As I write this, sipping a chestnut praline latte at my local Starbucks, I know I’m living on borrowed time.
Last week, Starbucks caved to pressure from an anti-porn organization and announced that starting in 2019, they will be blocking “pornography and illegal content” on their wifi networks. This, of course, means the salacious and utterly disgraceful sex toy review blog you are currently reading will likely become inaccessible.
Then yesterday, Tumblr hammered the final nail in the coffin of their increasingly-aggressive crusade against adult content, stating that such content will no longer be allowed on the platform. Yeah, on Tumblr, the world’s leading supplier of porn GIFs.
What fucking year is this? 1992? Have you been on the internet? Or even your own goddamn website?
Tumblr’s blog post about the changes is called “A better, more positive Tumblr.” Gag me with a spoon. It’s filled with lip service over their so-called “community” and how much better it will be without bad actors like me. “Without this [adult] content,” the blog post states, “we have the opportunity to create a place where more people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” That’s… not how censorship goes. But sure, I love seeing my work and that of my peers deemed not welcoming or safe. Cool.
Their new policy defines “adult content” just as sloppily as you’d expect:
Don’t upload images, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples — this includes content that is so photorealistic that it could be mistaken for featuring real-life humans (nice try, though). Certain types of artistic, educational, newsworthy, or political content featuring nudity are fine. Don’t upload any content, including images, videos, GIFs, or illustrations, that depicts sex acts.
“Female-presenting nipples,” AS THOUGH NIPPLES HAVE GENDER IDENTITIES.
I’m so fucking tired of this. I’m so tired of dredging up the same arguments, trying desperately to distill my rage in a constructive way. Not only because this affects my livelihood and my friends’ livelihoods, and because it disproportionately hurts POC and marginalized people, but because it’s such an ass-backwards approach to solving the “problem.” We know the “just filter the bad stuff” tactic is impossible to implement at best and completely ineffectual at worst, so why are we still doing it?
Oh right, because sex. That’s how we handle sex in this country. By ridiculing, demonizing, and burying it. By plugging our ears and yelling LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU.
I mean, if sex ed classes literally taught kids that sex can be pleasurable it would already be a dream come true. Adding discussions of consent, or accurate diagrams of the clitoris, would be groundbreaking. But when I think about sex ed in America, sometimes I go further and fantasize about implementing a program that teaches porn literacy. Like, what would the world be like if young people were exposed to queer, feminist porn? Imagine it. Imagine kids learning that sex is an incredible range of activities, not any one act. That communicating during sex isn’t scary. That all bodies and gender expressions are equally valid. That sex toys and safer sex practices are nothing to be ashamed of.
What if we taught young people how to consume porn, rather than acting like they’ll never watch it?
Instead, I’ve watched Instagram ban feminist sex shops and sex workers, heard horror stories of PayPal shutting down accounts. Big payment processors have closed so-called “high risk” accounts of porn performers. YouTube sees fit to hide and demonetize LGBTQ videos. Facebook and Instagram constantly badger me to boost my posts, then refuse to take my dirty dirty money. It’s the same story: spineless corporations puffing themselves up, making a moral statement, acting like they’re protecting our innocent children. Lumping sex tirelessly, lazily, with violence. The passage of SESTA/FOSTA has only allowed these efforts to be more brazen.
As I was writing this, my Starbucks companion Amy said, “it’s like they want to uninvent sex.” Yes. It’s exactly like that.
All of us in the industry, we have stories. For a long time, despite having a verified account, I was shadow-banned on Twitter and invisible in all their searches. In 2011, Facebook disabled my account for the irredeemable offense of using a photo of a cup of coffee and a bullet vibrator as my avatar. A couple years later, I fell victim to their fucked up “real name policy.” To regain access to my account, I was forced to upload my government-issued ID, which was then used to re-name my blogging account to my legal name.
Once, I found myself on the phone with a man at Amazon, desperately trying to convince him to re-instate my affiliate account after I violated it by having nudity in my sidebar advertisements. (It was nipples. I guess they must’ve been “female-presenting” nipples.)
And I’ve been lucky.
But that’s what it’s like to exist in an industry that the rest of the world considers nefarious. We have to choose our blog hosting companies carefully, lest we inadvertently violate their terms of service. Crop and censor our photos. Make copious back-ups of our content. Juggle multiple social media platforms, since relying on any one platform would be too dangerous. We live knowing that our fan bases that we’ve built from years and years of work, the communities we’ve fostered, and our sources of income could be yanked out from under us at any moment.
We’re never really safe, not on any platform. Will my site be blacklisted? Will my dildos count as photorealistic? Who knows!
So if you like the work of people in the sex industry, be sure to follow us — and this week, that probably means away from Tumblr. Remember that these systems are against us. Support us however you can: subscribe to our work directly, interact with our social media posts, buy from our affiliate links, comment on and share our stuff, and please please please, pay for your porn.