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On December 3rd, Tumblr announced that it would be removing all its mature content. With more than 441.4 million users as of October of this year, this platform is probably one of the few that hasn’t been invaded by middle-aged/old people, explaining why approximately 69 percent of its population can be considered a millennial. Even though literally millions of people are on this website, the fact that it is unknown from the majority of grown adults makes it feel like a safe space for a lot of its users, mostly young people from marginalized communities.
On Tumblr, you can have your own blog and share pictures, videos, texts and gifs without having to fear a friend request from your aunt Karen. It is also famous for its large fandom communities, meaning that if none of your friends watch this awesome show you just started watching and that you desperately need to talk about it with someone, you will for sure find people there. As an avid fan of the site, I can definitely say that its intimate nature is something I find very comforting. I don’t share my username with most people because it is kind of a journal to me, very real, raw, and honest. On there I share funny depressive memes, Pro Black statements that would make my White boss uncomfortable, long conspiracy theories about my favorite TV show characters but also pictures of tits. Yes, boobs, female boobs. But that will soon change, on the 17th of December, more precisely.
Tumblr hosts a large amount of erotic content. Some is more artistic, and some is just…straight up porn that you could find on any popular pornographic platform. If you are on Tumblr yourself, you know that no matter what type of blogs you follow, you will ALWAYS end up with porn on your feed, there is no way to escape it (unless you turn on the ''safe mode,'' which was automatically turned on for all users in February 2018). While some of us find it a little annoying, to the point of not scrolling down the site in public, most of us feel like deleting everything is a little extreme.
The first community that will be deeply affected by this ban is the LGBTQ+ community, without a doubt. While Youtube is being insanely hypocritical regarding the queer content of its queer creators, Tumblr is a safe space because it lets love and sexuality be celebrated freely. No matter who you are in the acronym, you can find a family on there. Gay, lesbian, bi, pan, trans (binary or not), asexual, intersex, NAME IT! Homophobia is not the norm and the people who don’t identify as queer are, for the most part, allies. Rare are the sites where it is possible to find so much acceptance as a non-straight/non-cis person and that is why Tumblr is so special. Queerness is judged as inappropriate in every sphere of life and don’t get me started on queer sexuality. Women loving women and men loving men is taboo, dirty, and wrong in today’s society, causing it to be demonetized on Youtube and flagged on Facebook. Trans bodies are demonized or sexualized with wrong intentions in everyday life which is why so many transgender people find comfort in this platform where they can be themselves, sexually, respectfully, and lovingly. And let’s not forget the communities that are simply forgotten more often than not like the asexual community, intersex people and so many more. The reason why Tumblr is so successful and unique is because it has always been supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, without expecting anything in return. It gives queer people a safe space in a world where they are shamed, forgotten or kept in silence.
Tumblr also has a large feminist community. I started to cherish my feminist convictions because of this site. It changed me as a woman because it changed the way I experience the world, my world. It made me realize that I’m not the only one feeling the way that I do, in my everyday life but also in my sexuality. Female sexuality is frowned upon and forgotten constantly. The naked female body is acceptable only when it is exposed for men to see, and men only. Other women can’t celebrate the bodies of other women, or even their own! Men can be sexual, but women can’t. Female sexuality is inappropriate in society, but it is celebrated on Tumblr. Women take the narrative of their own sex life and of their bodies without shame and with pride. No platform allows female-identified people this outlet where they can talk about their desires the way Tumblr does which is why the ‘‘mature content’’ shared on there is a necessity. Who will tell young girls that there is nothing shameful in masturbation or that they have the right to say what they want in the bedroom? Who will tell 25 years-old women that there is nothing wrong with being a virgin and that they are not less worthy because they never had sex? Who will tell them that they deserve sexual respect? Clearly not society.
It is clear that if the platform was flourishing from A to Z, there would be no point in changing it. Some aspects of it were problematic and that is why this ban is happening, in my opinion. Tumblr has built a reputation for itself over the years. Created in 2007, I first heard of it in middle school because girls in my class found pictures of ‘‘hot’’ shirtless guys really easily on there and I found that oh so great. Funny enough, I only share pictures of shirtless women on my blog now, but that is another story.
Over the years, Tumblr then started to be crowded by teens and even children with eating disorders giving each other ‘‘tips’’ on how to attain impossible weight loss. Though the site tempted in vain to break apart the ED communities like #ProAna and #ProMia by banning the use of the hashtags, nothing changed. These blogs and groups are extremely easy for anyone to find because they are so populous, more than on any other platforms for sure.
Another very big issue with Tumblr is the amount of child pornography. If there is one thing most people can agree on is that abuse, mostly sexual abuse of children, is something absolutely horrendous. No one in their right mind would agree with the sharing of child pornography in any given circumstances. On November 16th, the Tumblr application was removed from Apple’s app store for that exact reason. On a money point of view, if people with iPhones can’t access your application, you are losing a very large number of potential users which is why the decision of the ban was probably taken, though they attributed it to simply wanting a ‘‘better, more positive Tumblr." Child pornography should be banned from all outlets, always, that is no question. However, people should have access to sexual content and pornography made by consenting adults if they want to.
While Tumblr is taking this extreme measure to get rid of one particular problem, it is not acknowledging a few other. As I mentioned, I love this site because it is more accepting and loving than most social media, however, it is not pink all around. Racism, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia is not banned on Tumblr and that is a fact. It is hard to have people punished for their hateful comments, death and rape threats being more than frequent if you are part of a marginalized group and happen to have a rather large following. No or close to no measures are taken to put an end to the bullying, but a drawn penis is unacceptable? Female presenting nipples (I am not joking, they really used the term ‘‘female presenting nipples’’ y’all) are out but Nazis get to stay? What non-sense is this?! Tumblr is what it is because of its erotic content yet they are stabbing their users in the back, telling them that this content is no longer appropriate. Now, how much do you want to bet though that nothing will change in terms of the blatant hate speech going on the platform, even after December 17th?
I personally think this is a mistake and a betrayal from Tumblr’s part. As a queer woman, this platform is the one I turn to express my feelings. It was a big part of my coming out process and it helped me understand and mostly love my sexuality as a woman and as a bisexual person. As I mentioned, rare are the spaces where women can talk about sex freely and Tumblr gave us access to that, gave us access to a community of woman identified people talking about what they like, how they like it and with who they like it. It also celebrated queerness in its diversity the way no other space did. It would be impossible not to mention the large sex-ed community, supporting and educating people from all intersections, as well as the body positive community who are such a major part of the platform. This ban is robbing future generations of women and queer folks of a sexual liberation. For sure, it wasn’t perfect, but what platform is? Facebook is full of racist old people, Instagram is full of body shaming and Twitter is full of all types of bullying. But through all its flaws, Tumblr has something that no other social media has: true intimacy, in all its forms. As long as we will see sexuality has something wrong and shameful, humans, in my opinion, will never flourish. We thought Tumblr had understood that, but clearly we were wrong.