MEMBER ARTICLE: The cost of censorship

MEMBER ARTICLE: The cost of censorship

from Recon News

24 January 2019

By Skully

I, like many others mourned the death of tumblr. There was a wave across social media in the days and weeks that followed tumblr's announcement of their ban on explicit content that ranged from annoyance to outraged. I was not an avid user, nor did I contribute to it a great deal, but for me it was the reality of censorship and that the threat of it should, especially in this modern-day climate, be taken very seriously.

Tumbr and its reputation for pornographic content made it quite a contender in the internet age. You can, of course, find porn elsewhere, but what set tumblr apart - or at least the 18+ sections of it - was the fact it was a platform to celebrate all types of sexuality, as well as explore other issues relating to sex - including fetishism. It was also a platform for more artistic and educational depictions of sex and wasn't just about sleaze. For some, the loss of explicit content had a direct impact on livelihoods. Tumblr was a safe space for sex workers, porn curators and creators and people involved with camming.

The new Tumblr guidelines was a blow to the sex (and fetish) community and was a great loss. We at Recon were then hit by more censorship, when our Instagram account was abruptly deleted out of the blue. The content of the Recon Instagram page has always adhered to the Instagram guidelines and after a month of emails to get it back and never once having a response – let alone warnings in the first place - we decided to give up and start again. The frustration of losing this, and the content curated over the years is a huge punch in the gut. Anyone who's ever frantically run into an Apple store when their phone's fucked up and been told "you'll lose anything you haven't backed up" will know that dreaded feeling of losing personal documented history. It was gutting to lose pictures, memories and content that we have produced and shared over the years on a mainstream platform. Instagram didn't generate us money, nor did we pay for it. What it did give us was another way to interact with kinksters and the fetish community, It did allow us to reach out and make new friendships and partnerships outside of Recon and was a tool to promote fetish and the evolution of the gay fetish community in a positive way.

Growing up in the age of the internet has been an enlightening journey, it has the ability to do great things and not so great things. Growing up, I felt I was bombarded with imagery and a narrative on what my life should be like as a gay man. Most media channels that presented any sort of homosexuality did so in a way that I, and many of my peers, felt made it seem like the only way to find acceptance was through emulating hetero- normative ideals and relationship dynamics. As a young gay man into fetish, the narrative I was often pushed was that of a specific body type, specific sexual practices and a world that felt impenetrable (pun intended). The internet has made it easier to find other paths, and what places like Tumblr and the Recon Instagram do (or rather did) is help us cultivate and learn about alternative lifestyles (often with pictures - which helps), be inspired and have confidence in our own and others sexuality.

The push for sites to clean up their act may, on the surface, be seen as a safety measure (usually for children) or to show they conduct themselves by the moral standards of the masses. The reality of companies like tumblr and Instagram reinforcing society's restrictions, though, is that it's most damaging on the people who want to explore their own sexuality and the people who need them most.

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