I have a friend who didn’t know there was porn on tumblr. He really didn’t know! Until I told him that as of Dec. 17 tumblr would no longer have porn. Today, the social media platform that I like to say is what would be produced if twitter and wordpress had a baby, announced a sweeping change. It’s no longer supporting ‘adult content’.
This comes on the heels of the App Store removing tumblr do to a child pornography scandal. That type of content should very much be removed from the site. In response, tumblr is ending most types of porn for everyone.
What is “adult content?”
Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content — including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations — that depicts sex acts.
What is still permitted?
[…] Written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations, are also stuff that can be freely posted on Tumblr.
For all the details on ‘sensitive content’, you can get more info here.
What the hell are female-presenting nipples? Who decides if your nipples are sufficiently female-presenting? I’ve definitely seen cis-men with larger nipples. Are these banned as well? What about smaller chested women? Or trans-woman who haven’t had implants? There are so many variations of nipples that could be female-presenting or not. It’s about time we #freethenipple.
Others have wondered why written erotica is ok but not visual content. An even bigger concern is that it’s only a matter of time before written content is targeted as well. It seems like it would be easier to target written content because crawling text for keywords deemed inappropriate is much easier than determining which images or video are ok or not.
I’m confident porn will find other corners of the internet to hide out. The bigger concern is amateur creators, illustrators, and yes fan work, that isn’t quite porn being targeted. To me, it seems like we could have a better way to handle all this. Perhaps, tumblr could require tagging or rating of adult content. This would allow users who do not wish to see this content to block those tags while allowing creators the freedom to create. Social media platforms have always struggled with censorship and creative freedom. Archive of Our Own, a writing non-profit site consisting of primarily of fanfiction, tackles this better than any site I’ve seen. They have a rating system, an extensive categorization and tagging system, and an army of volunteers to moderate content. They can do this precisely because they are a non-profit.
If I’m honest, I don’t watch or view very much visual porn on tumblr. But some images I’ve seen or stories I’ve read walk the line. This is what concerns. Who determines what is ultimately a matter of taste? Like anything else some adult content is not great, some promotes harmful stereotypes or practices. Other adult content is striving to be better, more inclusive, more female positive. Blanket bans punish the worst offenders and also punish those trying to make the whole space healthier.
It would be nice to get to a point where ‘adult content’ wasn’t a big deal. But this is North America (the US and Canada) and in NA, we have trouble talking openly about sex. Of course, a blanket ban is easier than educating creators on how to use a rating feature or proper tagging. It’s easier than educating young people about healthy ‘adult content’ or working with creators to make better content. Tumblr could pave the way. They won’t and that’s a shame.
‘Adult content’ will move somewhere else and then somewhere else and somewhere else. Years from now, who knows where folks will be viewing porn. So much for the good times on tumblr. I wonder if there will be a day when I tell my grandkids about all the dirty videos you could watch on the internet?