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Code Babes: Programming site that 'leverages sexual desire' sparks outrage online

Coding site derided as an embodiment of tech's sexism problem

A new website that promises to teach people to code by ‘leveraging sexual desire’ has been branded “the worst thing on the internet this week” and the embodiment of “everything wrong with tech culture” – although no-one's sure if it’s a spoof.

Launched last week, CodeBabes features a string of short videosintroducing users to coding disciplines including HTML, CSS and PHP. Each is presented by a “babe” who, the site promises, will remove articles of clothing as the user progresses through various tests.

From the site: “Watch the lesson, absorb the info, pass the quiz, and your instructor removes one piece of clothing.” Additional instructions hidden away under the ‘Our Philosophy’ section charmingly encourages users to take a break and masturbate “when it gets too fast”.

We emailed the site's creators to confirm whether Code Babes was created with serious intent or as an elaborate spoof lampooning the sexist culture of Silicon Valley, but – like many other media outlets – we've yet to receive a reply.

Unfortunately, the amount of effort that went into creating CodeBabes (as well as the defensive pleas of “can’t you take a joke?” strewn around the site) suggest that this might actually be the real deal, with an associated Twitter account supporting this interpretation by carping that “the media has blown “Code Babes” out of perspective […] but we can't complain too much about all the attention ;)”

Silicon Valley’s persistent sexism covers a range of ills from executives who happily tweet thoughts like “Who has more dedication, ambition, and drive? Kobe only raped one girl, Lebron raped an entire city. +1 for Lebron” to the straightforward under-representation of women in the industry (a study by Tray Chou, a software engineer at Pinterest, found that on average women make up 12 per cent of tech company’s engineers).

"If we’ve offended anyone, that's really not our goal, we hope there are bigger problems in the world for people to worry about,” reads CodeBabe's 'philosophy'. To which we say sure, there are bigger problems in the world, but that doesn't magically make sexism okay, nor does it excuse the creation of a site where the women are only 'useful' as objects of sexual titillation for men.

As the blogger Amanda Levendowski put it: "In a way, it doesn’t matter whether Codebabes is fake or real. Not knowing whether a site like this is fake is a problem unto itself: We live in a world where it is conceivable that someone could have an idea for this website, build it, and publish it to the public."