This article was published on December 3, 2018

Rest in peace, Tumblr

Rest in peace, Tumblr
Rachel Kaser
Story by

Rachel Kaser

Internet Culture Writer

Rachel is a writer and former game critic from Central Texas. She enjoys gaming, writing mystery stories, streaming on Twitch, and horseback Rachel is a writer and former game critic from Central Texas. She enjoys gaming, writing mystery stories, streaming on Twitch, and horseback riding. Check her Twitter for curmudgeonly criticisms.

Tumblr today announced it’d be banning adult content from the site, effective December 17. While this appears to be an attempt to curtail the images of child sex abuse found on the site, users contend it will only stifle and punish artists who have filled the site with positive and accessible forms of erotica.

Recently, Tumblr’s app was removed from the App Store because illegal images of the abuse of minors were proliferating there. Now, the company has updated its rules on adult content, stating, “adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, regardless of how old you are.” Said adult content will apparently include “photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.”

The users who blogged that sort of content on Tumblr? They’re not happy.

While it’s by no means the only content available on Tumblr, the site does have a large contingent of users who make erotic works of some kind. There are few hard numbers on what percentage of Tumblr’s content falls into this category, but a five-year-old study from TechCrunch puts the number, out of the top 200,000 most-visited domains, at 11.4 percent.

Even a casual user of the site (as a disclaimer, your author has a small, SFW Tumblr blog not associated with TNW) can barely turn a page without tripping over a blog devoted to adult artwork, stories, fan works, and any combination of those.

Several critics of this decision have pointed out that, far from being shameful, the site’s content has offered safer or more palatable forms of erotica to a large contingent of users whose needs aren’t served elsewhere. Glamour last year interviewed several women who said Tumblr was their source for gifs that removed distateful elements from more “mainstream” forms of pornography.

Several people have taken to Twitter to lament the decision:

Others are pointing out the addition of “female-presenting nipples” to the list of prohibited images is needlessly sexist and reinforces the idea that female bodies, specifically, are something shameful that needs to be hidden:

To give a bit of credit where it’s due (though only a bit), Tumblr’s new rules do offer a large degree of latitude, and there are a large number of things which will still be allowed:

Examples of exceptions that are still permitted are exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery. Written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations, are also stuff that can be freely posted on Tumblr.

It remains to be seen what kind of impact this will have on the site, and if its users will migrate to a new site, as some are proposing — though given how unilateral the rules are, it’s looking more and more likely. No one’s even sure if this will help curtail the images of child abuse — the problem which likely catalyzed this change in the first place.

That said, at least one party saw some humor in the situation (and yes, it’s exactly who you’d expect it to be):

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