As Lynn Hunt argues, it was created: As the evolution of the internet promises increased access to technologies and rapid circulation of cultural materials, regulatory attempts to restrict them are being met with contest, protest and resistance.Private corporations have now become the arbiters of community standards, making decisions about what content is permissible to circulate.There is evidence about the human rights impact of anti-trafficking campaigns, which can victimise those they are intended to protect.But the pressure to be seen as proactive partners in response to trafficking and child abuse is so significant that tech companies are willing to erase sex completely from their platforms and accept sex as a necessary casualty.
For example, the Free the Nipple campaign has protested the criminalisation, censorship and fetishisation of women’s breasts.
While traditional paintings sought to imitate the real, photography was considered “too real” and “too close”.
It prompted fears about proximity (its corporeal effect on the viewer), danger (its seductive power) and contagion (its potential to harm or infect). It was used to distinguish lowbrow forms of cultural consumption for the masses from highbrow forms of art for the elite.
This positioning reflects the historical development of obscenity law that has viewed representations of sex as devoid of merit unless they are redeemed by “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value”.
In removing sex and nudity entirely from the platform, Tumblr’s new policy misses the fact that sexual subcultures are a crucial part of public life and contribute to critical social conversations and meaningful political alliances.