By Rebekah Frank, cohost of Welcome To My Vagina podcast
Ah, friends, what a world we live in. It’s a world where people dismiss Trump’s recorded admission of being a predator as harmless locker room talk but where we, a couple of feminists trying to sex educate people, get all our shit taken down because it violates some ever-changing, nonsensical community guidelines. It’s really enough to make you want to scream. Here is the latest installment of The Internet is a Hell Scape and We’re All Doomed.
Back in August, we posted a photo to our Instagram that was originally taken by @claudiasahuquillo (don’t worry, we credited it appropriately as we do with all the content that we repost from other sources. We’re not monsters!). While some of our content does probably toe the line of what is deemed appropriate by Instagram, this photo was really not of much concern. Want to see it? (Sorry it’s so big I tried forever to resize it and failed.)
Okay, review the image. Really look at it. What do you see? I see a person with breasts who is not wearing a shirt or a bra and who’s boobs — the nipples and areolas specifically — are obscured by body paint. Bearing that in mind, read the section of Instagram’s community guidelines that we are supposedly in violation of:
“We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples, but photos of post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding are allowed. Nudity in photos of paintings and sculptures is OK, too.”
Alright, so the first thing that I just want to get out of the way here is that Instagram’s community guidelines don’t have a problem with nipples full stop, they have a problem with female nipples exclusively. (The use of binary language here is also hugely problematic.) And the reason Instagram has problems with female nipples is that breasts are sexualized. Sure, nipples can be a very stimulating portion of foreplay and intercourse. In fact did you know that over 50% of men also get stimulated by nipple play? So it’s not the sexual gratification aspect of it that is at issue here. It is the fact that women’s nipples are deemed inappropriate and I would say they are deemed inappropriate because, for whatever reason, women’s nipples which look exactly like men’s nipples are considered sexy. The patriarchy is a real mother fucker.
But also, I have some questions about the mastectomy scaring portion of their guidelines. If a person gets a mastectomy then, what? Their breasts are no longer a threat to the delicate minds and eyes of the viewing public? Does this count for people who have had reconstruction? For people who have had nipples reattached or tattooed on? What, exactly, are the rules on this? They are, as are all community guidelines, intentionally vague.
Which leads me to wonder, what exactly about the above image violates the community guidelines as stated above? The breasts are not considered genitalia so that’s out. There is no closeup of a butt or sexual intercourse. And, (drum roll please) there are no nipples. Just breasts with cartoon eyeballs painted over the nipples and areolas. Or are cartoon eyeballs out now, too?