendant, so I started with those. I vaguely knew that some of them required you to click through and say you were not a minor in order to watch – a fact about which my students rightly grumbled. Tonight after the kid’s bedtime, I did a little more investigation into the “potentially inappropriate” YouTube content situation.
What was it about the childbirth videos that made them potentially inappropriate?
To divine the answer, I tried searching for non-human birth videos. Cat, dog, monkey, elephant, sheep, panda, dolphin, seal, killer whale, angel shark, royal white tiger, and kangaroo, all came up just fine and barrier-free.
But when you search just childbirth or “human childbirth,” the videos tend to be marked with:
This video or group may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube’s user community.
To view this video or group, please verify you are 18 or older by logging in or signing up.
Then – and this is the best part, in my opinion – once you are past the warning page and watching the video, there is a header that says
This video may not be suitable for minors.
Is there any other event that human beings universally experience (as minors, nonetheless) besides being born?
You can do it, you just can’t see it/learn about it? This is a problem. Especially considering that a lot of people give birth before the age of 18.
What makes human birth potentially inappropriate? Is is the semi- (or sometimes full) nudity? The presence (sometimes clearly seen, sometimes just clearly implied by the fact that a baby came from that general area) of a human vulva & vagina?
Going with the vagina theory, I tried searching “Caeserean.” Caeserean birth videos carry no warning. It’s totally fine to show major surgery, blood & guts, seemingly-headless bodies with babies being extracted through large incisions by bloody gloved hands (often also from seemingly-headless medical staff). But not *gasp* a vagina through which a baby us naturally passing the way babies have passed since the beginning of humanity!
Like most of my stories, this one gets weirder still. You know how YouTube lists “related” videos to the one you’re watching, along the sidebar? I linked from Ceasearean birth to “toddlers nursing,” which I was pleasantly surprised to find free of the above 18-or-over warning.
Than, I linked from toddlers nursing to “breastfeeding video,” which – for some reason – has the videos titled “shaved asian has multiple orgasms” and “I’M 15 AND I’VE SLEPT WITH MEN OVER 300 TIMES!” listed as related. Hrm…social tagging is great and all, but someone needs a little authority control or something there.
Neither of the above videos (“shaved asian…” or “I’m 15…”) carried the 18-or-over warning. Neither shows any full nudity or uncovered vaginas, just plenty of sexual talk and innuendo; perhaps that is why. Would I rather have my kindergartener watching a video of someone’s homebirth, or a talk show excerpt in which a 15-year old girl is interrogated about her sexual activities? Are my values that out of touch? If I ever needed a clear example of the old “what is offensive to you is a miracle to me (and possibly vice versa)” principle, there it is on YouTube.
On principle I don’t like making anyone register with a site to be allowed to watch certain videos. It’s like hiding the sex books behind the desk, even if you allow them to circulate to those who come ask for them, making then technically “available.” I understand that websites may have liability concerns, though, and why they might attempt to have some sort of nominal barrier to underage viewing of certain types of material.
I’m aware that YouTube has this process wherein viewers can tag a video as potentially inappropriate for minors, and then eventually someone on staff is supposed to review those videos and remove them if they truly are offensive. I was vaguely aware of this from previous allegations of censorship of certain political views. Apparently they also took down a bunch of birth and breastfeeding videos last fall, but are perhaps no longer doing so now? I guess just keeping the kids out of birth is now a satisfactory solution. Hrm.
It just makes me feel sad to see where these lines get drawn. Sad, but also fortunate, to be in a library community that generally supports its members in resisting such line-drawing. Um, so remind me not to go work for YouTube/Google, okay? I like my intellectual freedom. And my kid’s.