NSFW nor for Pinterest: A study in pinning boobs

censored

All I saw was a woman’s naked butt. My head shot around each shoulder to check on the adults in the room. As a five year old, I thought something might be wrong with having a framed naked butt on an office wall, and especially wrong of me to stare at it. But they were too busy chatting about adult stuff, which I’ve learned is quite dull.

Salvador Dali Painting

Taking their lack of interest as approval, I continued looking at the print, eventually noticing every five year old’s favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. (Five year olds know everything about Lincoln from his log cabin to his weird beard that is easily recreated with bubble bath bubbles.) It’s a classic Salvador Dali piece (“Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters becomes a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko)” Learn more.), but to a child it’s mostly known as “That Naked Butt Picture That from 20 Meters is Still Embarrassing”.

Surprisingly, I didn’t die, I didn’t become a moral hazard, and I didn’t grow up to be a porn star. Or amateur. That naked butt and all the naked butts and boobs and penises I’ve seen since then (ahem, in art) haven’t soured me. In fact, I love a good nude. I find nothing offensive with the naked body nor with most* erotica, nor do I think anyone should.

But this worldview isn’t supported by most public social networks. And I begrudgingly understand.

Let’s take the golden child Pinterest as a case study.

A combination of following standards set by such bodies as the FCC and fielding complaints from the more prudish elements of the community has led Pinterest to ban photographic images depicting full-frontal nudity, fully exposed breasts and/or buttocks. The policy, however, does not apply to sculptures, paintings, and other non-photographic mediums. [Source.]

If I wanted to be intentionally obtuse, I’d say their policy seeks to prove that photography isn’t art.

Why the need for censorship? Although it didn’t hurt my development, some people fret that a young, impressionable child using Pinterest could stumble upon bare asses. Not a baseless point. As Mashable reports, Consumer Reports estimated that 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13, despite an age restriction policy Pinterest also follows.

Even the adults are afraid of coming across erotic images, as Dazy Graves found after posting this picture.

Those aren't the droids you're looking for.

From Dazy:

A woman, let’s call her Mary, left her a comment simply saying ‘Pervert’. After far too much tooing and frowing, she came to the conclusion that we were filthy reprobates who should be stopped immediately before we poluted the squeeky clean minds of the viewing public. Her parting shot involved us working with starving children in Africa, rather than looking at these pictures and hopefully one day, we would find Jesus. I wish i could post a link, but pinterest deleted the image shortly after the climax of the three day long debate.

I think it’s an interesting, comical shot. And yet those whom we accuse of not “getting it” can easily convince Pinterest to remove it and anything like it. In response, a number of pro-nudity Pinterest community members are protesting… on Pinterest… about Big Brother censoring them and violations of Freedom of Speech. Entire boards even.

pinterest censor

It’s the classic struggle to push limits. To push a new point of view. To kill censorship of art.

And yet… many of the same people and blogs have paradoxically rallied behind Pinterest’s recent censorship of pro-anorexia and self-harm pages. Following a similar move by Tumblr, Pinterest will – as of April 6 – ban any content that

“creates a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to yourself, to any other person, or to any animal.”

The images in question include “photos of jutting bones, sliced wrists, and slogans like “Nothing Tastes As Good As Skinny Feels”” and use the hashtags #thinspo and #perfect. [Source.] Example of one of the #thinspo pins:

thinspo

Where’s the bandwagon against censorship? Everything is okay or nothing is. That includes things that make us uncomfortable, queasy. Things that make us want to… censor them. But that’s the idealist me. The community manager and marketer me has other experiences. And that’s often a painful realization.

Good social architects build communities on compromise. It’s about balancing the vast expanse between where you’re offended and where I’m enjoying the view.

Good business/media does the same thing. And let’s not be mistaken – Pinterest is a business. Their goal is to avoid pissing you off to the point where you leave the site. Their goal is also to avoid pissing off the more prudish members to the point where they leave the site.

No regulatory board is making them censor. It’s of their own volition and based on the standards they wish to set for the community. Any social site will do this to keep customers. It’s why I always found the titillating case of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction a pointless legal battle. (Although the incident occurred at the 2004 Super Bowl, it was only a few months ago that CBS won and didn’t have to pay a $550,000 FCC fine. The Parent’s Television Council said the court ruling “reaches the level of judicial stupidity and is a sucker-punch to families everywhere.”)

CBS likes parents – even prudes – and children, and it really doesn’t want to lose such valuable viewers. I take the not-so-controversial viewpoint that government censorship rules aren’t necessary at all. One, because I see nothing wrong with Janet Jackson’s boobs, and two because CBS will keep things off the air that will prevent viewers from coming back – that includes “offensive content”. Or they’ll show seedier stuff at times when children and prudes aren’t around… or a subscription network will show it based on its community standards. See: omg so many tits on HBO’s “Game of Thrones”.

Pinterest and other sites (including Facebook, which gets lots of attention for banning breast-feeding pics), deal with barrels of erotic, violent, and otherwise controversial images every moment. Report buttons and blanket censorship of photographic nudity is Pinterest’s current solution. But like Deviant Art, they could apply filters for erotic images. Or have opt-ins for “adult themes”. Or create second sites exclusively for porn/erotica. (Well, Pinterest clone Snatchly already does that. TechCrunch article – SFW.) But all these options are still censorship of a kind.

Kurt Vonnegut wasn’t being glib when he said

The most daring thing to do with your life is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

Building a stable open community is daring, and if you want to do it without censorship you may lose some (or most) of the community. As Jason Falls said in BlogWorld’s recent post:

It’s a sticky issue. Once you start censoring content, you’re legislating the users with your worldview. Some will stay, some will go and you will forever be seen as potentially big brother-ish. On the flip side, you become Topix.com which is quickly becoming the worst excuse for a website on the planet all because of user comments, not its content. What these companies need to do is take a stand, define their worldview and worry about users that are comfortable with it. Catering to everyone never works anyway.

Enough with that. Here’s some nakedness for you.

Remember, if it’s a painting, it’s okay.

naked woman on bed

But this photograph is not okay.

naked woman standing

*My standard is that the nude/erotic piece involves 1) fully consenting 2) adult 3) humans.

Art credit: Top photo. Last two pieces of art on the page.

Comments
7 Responses to “NSFW nor for Pinterest: A study in pinning boobs”
  1. Great point of view. Even though our constitution gives us the freedom of speech, our courts have proven that it is not an absolute freedom. You cannot express yourself anytime, anywhere, by any means as you see fit without consequences. Try yelling bomb in an airport, fire in a theatre, or committing slander or libel. Once we come to this realization the battle then becomes over the line in the sand. What do we allow and what don’t we allow? Unfortunately people will never agree on this and corporations will go with the demographic that brings them the most money. It continuously amazes me how in this country television shows can be filled with violent acts,and graphic images as a result of those acts, with no outrage. However if you dare show a nipple during prime time then let the national uproar commence. What message does that send about our society? I personally would see nothing wrong with tasteful nudes, those not showing sex acts, on the Pinterest public areas. I do not see this happening though, the bible thumpers are an amazingly vocal group. Perhaps an age restricted section would work. A section where as you say, fully consenting, adult, and human are the main requirements. Although if Rick Santorum is elected president he promised to get rid of porn making this a moot argument.

    • Kaitlin Pike says:

      Thank you! And I’m 100% in agreement with your point concerning violence on television. It’s apparently alright to show a man beating a woman to death, but not okay to show the two of them making love.

  2. Novalinnhe says:

    Excuse me – a little late to this article – but I just wanted to throw in my two pennies and see what you thought, Kaitlin. I don’t like seeing nudity online because it triggers bad memories for me. I don’t really feel the need to go into it, but I had to deal with a lot of nudity and sexually-charged-whatevers as a child, and I don’t particularly like seeing reminders of a place I’d like to leave behind.

    Nudity by itself isn’t offensive, no. See Michaelangelo etc. It’s the fact that most of the images – LIKE the Stormtrooper one above – are sexually-charged (heavily so), and to be honest, don’t need to by on my homepage when I switch my computer on in class, thank you! The DeviantArt filter is faboo, because if you wanted to look you can, but if you don’t particularly want to see it you don’t have to.

    By the way, this word “prude”. Why are all the people who don’t want to see a girl with her mouth around another man’s penis prude? Maybe they have a phobia of genitalia, or are homosexual and find different-sex relationships a little disturbing. I don’t think blanket name-calling like that is very nice, and perhaps slightly prejudicial.

    Just like I need to come to terms with the fact that not all people who view pornography/nudity are raging paedophiles who are out to get me, I think those who like viewing images like that need to realise that not all people who squirm at a picture of boobs aren’t crazed religious fanatics, or “prudes” – as you call ‘em. The only place there’s a single answer to something is in a maths class. And even then you don’t need to sit through it! :)

    Anyway, it’d be nice to see your side of my babbling. I quite like your writing style. :) Have a nice day! x

    • Kaitlin Pike says:

      Ugh – I am bad with approving comments it seems. Sorry for the delay :-/

      I walk the line with porn vs. art as we all do. As a builder and supporter of numerous strong communities (both online and off), I’m always concerned with balancing the most important value of all: respect. How can I respect you if I’m posting naked photos? Then again, how do I respect the artist who is thrilled to share his nude paintings/photos that he feels aren’t pornographic? There’s no easy answer.

      In my Psych 1 class (years ago now…), a student approached our foul-mouthed professor and asked him if he could stop cursing in lecture. His reaction? “Fuck no! Don’t censor me.” Rude? Sure. Within his rights? Absolutely. He wasn’t attacking the student or harming her; he was just on the edge of her comfort zone.

      My philosophy is that humans’ primary job is to reach the edge of our comfort zone and transcend it. It’s how we evolve and grow. We needn’t BECOME the uncomfortable source – we simply need to reach peace with our fear and chaos.

  3. Jason says:

    Great article, Kaitlin. I’m in complete agreement.

  4. Holly Ray says:

    I want to expatriate to a country where people do not feel the need to spray paint a Rodin in order to spare the children.

  5. TJ says:

    I have had numerous pins (re-pins) removed by Pinterest that ‘contain nudity’ (tasteful photography) in recent weeks. I am wondering (assuming) if someone is reporting them — because if so, then yes, that person is a ‘prude’ — and I swear it’s persons that don’t like my ‘civil liberties board’! It OFFENDS me that there are people that are so prudish as to report such beautiful images (and not some guy stroking his member)! I appreciate the nude form as an artist (as a heterosexual woman/mother) and draw inspiration from these images. Of course, I know that there are a lot of derogatory images (porn) that people post on their like boards — which BTW, doesn’t bother me — I just keep going (you have to learn to recover and move on despite what images, scents, etc. conjure up). And, for all the people concerned with kids — who lets their kids on the internet — aren’t you all just sticking them in front of a tv with a hand controller and some killer/hunting game?! These people posting all of the pornographic images were probably raised in an oppressive household! WE’RE BORN IN THE NUDE! Clothes were originally intended to keep us warm — not to cover our natural selves. Bottom line: I find it confusing that tasteful images are being removed, but rogue images/boards remain. Maybe Pinterest should branch off into the free spirits and those that need spiritual guidance!

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