Words according to Thomas, Co-Founder, Sacrificial Goat, and Creative Director of Raven Vanguard
Today’s Weekly Once-over touches upon two vexatious subjects that are near and dear to Raven Vanguard’s artistic, aesthetic, cultural, forward-thinking and open-minded soul, #FemalePresentingNipples and blatant forms of misogynistic censorship over genuine artistic attempts to show appreciation for the naked human body. This Once-over can also be viewed as an Open Letter to Tumblr, and to other companies like it that engage in quixotic acts of censorship over the essence of eros in art.
As it turns out, “female-presenting nipples” are merely the latest symbolic fatality in this often confusing world of overly inclusive and disingenuous political correctness and misogynistic madness. In its most basic aspect, this Once-over is about the narrowminded and unjustified censorship by Tumblr and its corporate puppetmasters of art, artistic autonomy and perception, theoretical explorations of femininity through art, concepts of beauty, and the means and methods of personal expression by artists.
So, what does all of this mean in the context of our present-day NSFW existence? The short answer – that female-presenting nipples are, by their inborn and essential nature, aesthetically and ideologically threatening, and, therefore, wicked, and dangerous.
I already see a few confused hands raised high in the air; NSFW? Translation, not safe for work, meaning the content itself might not be appropriate to open or view in the environment of your workplace.
Another flurry of questioning hands raised high in the air. Since when did the lifeless corporate workplace become the arbiter of morality, the freedom of expression, beauty, creativity, and good taste? The roots of the multifaceted answer to this convoluted question can probably be traced back to the 16th Century and before the barbaric burning of the Mayan Codices. Let’s leave this messy subject matter to future exploration in one of our Ravings.
Here’s a concise primer to help you better understand the subject matter of this Once-over. In the United States, pornography is not intrinsically illegal. In this Country, pornography is unlawful only if its content is objectively obscene, or if it contains pornography related to, or including children. So, don’t make the commonly made mistake of confusing the morality of pornography with its legality. Also, don’t confuse its pervasiveness and divisiveness with its legality. And don’t confuse obscenity with indecency because they are not the same thing. Just because you may think a particular thing indecent does not make it unlawfully obscene no matter how indecent you might find it.
The purpose of today’s Once-over is not to indict every attempt to restrict access to pornography, nor is it in any way intended as an argument in favor of an outright ban on any particular type of pornography. And it is most certainly not a Raven Vanguard sanctioned mandate that every form of pornography is acceptable because we don’t believe that to be the case. The intricacies of pornography, and what constitutes pornography that is obscene, cannot possibly be reduced to something as mundane as a blog-type posting.
Also, the crucial questions surrounding the complexities of the pornography conversation and any reasoned debate cannot possibly be resolved by glibly Tweeting about it. So please don’t expect us to suddenly start wildly Tweeting about this troublesome subject at any point in the near future. Let’s just say that today’s Once-over categorically rejects all misguided, oppressive, and broad-brushed attempts at censorship under the guise of some feigned socially or moralistic higher purpose.
This Once-over also relates, in certain respects, to the wondrous aesthetics of a woman’s body and any attempt to eroticize her body in an enlightened and artistically-presenting manner. I think most of us can agree that one purpose of creating art in the first place is so that it can be appreciated for its aesthetic virtues and its intrinsic and externalized beauty. So, in some ways, this Once-over is also about creativity, and art and artists and the aesthetics of the art they create.
There are those among us, both women and men, who argue that any attempt to eroticize the female form is inherently misogynistic; we respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree. We do not believe that every sincere artistic effort to capture the innate beauty of a naked woman is fundamentally offensive. This is where we gladly part company with those who think that female nudity in itself is offensive, or intrinsically sexist.
And on the flip side, we have no fundamental objections of any kind to artistic expressions of male nudity. Candidly, however, from a purely visual aesthetics point of view, we believe the male form pales in comparison to the females.
Let’s get back to Tumblr. Tumblr is a social networking and reblogging site that has successfully monetized adult content, including nudity, ever since its founding in February 2007. Tumblr is currently owned by Oath, Inc., a subsidiary of Verizon Communications.
Raven Vanguard has an account with #Tumblr containing artistic and imaginative content (both images, and creative written material) that is most definitely intended for an adult viewing audience. https://www.tumblr.com/blog/ravenvanguard However, our content on Tumblr is not #PatentlyOffensive in any way, nor is it #pornographic, #obscene, #dehumanizing, exploitative, harmful to minors, demeaning or inappropriately or unnecessarily sexualizing. Nevertheless, quite ridiculously, Tumblr has already flagged some of our artistic content for removal on 12/17 as #AdultContent under the auspices of its new, excessively broad and sexist #CommunityGuidelines. Shame on Tumblr for finally revealing itself to be the spineless profit-mongering corporate whore that many of us feared it might become when first acquired by Yahoo.
For example, and so that you can judge for yourself, here is one of our Tumblr posts that it has already flagged for removal on 12/17:
Until a few days ago, I did not even know that there was such a thing as “female-presenting nipples.” So then what is it that is inherently offensive about a woman’s nipples? (Because, at least in the Tumblr sense, the breast itself appears to be OK, so it must be the nipple alone that someone in the world of Verizon finds utterly detestable and distasteful. Perhaps, the decision was made by a small group of paternalistic and patriarchal male lawyers who were deprived of the opportunity to breastfeed as infants who found themselves frustrated when finally huddled around and over an image of female-presenting nipples).
Unfortunately, while Tumblr makes no effort whatsoever to define these conjoined words precisely, it does make clear that these words are not intended to prohibit the publication or reblogging of images of “exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery.” Huh?
Curiously, Tumblr’s new Community Guidelines will continue to allow “written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations.” So, where does this leave the display of female-presenting nipples in the context of sex-positive, non-dehumanizing and non-marginalizing images of art, erotica, femininity, intimacy, sensuality, seduction, or sexuality?
More importantly, why, in 2018, is this even a thing? Does this mean that an artist can still depict female-presenting nipples as long as political bullshit of some sort is also scribbled upon and across the subject’s chest? Here’s our proposed solution concerning those posts of ours that Tumblr has marked for banning – we intend to replace all female-presenting nipples with male-presenting nipples by photoshopping a man’s aesthetically-pleasing nipples in place of those female-presenting nipples that Tumblr finds so repulsive. I know that we are not alone in seeing the absurdity in all of this.
One thing appears reasonably certain, images of male-presenting nipples are socially more desirable in this Verizon-curated and autocratic universe whereas female-presenting nipples are somehow directly opposed to “a better, more positive Tumblr.” Really, Tumblr? Really, Oath? Really, Verizon? Most definitely, their attempt at using a scorched-earth approach in an effort to eliminate an actual problem (child pornography) among a very, very infinitesimally tiny percentage of Tumblr’s membership is not the answer. However, in Tumblr-land, it appears that concocting an easily-administered comprehensive policy ostensibly aimed at eliminating all forms of adult-oriented content trumps any and all meaningful forms of artistic, erotic, sexual and gender-based images of creative expression, at least insofar as female-presenting nipples are concerned.
Imagine this; we now live in a world where Verizon has suddenly become the censoring benevolent guardian of the artistic greater good. Let that sink in for a moment. Verizon has effectively declared war on the arts, and creative expression is usually the first real victim in any war of cultural misappropriation and assimilation.
Because of the self-imposed limited “word count” context of our Once-over format, it is impossible for me to adequately address the foolishness of Tumblr’s image-based content-ban on adult-oriented speech. And make no mistake about this, this new policy has far-reaching implications related to free speech. Unfortunately, Tumblr, because it is not an arm of government, is not entirely subject to First Amendment restrictions in their ill-advised attempts to police the activities of its membership.
What we will say about Tumblr’s new policy is that it is both overly broad and inclusive, as well as economically intrusive with respect to those Tumblr users who have spent years and considerable effort building their brand identity around Tumblr’s reblogging platform, especially when you consider that the monetary value of Tumblr’s online format derives almost entirely from its prior and long-standing practice of welcoming and encouraging the proliferation of adult content by its members and users.
Some who have come out in support of Tumblr’s adult content ban have attempted to make the point that there is a fine line between exposed female-presenting nipples and legally prohibited vulgarity, gross lewdness, hardcore pornography, and obscenity. Huh? Based on what contemporary community standards do you make this ridiculous argument? Clearly, the community standards you espouse must be either of the male chauvinistic variety or some intolerant and misanthropic religious practice or group. Attempting to make this broad-based and bogus claim devolves into an insidious form of reductionism from which there is no escape. Since female-based nudity is now banned outright on Tumblr, is no eroticized depiction of female-presenting nipples acceptable? Well, based on those posts of ours that Tumblr has already flagged for banning, apparently not. Again, this subject is so complex that a full examination and analysis is well beyond the intended scope of our Once-over formula.
Also sucked into the unwinnable vortex of the current adult content and female-presenting nipples debate on Tumblr are the countless people in this world who lawfully make an honest living working in the so-called “sex industry.” And they do so consensually, autonomously, safely, without violence, and in ways that are economically and personally empowering. Free-willed and unforced sex work and sex trafficking are not synonymous and should never be confused, one for the other. To the extent a platform like Tumblr takes legitimate and realistic steps to eradicate sex trafficking honestly, we are all in favor and would heartily applaud such efforts, but when those steps indiscriminately demonize those lawfully engaged in providing sex-related services, then we say that policy is flawed as being overbroad and is counterproductive to a free and open internet that is not in any way exploitative. Again, unfortunately, the ramifications relating to a full analysis of this subject are so complex that it is beyond the scope of this Once-over.
In closing, we challenge any openminded person to visit Raven Vanguard’s Tumblr page and identify a single post of ours that is in any way patently offensive. Thought-provoking? Surely. But patently offensive, in an objective sense? Never. And keep in mind that most artistic and creative content likely offends some small segment of the world’s population, no matter how benign or innocuous that material might be.
The Ladies of Raven Vanguard wholeheartedly approve of the message of today’s Once-over.
Effective 12/17, @RavenVanguard will move all banned @tumblr content to https://www.ravenvanguard.com/, and there it will stay so that you can judge for yourself whether female-presenting nipples will lead to the downfall of all humankind.
Oh, and to all you dangerous Ladies out there who take the time to read our Once-over, please make sure to adequately cover and hide your female-presenting nipples wherever you might be while I go ahead and exercise my freedom of expression by proudly displaying my male-presenting nipples openly wherever I go. WTF?