If youre horny, youre banned.
If you're horny, you're banned. JLGutierrez/Getty Images

There were nights where I’d stay up until 2 a.m. scrolling through my computer. On some occasions, I stuffed a towel under my door so the glow of my laptop screen wouldn’t give me up. During my freshman year of high school, my mom found out and started scheduling the internet to shut off at 10 p.m. It was torture.

That time of night, when it feels like you’re the only person who could possibly be awake, was the best time to be on Tumblr, the popular blogging platform. It was when irreverence reigned, when you could chat with your friends in Australia, or when you could search the NSFW hashtag to do some not-by-the-book sex education.

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But, those nights are now destined to be relics of the past. Tumblr signed its death warrant today when it banned adult content from its platform.

Starting on Dec. 17, Tumblr will ban “images, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples.” The news broke and many people (and their female-presenting nipples, whatever that criteria actually is) are leaving the site en masse.

It’s an exodus.

I don’t mean to brag, but I was pretty big on Tumblr. Or, I was at least in my realm of Tumblr. You see, just like every social media platform, your experience on Tumblr is personalized based on who, or what, you follow. I was in fandom Tumblr. I followed fans, fan-artists, and fanfiction writers mostly. Those people followed me, too. At my peak, I had amassed a following of around 10,000 people. For me, that felt like a lot.

It was a tight-knit community built upon a common interest. For some people, that common interest was porn. Some people drew porn about their favorite characters. Others wrote porn about their favorite characters. Everything was marked and tagged accordingly. It was fine. Until Tumblr decided it wasn’t.

Why? Great question.

According to the BBC, Tumblr got caught up in a child porn scandal:

“The new policy comes weeks after the site was pulled from Apple's App Store after child abuse images made it past Tumblr's filters.”

So, to save face, save advertising money, and to emphatically reinforce that Tumblr has zero tolerance for that kind of behavior, the platform is banning any kind of pornographic content as a catchall. (Currently, written erotica is still allowed, but who knows how that will change?).

This is bad!


Instead of working harder to ban child porn and abuse from its site, Tumblr is taking the easy route and banning anything that remotely resembles porn, especially if it looks like a female nipple, it seems.

Tumblr has seen its ups and downs. Who could forget the Yahoo! Acquisition of 2013? With every bad interface update or any evidence of corporate meddling (we see your camouflaged ads, Yahoo!) people foretold the end of the end. But, everyone, for the most part, stuck around.

Today was different. Blogs on Tumblr that I’ve followed since I was 15 are jumping ship, they’re abandoning years of work spent cultivating an audience, and forsaking where they found community because they cannot freely express themselves anymore. Many are flocking to Twitter, some artists are opting for Instagram, and others are exploring what could be the next Tumblr—a site called Pillow Fort.

Many people in fandom depend on Tumblr for artwork commissions or to plug their Patreons. This move is devastating to these communities because they’ve lost their main way to connect with people. But, there are other subsects of Tumblr that completely rely on pornographic material. There’s a community of sex workers who do their business on Tumblr. Other sites like Backdoor and Craigslist were crucial for sex workers and their careers and safety. Those were shut down last year. Other communities, like fetish and kink communities, will be kneecapped by the policy changes.

It seems like as the Internet is growing, evolving, and commercializing, it becomes more censored. It's an issue that can be debated back and forth until the proverbial cows come home—at what line do we censor something? It's not the end of these Internet circles, they'll just have to navigate to the next site like they did before Tumblr.

At the end of the day, Tumblr may have saved face and some innocent eyeballs from seeing a drawing of Spongebob getting dicked down, but they’ve also ensured their ultimate demise.