Your virginity for Net neutrality
Activists use sex to bring attention to an issue many know nothing about

May 2, 2008
by Helen A.S. Popkin

Tania Derveaux is young and beautiful and she wants your attention. And thanks to her first two attributes, odds are she won’t have a tough time getting it. But just to make sure, she’s posing nearly nude online and making an offer to those less-experienced Internet enthusiasts of the world.

According to the text next to Tania’s image, “I will make love with every virgin who defends the Internet.”

It’s brilliant, really. Most people stumbling upon Tania’s generous offer and appealing image — chaste or no — don’t realize the Internet needs defending. When it comes to Net neutrality, the average everyday Facebook-posting-eBay-bidding-chat-room-trolling-Google-stalking-porn-downloading Joe or Josephine doesn’t even know what Net neutrality is, let alone care. As spokesperson for the Belgium-based activist group I Power, Tania says she wants to change that.

While nerdlingers argue the specifics, and the Federal Communications Commission convenes over legislation, basically Net neutrality is the Internet Prime Directive — that all Web traffic is created equal and providers should not hamper or favor any cyber entity on its journey to or from the end user. But as many a virgin’s learned from Captain Kirk, prime directives are easily and often broken. So it goes with Net neutrality.

“Net neutrality is paramount to safeguard free speech and innovation on the Internet,” Tania's statement continues. “With only one arguably negative side-effect: an unusual amount of today's Internet users are virgin (sic). That's a problem I intend to solve. In history, man has always waged war for freedom. Now it's time to obtain our freedom with love.”

This isn’t the first time I Power’s spokeskitten has offered sexual access for activism, and the way it’s gone in the past, don’t bank on her actually doing anyone any favors. As I Power’s candidate in the 2007 Belgian general election, Tania offered um … oral sex … as a pun on creating 40,000 jobs. The non-act was later “completed” via a video in which Tania’s “assistant” mimed the gesture to a camera lens.

I Power’s “Don’t Stay A Virgin” campaign is just as punny. It plays on a recent statement by Virgin Media CEO, Neil Berkett, who is quoted in an interview as saying Net neutrality is “a load of bollocks” and as I Power adds, Virgin, among other companies, is already working on deals to make some content to move faster.

So, you know, it’s humorous. Plus, sex gets attention, as I Power obviously knows. There’s just no beatin’ 200,000 years of evolution. If you happen to stumble upon Tania Derveaux’s barter as it rises through the Digg rank and file, you’re going to click even if you don’t qualify.

If you get past the home page, it quickly becomes obvious that “Don’t Stay a Virgin” isn’t another piece of provocative Internet nonsense. The group’s editorial-style videos, released weekly on YouTube, reveal I Power’s five-person coalition of 20-something idealists, disarmingly earnest in their cause.

In an e-mail conversation, Web master Reese Leysen reinforced the group’s sincerity.

“If tomorrow a bunch of ISP's would suddenly drastically limit their service, there would be a huge outcry right away,” he wrote. “But the Internet will transform to a television-like model over a course of maybe ten years or more and this evolution will be something that seems to make sense in the beginning but that will ultimately leave us with nothing of the freedom and openness that we have today.”

So while a lot of people may’ve been introduced to Net neutrality through Tania’s assets and offer, Reese wrote that from what he’s noticed in reactions to I Power’s campaign, people are concerned about the issue once they learn what it is. According to Reese, I Power’s received over two million views on their Net neutrality YouTube videos and the site is swamped daily with thousands of e-mails from all over the world, not to mention comments left on the site and YouTube.

Some of the reactions are what you’d expect from the Internets.

There’s the guy who e-mailed the “Don't Stay a Virgin” Web site with the request that Tania “come over to make love to him,” and also kick and punch him in his genitals.

Also, Reese wrote, there are the offers Tania’s received from “very rich people who then offer her a luxurious house on some exotic location and who offer to pay for all expenses to help her move and come live there.”

But mostly, Reese assured, people want to know more about Net neutrality. Though you can be pretty sure that Tania’s near nudity isn’t driving anyone away.

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