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Pornography became a pejorative term that served to preserve and maintain the status of art.
Although Tumblr maintains its policy change was unrelated to its failure to effectively filter child pornography, the decision comes against the backdrop of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which was passed in the United States in April.
The sexually explicit frescoes of ancient Greece and Rome were displayed publicly and integrated into daily life rather than being, as Walter Kendrick describes, “locked away in secret chambers safe from virginal minds”.
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.
FOSTA prompted platforms such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook to amend their terms of service to preclude nudity, sexual content and sexual services in order to avoid charges of promoting or facilitating sex work.
Unfortunately this legislation has not improved grievance avenues for those experiencing exploitation.