Tumblr’s adult content has cultivated a vibrant, creative and sex positive community. Without it, I doubt I would feel as comfortable as I do in expressing my sexuality today. For diverse body types, LGBT representation, erotica and audio porn, Tumblr surpasses mainstream porn sites every time. For most, the social media platform conjures up images of 2012 indie kids obsessed with galaxy leggings, dreamcatchers and Lana del Rey. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have eclipsed it in the contest for our attention, so who is still using Tumblr? The answer is artists, fandoms, meme creators, sex workers and kink communities. These are the people most at risk from the impending ban.
I use Tumblr to reblog images and quotes that inspire me, but I also use it to look at funny memes, and porn. I have always felt more comfortable with Tumblr porn than anything that mainstream sites have to offer. When I was a teenager, learning about my sexuality at the same time as learning about feminism, I read articles about how poorly the porn industry treats women. I came to the conclusion that even my adolescent horniness wasn’t more important than my passion for feminism.
Tumblr offered what felt like more ethical, female-friendly alternatives. I wasn’t about to stop looking at porn altogether. Humans have watched porn since the beginning of time. The internet just means you no longer have to spy on your neighbours or rely on drawings in discreetly distributed pamphlets.
When I was 15, my first boyfriend and I used Tumblr to communicate our turn ons and desires. We never had sex, but this was a fun, safe way to explore the sexual side of our relationship without crossing each other’s boundaries. At this time, I discovered a blog called porn4ladies, which became one of my favourite sites for what I considered more feminist porn. The site’s heading is “Romantic Pornography,” with the subheading “Yes, women actually masturbate!” This was somewhat revelatory to me because, at 15, I was still semi-convinced that only boys masturbated and at some point, I would be publicly humiliated and consequently go straight to hell. Tumblr’s sex positive community engaged in a dialogue about sex. You could ask questions, reply to posts and see what sex means to other people. Watching porn wasn’t just about finding a video and getting off, but about discovery.
As I grew older, I explored more of the NSFW Tumblr community. It was vital for me in learning to understand my kinks and what turns me on. So many young women are still afraid of expressing their sexuality. Some women are scared to enjoy sex for fear of being labelled a slut. Perhaps I would feel the same if it hadn’t been for Tumblr. I feel comfortable discussing my kinks with my sexual partners and sharing Tumblr posts and blogs with them is one of the ways in which I do this. It is an easy and unpressured way to communicate desire.
On Tumblr, people share what turns them on, so you don’t feel bad for being turned on by it too. As a teenager, I definitely went through a phase of feeling guilty about my sexuality. Girls are taught that it is OK for boys to masturbate all the time, but god forbid we actually figure out how to give ourselves pleasure. Tumblr was also the first place where I saw lesbian porn that did not seem so heavily filtered through the male gaze for straight male viewers. I learnt about how two women have sex in real life, not in male-produced porn. As a bisexual teenager coming to terms with my sexuality, this was nothing short of vital.
If Tumblr can ban all adult content just like that then it begs the question: why have they not deleted other, more harmful content? What about the blogs promoting Nazism? Or self-harm? Or eating disorders? Shouldn’t we protect children from that as well? Tumblr changed its search filters in 2012 to make it harder for users to search for pro-ana content, but the platform is still widely used by the pro-ana community. I can safely say that Tumblr’s pro-ana blogs have done much more harm to my physical and mental health than their adult content ever has.
Of course they need to crack down on the child porn that has appeared on the platform. No one is doubting that this is of optimum importance. However, in shutting down all of the site’s pornography in the process Tumblr is conceding to a culture in which sex is shameful, sex workers are marginalised, and we cannot talk openly about our desires. The consequences of this go much further than slut shaming.
Editor’s note: HuffPost and Tumblr share a parent company, Oath Inc, which is a subsidiary of Verizon