What Happened With Our Porn, Ourselves and Facebook

On July 27, 2010, Facebook removed the Our Porn, Ourselves Facebook campaign page. After the page was removed, anti-porn organization Porn Harms claimed victory and thanked Facebook for the deletion, on the organization’s Facebook page and their Twitter feed. Our deleted group had roughly 3,500 members, most of whom were women (I combed through the member logs frequently). Our page had over three times the members of Porn Harms’ anti-porn page.

According to Facebook the deletion was in response to reported violations of Facebook’s Terms of Service, among which include obscenity. As I am an active and high-profile figure in the online social media space, I am not a newcomer to social media, or implementing Terms of Service. I also knew that someone was persistently trying to get every piece of art removed from our gallery — regardless of the content, nearly every user-uploaded photo was mysteriously being flagged and removed.

I was very careful to keep the page, all links, all images, and member behavior within the Terms. It was important to do this because the main purpose of the group was to create conversation about women watching pornography and discussion around all aspects of explicit imagery, and women (and all genders and orientations). This was in an effort to sort out both the positives and negatives of adult content and examine its effects in an unbiased manner. For the first time, we wanted a clean, safe discussion about a topic typically discussed in a grotesque and offensive manner or context. We were civil at all times; we shared work-safe links, news, studies and information.

What we wanted, and what we created, was a “clean, well-lit” place to talk about pornography. Especially in relation to women and our varying relationships with porn, and a space for men to not only support us but be able to give us their side of the discussion. Everyone welcome. It is still my belief that if you don’t talk about “it” whatever “it” is, then “it” can hurt you.

The reaction to the deletion was loud and strong. There was outrage from women and people who are pro-female sexuality — and by this I do not mean “anti-porn feminists” who maintain a narrow and judgmental view on female sexuality. I am asked about the deletion (specifically if Facebook has responded) constantly in person at events, and online. Women are very, very angry. Facebook has not responded to my letter. Psychology Today wrote Cutting Off Your Vagina Despite Your Facebook. A former member of the page reacted in anger with a piece on Carnal Nation, Facebook Censors Female Sexual Desire. Jezebel wrote, When It Comes To Women’s Issues, Facebook Still Hasn’t Figured Out How To Play Fair. It was seen as an act of censorship in When your face doesn’t fit: Facebook censorship. There were more, but you get the idea. It didn’t happen in a vacuum.

Meanwhile, other social networks contacted me and said they would welcome the Our Porn, Ourselves group with open arms, most notably Squarespace, a media platform that recently got $38.5 million in funding.

What I didn’t realize until the Facebook deletion was how much the page meant to other people — around the world. It was a way people could vote their support. They could join us, if they wanted to. As evidenced in recent emails, it was also a destination for global scholars and academics to peer into a world much bigger than anyone suspected. The world of women taking back the right to look — and more.

I am still considering pursuing a contact at Facebook, but clearly — right now — Facebook isn’t a safe place for women to talk about explicit sexual imagery in any manner other than with fear, aversion or hatred. That any group can be removed by people who do not agree with the point of view of said group (such as the anti-homophobia group that was deleted around the same time), highlights a greater problem between our culture, democracy, free speech and social media: its fragility. Social media is simply too weak, and too frightened of what it means to be human, to be sustainable.

It seems that the very idea of Our Porn, Ourselves is acutely threatening to people who want to define female sexuality in a specific, restrictive way. Clearly we need a house made of brick, not straw. They don’t want us talking about porn, or what it means to look at (or enjoy) porn, or deciding for ourselves what is healthy (or not). Imagine a world where people actively prevent women from exploring and owning our sexuality on our own terms, and talking to each other about it. They think we’re not noticing they are so desperate that anti-porn feminists have joining forces with conservative Christians to keep us from taking back the right to look (and in some cases, the right to participate). We are adults who want to enjoy the many facets of adult sexuality. Having that page deleted is an exciting challenge.

I’m glad I double-posted the links we discussed on the Facebook page on this blog, and I’ll continue to do so as I explore ways for us to organize and converse and share without having people enact dirty tricks to ruin our work, delete our community-building and erase our experiences.

What does this all mean? It means we were doing something that is necessary.

Follow us on Twitter for updates and stay tuned for the next development. I am talking to developers and exploring a variety of cutting-edge options that will allow us to build community, foster conversation, connect our social media outlets, take advantage of the positives offered by Facebook and other social media sites, without worrying about the ease in which these networks can be exploited for harassment.

About violet

Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com) is a Forbes "Web Celeb," a high-profile tech personality and one of Wired's "Faces of Innovation." She is regarded as the foremost expert in the field of sex and technology, a sex-positive pundit in mainstream media (MacLife, The Oprah Winfrey Show, others) and is regularly interviewed, quoted and featured prominently by major media outlets. Violet has many award-winning, best selling books; her book The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn is featured on Oprah's website. She was the notorious sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. She headlines at conferences ranging from ETech, LeWeb and SXSW: Interactive, to Google Tech Talks at Google, Inc. The London Times named Blue one of the 40 bloggers who really count (2010). Violet Blue is in no way associated with the unauthorized use of her name (or likeness) and registered trademark in pornographic films.
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14 Responses to What Happened With Our Porn, Ourselves and Facebook

  1. Scott Fornwall says:

    What a shame! All censorship is bad.

  2. Vic Hunt says:

    I had a similar thing happen a few months ago, though on a much smaller scale. I had recently started up a group called “Sexetera” on Facebook, which served as the info hub for a group of people to gather in person to talk about “Sex, etc” in a comfortable, educational context. I received an email one day from facebook saying that the group had been removed “because it violated the Terms of Use”… with no explanation of in what way it violated the Terms of Use, and with no way to contact Facebook about the occurrence. It only included a link to the FAQ, which turned out to be completely useless for this problem. I tried my damnedest to find someone at Facebook to discuss the issue — because I felt that the closing of the group was inappropriately restricting the speech of the Facebook community… but I had to look somewhere other than the Facebook website to find a support phone number, and when I called it there was no way to talk to an actual person. I found a way to leave a message expressing my concerns and how to contact me, but I never heard back.

    The group admittedly had a questionable photo associated with it — a picture of a humorously phallic vegetable (ha!), but even if that picture had been the issue, it would have been much more appropriate to simply delete that photo. Nope… I wake up one day to the group completely gone — including all of the information associated with it. I am concerned that someone who works for facebook simply decided that they didn’t want a group to exist that allowed people to speak openly about sexuality. I wonder how many people out there have similar stories about Facebook?

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  4. Eric says:

    Violet,

    I strongly urge you to continue trying to get back on Facebook. It’s such a large platform with so many users that need access to this resource. Additionally, getting back on there will be precedent setting in the area of what is acceptable on Facebook. If Our Porn, Ourselves gets back on Facebook other positive but controversial groups will have ammunition for when they get deleted to say: “You admitted that you made a mistake in the case of Our Porn, Ourselves and fixed it, we expect you to do the same for us.” I know the system we have sucks but Facebook is so large and powerful that we need people to stand up to them and change them for the better.

  5. I find this baffling and confusing. I was ready to post up my own pics and the site gets pulled. Horse-hockey! I say!

  6. Wojo says:

    Please keep me apprised of your campaign, if you need support to be reinstated as a facebook page.

  7. Sue Katz says:

    Thank you Violet for this measured clear explanation of what went down. I’m baffled by the censorious tone – and generally reactionary approach – of Facebook. It’s like this little cabal of Harvard boys is imposing their own hang-ups on a half billion users, who themselves mostly want to be left to build their own networks. After all, FB emphasizes that one of its greatest attractions is that users can pick and choose their “friends,” control the links and pieces they want to read, and fashion their own online social and info world. Thanks for all you do.
    Sue Katz: Consenting Adult

  8. Bill Taverner says:

    Thanks for this post. I manage the new Facebook page for the Sexuality and Aging Consortium at Widener University and Facebook pulled my paid ad yesterday, which read, “Click like if you know sex is not just for the young.” Facebook cited its policies and restrictions pertaining to dating ads, despite the fact that the page has nothing to do with dating. It’s all about academic discussion.

    The most frustrating thing is that Facebook makes it nearly impossible to communicate with a live person to appeal their decisions.

  9. Asehpe says:

    Violet, it is indeed a pity to see your efforts thwarted without any real explanation. Maybe you want to win a facebook battle — if so, let us know how we can help. If you think it is better to simply move to a more open-minded social network site, that is OK too. Just let us know.

    And keep up the good work.

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  11. MMMM says:

    Violet,
    I am so pleased that women like myself have such an articulate, intelligent and determined spokeswoman against the anti-porn feminists. I hate that the right-wing crazies have latched onto the term, when really all they are doing is control us much like how we were oppressed before – by men. Only this time, it’s by women who are too insecure and close-minded and TERRIFIED at the power that a woman who is sexually satisfied and informed can wield on this society. Mostly, they’re afraid of happy, satisfied women who love life and know what they want. Thank you, thank you so much for being there for us and for this blog. You are a truly beautiful person!

  12. georgette says:

    ((hugs))

    adult content and social networking and connecting with legal consent and without censorship, a difficult platform to obtain on the internet these days.

    I’ve lost countless hours of effort and connection online due to myspace and facebook deletions. I thrive on adult internet community and social adventures. It’s a constant inspiration and stimulation to my daily online explorations.

    We have a true desire to quench our thirst in a thriving and adult environment where we can explore our desires/thoughts/questions/expressions without judgement and with diverse perspective and community. It’s essential to our life. I’m reaching out today to offer a place for you(s) too.

    We are in beta, however have been developing and growing online and turning 5 this year. Violet if I could gift you a membership, and you could come in and take a look around, see for yourself if it’s a place where you could thrive with your diverse and open minded following, then perhaps we could discuss creating harmony and giving your “our porn group” a home where you all can enjoy adult content without censorship. a place to thrive with more freedoms as adults.

    We’ll listen and work with you, and do our best as time and opportunity allows to help provide a suitable platform for you to continue to build your bridges.

    I do believe we have a nurtured garden that will not let you down. “because I won’t endorse crap (or unethical behavior). This is especially important to uphold in the world of sexuality and adult entertainment.” -violet blue

    and we couldn’t agree with you more! -bohocrush

    because we are a paid membership site; seeing how advertisements don’t play well when we desire a playground without censorship, and because we are in beta, I’m sure we can figure out something where we all win.

    You have a lot going on right now, and as the waves of community and social network are missed, do know that my offer does not have an expiration date. When and if the opportunity should arise, I’ll always be here.

    and if you ever wanted to meet over a drink, we are just a few hours away in reno :)

    all of my love and gratitude

    georgette
    aka @gcrush

    bohocrush

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  14. Sara Golemon says:

    A point of clarification since some readers missed it: The “Our Porn, Ourselves” Facebook page *was* reinstated several months ago. Sadly, this wasn’t because the audit and appeal process worked the way it was supposed to. Instead it was because a Facebook employee happened to catch mention of the page having been blocked in a tweet by @DarkGracie, and had the ability to escalate the appeal.

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