This week, Tumblr announced that it would ban all adult content from its platform and said any user who was hurt by the decision could simply migrate to another site. But creators and readers alike don’t believe there’s another website that fosters the same kind of sex-positive spaces that Tumblr has. It’s as though Tumblr CEO Jeff D’Onofrio has failed to understand his own platform, how unique these communities are to Tumblr, and how unlikely it is for them to survive beyond the shutdown.
“Sex wasn’t this separate, shameful thing. Tumblr allowed it to exist right next to every other facet of our messy, millennial experience,” says Vex Ashley, who runs the blog Vextape that’s inspired by her work as a cam model and making DIY porn. “We shared it, discussed it, debated it, and curated it.” Porn, she says, was as appropriate on Tumblr as song lyrics.
Tumblr is home to a myriad of sex-positive and body-positive blogs, in additional to indie porn blogs and curated archives that provide something not found on Pornhub, YouPorn, or any of the other mainstream adult portals. It’s also been relatively unique among social media sites for allowing nudity and sexually explicit content to be posted. Most sites, like Facebook and Instagram, prohibit nudity and regularly remove posts that are flagged. With Tumblr gone from the equation, creators and readers fear their hubs of sex-positive and body-positive content will vanish.
“There is a lot of value in being able to share images of and information about sexuality. This change will erase years of content from countless Tumblr users,” says the anonymous author behind Bijouworld, which curates photos of vintage gay porn, old magazine covers, and newspaper clippings. They believe that other blogs focused on the history of erotica will also suffer. “This was a good spot for us all to exchange and combine our info and knowledge, so I hope we can find a new way to do that.”
Bijou Classics, the gay adult company behind the blog, also posts regularly to Pornhub and maintains an extensive web presence across multiple platforms that allow adult content. But Tumblr, the blogger says, filled a void when the company wanted to explore the archival and historical aspects of gay porn.
“I do think Tumblr is unique … [it] was one of the few platforms that is broadly open to the public where we could share explicit photos in any sort of organized fashion.” The anonymous person behind the blog says that since 2011, Bijou Classics has “used our Tumblr presence to post images from our archives, written blogs, trivia, and more.” The purpose is to “keep information circulating about the history and evolution of erotica and gay culture.”
Many sexuality blog authors don’t see a way forward without Tumblr. That includes lawyer and journalist Maddie Holden, who runs Critique My Dick Pic, a blog that’s received attention from sites including The Hairpin, Jezebel, and The Daily Dot.
Holden takes a media that’s often considered a nuisance to receive and approaches it satirically as an art form, going in depth about the shadows and positioning of each photo. She ends her reviews with: “thank you for submitting to critique my dick pic” and a grade ranging from A to F. The latest lyrical review of a dick in the shower, posted on November 30th, reads, “your photo is certainly not coy but it avoids being dick-centric, and apart from minor flares of distraction — a green towel in the bottom-left corner and a blue razor in the windowsill — the background is uncluttered and effective.”
Critique My Dick Pic has been described by its followers as “hilarious and useful,” says Holden. She says a trans woman recently told her that the trans-inclusive nature of the blog factored into helping her decide to come out and transition.
The blog has been around since 2013, but Holden says she’s not sure if she’ll move to another platform after Tumblr hides her content from public view on December 17th. Holden tells The Verge, “I mean, it will be the end of the blog as far as I can tell. I receive a portion of my income from CDMP, which will end, and the site has been pretty beloved for years now, so it’s a shame for its followers.”
The operator of another quirky, body-positive blog, called Things My Dick Does, says he plans to keep his Tumblr open after the ban, but only to share safe-for-work posts to keep in touch with his readers.
Started by an anonymous man in 2015, the blog’s creator draws mustaches and smiley faces on his dick, often placing props around it in amusing situations. He tells The Verge, “I know it’s a silly dick blog, but I’ve gotten to know some pretty amazing people through here. (My girlfriend included!)” He says that as he continued to post pics of his dick sipping coffee, dressed as Batman, or just smiling cheerily, he received positive feedback and even had a woman reach out to him because they lived in the same city. She later became his girlfriend. “People say they’ve overcome some serious rough spots in their lives because of the laughs I brought them.”
The man says he can migrate to other platforms, but his presence on YouTube and Instagram is distinctly different. It’s covered up and less NSFW, obscuring the very quality of his blog that disarmed audiences — a charming, dressed-up dick that more resembled a cartoon than graphic porn. “It’s definitely a loss to the adult content creators out there,” the man behind Things My Dick Does says. “Seems like it’s getting more and more difficult to express yourself.”
There just isn’t anywhere else to go. Other than Tumblr, there aren’t many mainstream, well-acknowledged platforms that allow unique adult communities to grow. Facebook and Instagram both prohibit sexual content and nudity; Twitter allows it, but it’s not exactly known for its positive, supportive communities.
Ashley, who runs the curated, often DIY porn blog, explains that Tumblr was a livelihood and a home for people who didn’t necessarily conform to mainstream porn sites’ ideas of what is sexy. “As our lives move increasingly online, spaces that are safe for sex are becoming smaller and smaller,” she says. “If we continue to push our depictions of sexuality into the shadows, we allow them to continue to be defined and co-opted by the status quo — whatever is on the first page of a porn tube site.”