Let's Start Here. I Made a New Tumblr - But After Monday, Does Anyone Even Care Anymore?
I started writing this post a couple of days ago, before Tumblr was thrust to the front of the news cycle when they decided to ban all adult content from their platform.
This move will effectively erase a significant portion of the Tumblr community and sets a new precident for sexual censorship on the internet.
The tone of this blog post looked a lot different then. I just wanted to share with all of you that I resurrected my account on the website, rekindled my love for microblogging, and have been working on a new blog to serve as a collection of aesthetic inspiration.
So, let's get this out of the way really quick first.
Sizzling Colors is a clearing house for my creative writing as well as a curated collection of images, words, colors, and music that inspire me. I'd love if you followed me over there.
Now onto the meaty, internet-censoring-sex-negative stuff that is pissing me off!
The Adult Content Ban on Tumblr Sets Sex Positivity on the Internet Back 10 Years
When Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio announced on the staff blog that in an effort to create a 'better, more positive' Tumblr, the website would be banning all adult content effective on December 17th, my initial reaction was disbelief and laughter. This was a logical fallacy, how could censoring adult content create a 'more positive' community when censoring is equavlient to shaming.
Anyone who uses Tumblr knows that approximately 2/3 of that website is adult content (I made this statistic up, but believe me, as a 7 year Tumblr user, I know my point stands).
This will surely cause Tumblr's last few users to leave the platform all together.
I took a look back through the list of blogs that I follow. Many of them, adult content or not, haven't been updated in one, two, three, six years.
So, quickly, my brief disbelief set into a deep disappointment. Tumblr, at it's core, was a subversive social media platform and it's been gutted by management who doesn't understand this.
The ban saddens me on several levels. A better, more positive Tumblr would be a free, sex-positive space, without censorship and open for expression.
It's also another blow to sex workers who are trying to navigate the digital era, it removes a safe space from the internet where people, especially young queer individuals, could explore their sexual identities, and it's another censorship on free art and expression.
Tumblr's once-liberal content policy allowed sex-positive blogs to blossom in it's community.
This is important to remember because up until fairly recently, most mainstream and easily accessible, free porn catered entirely to the male gaze. It's isolating and offputting to many.
Tumblr allowed women, queer individuals, anybody, to look at different kinds of porn and access different, more sex-positive view points of sex. The liberal content policy allowed users to publish niche adult content and find a welcoming community of viewers for it.
This is a healthy, safe, and empowering way to explore one's sexuality.
Over on Broadly, this piece from June hits on Tumblr and the "subversive sexual power found in erotic fandom forums".
In a Weird, Hyper-Millennial, Coming-of-Age Way, Tumblr Helped Me Find Myself
Tumblr was an integral part of my growth as an artist, a writer, and a feminist. It opened me up to new ideas and perspectives from my peers and allowed me to express myself in a collaborative digital space. Tumblr felt more anonymous than other networks, and I felt comfortable living in that anon space as opposed to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, where often felt (and still feel) hyper-aware of the reality that comes with posting on those networks. If I share anything, it ends up being an edited, pared down version of myself. Not on Tumblr.
On Tumblr, no one needed to know who I was. The websites's micoblogs were, and still are, an outlet for it's users to share deep/sad/weird/creative/pressing/confusing thoughts, late night writing, political activism, feminist takes, relatable experiences, mental health issues, photography, music, design, aesthetic inspiration, etc. it goes on and on.
Tumblr allowed me to quickly and freely express myself, to sort out my feelings, to connect with people going through similar things that I was.
There's also a ton of artsy, expressive, niche, graphic "adult content". It's part of what makes the website what it is.
I'm going to let the folks featured through the links below further elaborate on why a move like this is terrible for Tumblr and the future of internet expression.
Thoughts from Others
The internet erupted with think pieces and protest articles in response to Tumblr's announcement.
Generally, major news and tech outlets are not in support of the ban. I've rounded up some good reads and critical analysis here below.
Vox has a great explainer, as usual, that should be mandatory reading before entering any discussion about this from an uninformed standpoint: Tumblr is banning adult content. It’s about so much more than porn.
Ars Technica has an article up now about the porn ban and how Tumblr is already failing at it, relying on an automated AI to identify 'adult content'.
Slate goes straight in with the article Tumblr Should Not Ban Porn.
Wired has a piece that digs into another pillar of this issue, who controls the content that we see online and what are their motives?
The Verge has an article that went up this morning that details how we got here, from Tumblr being the internet's most porn friendly website to banning porn. A lot of people think this all goes back to FOSTA/SESTA.
Here's a great blog post from the perspective of a Tumblr photographer whose work straddles art, editorial, and adult content, as much of the content on Tumblr did.
This ban is going to mean the death of a unique online community and a safe space for many to freely express themselves.
RIP Tumblr, 2007-2018