It seems somewhat fitting that this should be my first post. Just as we are watching Tumblr purge itself of all content rated PG-13 or higher (“adult content”), many of us find ourselves in a state of limbo, wondering what corner of the Internet we’ll be able to occupy in the fallout. And, I get it: While I don’t agree with their reaction, when a powerhouse like Tumblr gets booted from Apple’s App Store, they do need to take action. For all the creators, curators, and consumers of adult content (which, in this case means any media containing so much as a female-presenting nipple), however, there will always exist a need for a space to share adult content, and Tumblr is taking a course of action that ostracizes that large portion of their community.
This morning, after some consideration, I deleted the Tumblr app from my iPhone and hid my account. It’s still active just in case I do need to log into the site for some reason in the future but there is not much left of the Tumblr I once frequented. Before deleting the app, I scrolled through my account to see which of my own posts had not stood the test of the site’s new campaign, and the few remaining posts and re-blogs seemed to have only made the cut by oversight. They will be caught at some point. That’s the risk, I suppose, of bringing nudism online in the 21st century.
Since the site began flagging all “adult content” and removing it according its new policy, I have witnessed artists that I follow across various social media platforms censor their own works, pare down their own gallery, and still have even the most innocent and shielded versions of their artwork flagged and banned from Tumblr: Is a rainbow flag adult content? This new policy affects all creators and curators of adult content but it will most notably affect LGBTQ artists and community members, many of whom had found solidarity and solace amongst the platform’s myriad contributors of queer content and experiences–yes, that does include sexual content, but sexual content has always been an acceptable form of speech on the platform and entire communities were built around that policy.
How does this affect nudists, then? I have to be entirely honest: When I was using Tumblr, I scoured the platform for genuine nudist experiences, galleries, and travel blogs, and, yes, those did exist. It’s no surprise, though, that most Tumblr pages dedicated to nudism, at least the popular ones that you might reasonably come across, were not really about nudism. Many of them were clumsily curated collections of media re-blogged from other dubious sources, sprinkling a few authentic depictions nudism in with a menagerie of sexually explicit or suggestive images that had nothing to do with nudism. Again, sexual content had been fair game on the site until now, so my point is not that anyone was breaking the rules or that this should not have been allowed. My point is that many self-proclaimed nudist pages on Tumblr could have been doing the movement more harm than good, spreading negative stereotypes about nudist culture and values. Alas, it did also create a platform for serious and casual nudists to share their genuine experiences and thoughts, and freedom of speech means freedom of speech for all. I, personally, am happy to share the Internet with voices that don’t always agree with me, so long as we both have access and neither of us is hurting anyone.
Where we go from here is up in the air.
As for creators and curators of art depicting human nudity, it seems that most mainstream social media platforms enforce many of the same restrictions. Perhaps Ello, a site created with creators in mind, can fill that void: Their community guidelines allow for adult content as long as you self-identify as “NSFW.” This seems a reasonable request, especially as someone who appreciates the ability to toggle my content filters while I am at work or in public places. Ello suffers, though, from not offering anywhere near the reach that Tumblr does.
Nudists, on the other hand, seem to have already staked a claim to Twitter. The platform has remarkably few content restrictions, allowing nudists to share their own photos and experiences without fear of being flagged, banned, or censored. The Twitter-based nudist community is not without its black sheep, the odd porn-friendly account here and there, but the community is self-policing and very active, creating a more dynamic nudist community than could be found on the nudist forums of the 1990’s and 2000’s and it tops TrueNudists, in my opinion, for authenticity. Maybe that’s because the community found on Twitter is limited to those hardcore nudists with no reservations about their truth being exposed to the entire world. In contrast, the privacy walls around TrueNudists, the nudist forums of old, and even Tumblr afford users a degree of anonymity that allows them to misbehave without real-world consequences.
The common problem facing all excommunicated Tumblrs is that none of these options offer the same blog-like format, shareability, and wide-reaching exposure all at once. Here I am on WordPress, for example, knowing full well that it’s far less likely that my blog will be stumbled upon by unsuspecting yet potentially interested community members, but in the absence of Tumblr, I felt the need to embrace the remaining platforms that allow us to express ourselves freely. For other users, maybe WordPress isn’t the solution, but we will all find our place. Other platforms will rise to fill the void. Perhaps Twitter will update its format to become more blog-like, or perhaps more serious blogging platforms will adapt to become more accessible to casual users.
In any case, we should not despair. There will always be a place for us somewhere on the Internet, so long as we are willing to fight for it.