Tumblr’s recent announcement that it’s going to outlaw pornography, nudity and ‘female presenting nipples’ leaves me very conflicted.
For a start, It doesn’t take the biggest cynic in the world to see the potential relationship between their removal from the Apple app store and this sudden clamp down.
Don’t be in any doubt; I’m always going to agree with a platform that seeks to ban and remove content like child pornography. I don’t think there’s much to debate there. And there’s a lot to be done to protect young children from seeing content they shouldn’t. However, Tumblr has been slow to remove content that represents hate speech, in the many flavours it appears online these days.
So this appears a little…selective.
Additionally, their fast-approaching ban impacts not only pornography, but any form of nudity – except male nipples. So, what they term ‘female presenting nipples’ (a phrase I’d never thought I’d type, let along twice in one blog post) is problematic on a number of levels. But it reinforces the prudish stereotype that female nipples = sexual.
So they’re falling for the mistaken belief that any form of nudity is inherently sexual in nature. This I have a problem with. It’s a conservative perspective that isn’t universally accepted – are clothing optional beaches sexual? Are Europe’s many mixed-gender, naked saunas sexual? Or might it be that sexuality is in the eye of the beholder?
Because if you can sit in murderous heat, getting burnt by your own drops of sweat, and still lust after the hausfrau’s pendulous breasts opposite, then I suggest the problem sits with you. Not with the sauna and definitely not with the lady in question.
I’ve actually used Tumblr for many years. I have a sort of social media aggregator over there, fuelled by IFTTT – my site features all the posts from this blog, my Instagram masterpieces and some re-blogs of images I like, which mostly feature Japanese landscapes.
A ‘porn blogger’ I am not.
But I have no problem with Tumblr users sharing photos and content they’ve created. Want to show me a picture of your genitals? If I’m looking for that kind of content, that’s just super. Thanks for sharing. And such wonderful lighting! If I’m not, and I’m really after some pics of Tokyo’s skyline at night, then I’m going to need some kind of filter for the dick pics.
Which. Already. Exists.
And if I were a naturism blogger, whose content featured entire families having fun on the beach while naked, my content will be treated exactly the same as someone uploading porn they’ve stolen from other sites.
Tumblr’s lazy approach to this ban is flagging all sorts of content as NSFW and removing users’ entire blogs. When, for years, Tumblr has been a refuge for people who want to explore their sexuality and not go on sites that infect their computers with malware, or expose them to content they were most definitely not looking for.
Has Tumblr been paradise? Some sort of dick pic utopia? Not really. But this change has flagged for me, and hundreds of thousands of other users, how the platform filled a niche that was out there. And now that it’s going, I have to wonder where users will migrate to and whether Tumblr will survive once they’ve all left.
The ban has impacted me already, albeit in a very small way. I shared a selfie, taken mid-way through the year’s WNBR in London. It’s most definitely an ‘above the midline’ shot and the people in the background are blurred into a flesh-coloured haze. No crotches on display. But the Tumblr bots have recently flagged this pic – which is already on Instagram – as NSFW.
I’ll support any business that wants to clamp down on hatred, bigotry and exploitative porn. But this prudish nonsense, which is actually sexualising some quite ‘vanilla’ nudity, is frustrating and, I believe, ultimately self-defeating.
The nazis are still all over Tumblr, while the nipples are rapidly disappearing. Doesn’t that seem wrong to you?