Body as Data

://EROTICS exploratory research on sexuality, rights and the internet

What is ://EROTICS

The EROTICS project looks at the impact of regulatory frameworks and control mechanisms on the actual lived practices, experiences and concerns of LGBTQI activists, sexual rights and women's right defenders in the exercise of their sexual rights as internet users

EROTICS network is a global network of more than 50 activists, academics and organisations working on sexuality issues

The question of Data

Data as bits of the selves transferred, stored , exposed, meshed up and morphed. Bits that need to be controlled and secured at continuous risks of being lost, robbed.

Key Concepts

Big data: Vast datasets containing social media data, machine data or transactional data that can be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and predictions about human behaviour and social life.

Metadata: Information describing other data; in the context of email, telephone calls or instant messaging, metadata includes the sender, receiver, devices, locations, service providers, IP addresses, time, length or size of a message.

Key concepts

Dataveillance: Combines data and surveillance to describe systematic data-based surveillance practices that involve sorting and aggregating large quantities of data to monitor, track and regulate people and populations.

Assemblage: the intersecting nature of institutions and processes at work in abstracting and reassembling bodies through data, and the fluid socio-technical, economic and political contexts that data and surveillance are embedded in.

  • Map use of the internet to advance SRHR work
  • Document types of risks, content regulation or censorship
  • Document responses and strategies
  • Look at policy questions

Global Survey

EROTICS Survey 2017

Three main topics:

  • The internet as a means of sexual expression;
  • Situations of surveillance, censorship and online harassment;
  • Resistance strategies


Total respondents: 332

  • 86% of the respondents define themselves as cis:
    • 61% as cis women
    • 25% as cis men.

Trans and intersex population (20 cases), mostly trans men respondents (nine cases)

  • Majority of them live in Africa (10 cases) and Latin America and Caribbean (6 cases).


Sexual orientation


  • 74% of respondents are between 18 and 39 years old
    • 39% between 18 to 29 years old,
    • 36% between 30 to 39 years old,
  • 15% are between 40 and 49 years old


  • 81% of the sample suffered at least one kind of discrimination

The most frequent types of discrimination are based firstly on:

  • 26% social class/caste,
  • 20% followed by ethnicity,
  • 19% colour of skin,
  • 19% sexual orientation


Internet use


Use highlights

  • 98% social networks
  • 92% instant messaging and email,
  • 89% other websites
  • 87% blogs
  • 85% hosting services

Instant messaging, email & social networks

Instant messaging

  • 90% WhatsApp ,
  • 37% Messenger


  • 87% Gmail,
  • 15% Hotmail

Social Networks

  • 94% Facebook,
  • 27% Instagram


Most frequent:

  • 75% harassment
  • 63% intimidating online comments
  • 54% blocked website or filtering software that prevented the user from accessing information


Africa is the region where these situations are most frequently reported by activists.

Power over sexual expression

The actors the respondents identified as the ones which have more power to influence, limit or monitor expressions regarding sexuality are:

  • 66% government/state
  • 64% internet providers
  • 40% peers, people that they know. 



Situations of surveillance and censorship are commonly experienced.

  • 43% was intensively followed on social media by other people in a way that made them feel uncomfortable or even unsafe

Strategies of resistance

strategies of resistance against surveillance, censorship and threats:

  • 70% diverse technical responses
  • 48% non-confrontational solutions
  • 29% political, social and/or legal strategies