Dropping an electronic home: Tumblr’s ban and marginalised intimate identities

On December 17, standard blogging platform Tumblr enacted a
ban on “adult content”
uploaded to the site. Exactly what it indicates by sex material is images and video clips of “real-life person genitals”, material that depicts sex works, and erect nipples – but just, naturally, types which are “female-presenting.”

Many have actually noticed that the blanket ban accompanied an event where in fact the Tumblr software was actually taken off the Apple App Store after youngster porn pictures had been on the site. A valid reason, demonstrably, but as Jason Koebler and Samantha Cole
, “a large number of sites manage to effectively moderate to maintain their programs without any kid porno, while letting adult content material a lot more broadly.” Some experts have recommended the step is to appease Tumblr’s buyers and marketers.


found Tumblr at the same time whenever my sex as a queer, trans girl felt non-existent. Growing up in a time where trans women’s sex was at when demonised, erased, and fetishised – I’d seldom, if ever, viewed trans women have autonomy over their own sexuality. It actually was an amount of control I would just observed relinquished through the mass media’s resounding narrative about our anatomical bodies, all of our sex.

Early in my transition, i came across communities that have been especially centered around uplifting trans and queer women’s sexuality at the beginning of my transition. It absolutely was at the same time where I became unsure whether or not I was also allowed to get one. I got no place else to track down that type of representation this kind of an autonomous, communal method.

Within their present
Archer article
, ‘Being queer on Tumblr: Privacy and anonymity during the ages of social media’, Jake Pitre articulates Tumblr as an “escape from the personal security seen on companies like Facebook”, describing that the web site exists for individuals to assert power over their identities.

Pitre’s article, browse in light of Tumblr’s present ban, quickly feels very dated.

Tumblr – ostensibly without a puritanical vision – facilitated the development and fostering of intimate communities for those who discovered those communities largely inaccessible normally. This included queers surviving in outlying and regional places just who would never access physical spaces which their own intimate identification ended up being backed.

A troubling aspect to the ban would be that there aren’t clear outlines of how content is going to be policed, or what the arbiter is actually for exactly what constitutes sexual images. Something specific material? Exactly who decides whether an image is “nudity pertaining to political speech” – which Tumblr states is actually ok – versus smut that needs to be erased?

Some have actually suggested your program may inadvertently – or, certainly, intentionally – target LGBTQ+ content whether its “sexual” in general. It isn’t the first occasion that is happened; in 2017, there was an outcry after it actually was unearthed that YouTube was
demonising video clips
that incorporated queer content.

Not too long ago, a
of web site practiced by CNN learned that images of a “woman nursing a baby, a completely clothed lady getting selfies when you look at the mirror [and] a photograph of a vase” happened to be all improperly flagged by Tumblr’s moderation system.


he condemnation and erasure of ‘deviant’ sexual behaviour and identities has been covered with a jacket of cis and heteronormativity.

As author
Jenna Wortham
observed on Twitter, the “adult material” bar is indicative of a more substantial pattern of “unpleasant, invisible heteronormative morality clauses” on the net.

It is an indication on the folly behind putting that sort of have confidence in a business whoever end goal is still associated with their unique people and  advertisers.

Tumblr communities happened to be the first places we saw individuals that appeared as if me with agency over their intimate depiction. The truth is, that has been in private owned material all along; content that people responsible at Tumblr might have abolished at any point.

While it was social network sites – not an in private had organization – that gave me a feeling of self-actualisation and link with additional queers, we, with many more, in the morning up against the truth your electronic platform we intertwined with our sexual identities – creating money on their behalf in the process – was beyond our control.

There is a type of expectation we make your user-generated content and communities that individuals placed significant time and energy – in many cases


– into establishing are therefore our very own.

For a queer child in the exact middle of nowhere, those communities come to be a kind of electronic house. As creator
Steven Thrasher points out
, however, the folks when it comes to those communities “can’t protest eviction” whenever they’re told to leave.

The content is clear: we aren’t in charge of just what net seems like or just what tasks we are able to do.

It really is tough to not ever see Tumblr’s bar in line with the same culture in charge of passing the
functions last year.

The legislation, which effortlessly criminalised hosting of individuals who take part in gender work, consequently watched Craigslist and Reddit turn off components of their particular websites that were frequently employed by intercourse employees and customers.


don’t know what the answer is. Many have actually sardonically noticed that Tumblr is actually definately not the sole place on the online world where you can find sexual images.

But you’ll find few other areas on the net in which the confluence of self-expression and community have created the type of room that may be vital for marginalised sexual identities.

Uncontrolled, these limitations indicate a significantly various net – not simply heteronormative and puritanical, but the one that silences


marginalised figures and identities from having an independent room online.

Allison Gallagher is a writer and artist located in Sydney. They tweet at