Something strange is happening on the internet. Apparently we have reached a point where Pornhub can legitimately and generously offer for illustrators to go and create an account and show their work there because their content won’t be censored. I kid you not.

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This was in response to “adult content” being banned on Tumblr. I’m not on Tumblr so I have no idea what exactly is going on there, but I am on Facebook, and oh my did I discover what prudes they have become lately.

You’ve probably heard this complaint before if you follow any creative on Facebook: if you run a page your reach is artificially restricted so you are forced to pay to “boost” posts so they can be seen by everyone who follows you, rather than everyone who follows you just being able to see them. Well, it gets worse!

I recently tried using boosts for the first time to advertise my book, only to have the boost declined and be told that the cover image is “too sexual”. This image:


As a friend of mine put it: ‘Too sexual? What drugs are they on?!’

Honestly, if someone looking for porn found this I’m pretty sure they’d be quite disappointed, unless they were into some very niche stuff. But according to Facebook an image of a woman eating a banana is sexual, a woman’s cleavage is sexual, making vaguely suggestive statements is sexual, using certain slang is sexual, drawing people in “suggestive poses” is sexual, “too much” flesh is sexual, tight clothing is sexual.

And here was me thinking that people actually fucking was sexual.

This from the Facebook that has arguably done far more to undermine the civility and morality of western culture in recent times – through promoting fascists and ethno nationalists, and selling our personal data to them – than any amount of vaguely suggestive imagery possibly could. But some fictional, confident and assertive female flesh on display is just too much apparently.

Any artwork I produce featuring female bodies and certain male body parts, even though not engaged in any real sexual activity, is effectively censored on Facebook now for the vast majority of those who follow me, because my attempts to pay to boost images like that will be rejected. Just “vaguely suggestive poses” is enough to give me pause, as that can be interpreted so broadly.

This seems to be part of a recent new move online by big social media companies. It is a worrying trend. Call me kooky, or perhaps a mature adult, but people who foam at the mouth with offence over too much of someone’s arm being shown or claim that if, god forbid, I catch sight of my own boobs I’ve just been exposed to pornography, do not seem like the most reasonable standard setters for what can and can’t be seen on the internet. Maybe this is why I’m still on Twitter, where if you don’t like something it’s up to you to block it. Beyond certain basic community standards, I do not need or want anyone but me policing what content I see; I do want a place where self-expression, discovery and connection can happen.

Anyone who has seen me talk about this sort of thing before is aware that I take the seemingly radical position (oo-er) that unless it’s a depiction of actual sexual behaviour it’s not sexual. I also believe that people need to be able to take personal responsibility for their own actions and learn to practice self control in order to be considered adults, this means exposure to uncomfortable things and learning how to deal with it. In short, the cleavage isn’t the problem, the people who can’t deal with seeing the cleavage are the problem, and the onus should be on them to grow the fuck up.

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