Sexually Explicit Content in the Age of Empowerment and #metoo

You’ve heard the stories. A teacher gets fired for posting sexually explicit content online. An employee with a social media chock-full of misogynist jokes is suspected of harassment. Posts of a sexual nature tend to have consequences in the workplace, but to what degree? In a world where what used to be considered “softcore porn” is now awash in mainstream media, what does “sexually explicit” even mean anymore? For concerned prospective employees, what are the implications of a sexually-explicit filter on a social media report?

What is sexually explicit?

First off, when it comes to any content on a social media report, context is everything, especially when social media is concerned. It is far too easy to misinterpret online content directed at a certain audience, group of friends, or subculture. To that end, our Social Intel Reports will always involve a human touch: AI-powered software, no matter how advanced, still needs a human eye to interpret things in context. Our products are dedicated to making communication between an employee and employer better, not worse, which is why we take extra care in examining the context of every piece of content we review.That being said, “sexually explicit” content, by our parameters, is defined as imagery, video, or verbiage describing or implying acts of a sexual nature, especially when voiced in derogatory tones. This includes nudity and lewd comments but can also extend to innuendo that implies--visually or verbally--an act of a sexual nature.

But...sexual content is so common!

As social media platforms continue to saturate many fields, including entertainment and the arts, many users have protested how platforms censored sexually explicit material. Many younger users are simply more comfortable posting public photos of a sexual nature--be that artistic nude or otherwise. Highly sexualized entertainment is widely acceptable, widely disseminated via social media, and subsequently emulated by the average user. In 2021, the conversation is simply more complex: when mainstream society no longer considers sexual content as strictly negative, what does that mean for employees entering or navigating the corporate sector?

Sexually explicit content filters protect from sexual harassment too!

While this might feel old-fashioned or like an invasion of privacy for some candidates, It’s worth pointing out that a sexually explicit filter does not serve a singular purpose. Companies differ widely in how they evaluate sexually explicit content. For example, one company may not care about less-than-wholesome or “sexually liberated” content but may be concerned about predatory, illegal content like child pornography. A report containing reposted lewd photos or content could easily be ignored, or it could give an HR generalist valuable insight into that particular employee, especially if that behavior persists in the workplace.

Concerned about being fired? Have a values-driven conversation

For the prospective employee worried about their online content--and conversely, for companies wondering how to handle this particular type of red flag on a report--there are multiple ways of approaching various sexual content. To start, a red flag does not necessarily mean adverse action! A Social Intelligence Report provides material that generally falls under an area of concern. What an employer does is heavily dependent on their purview of employee behavior. When in doubt, both employer and employee need to refer to a company’s code of conduct--or even better, their social media policy (wondering what that is? Here’s a quick primer). What is the standard of professionalism for this industry, company, or particular position? Perhaps just as importantly, what are the values that drive that policy?A social media screening report doesn’t have to feel foreboding or punitive. Rather, these types of red flags might be reframed as a “teachable moment” to help both employee and employer come to a deeper understanding of a company’s values and workplace culture.

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