When Education Becomes Inappropriate Content
Forgive us for being blunt but it just feels like social media hates pleasure. You too? We’re not only referring to explicit demonstrations of pleasure, but even the education around pleasure and sexual education. To be specific, according to the Atlantic, the policies of social platforms like Facebook and Twitter classify health organizations and their safe sex messaging as “inappropriate content.”
“Twitter prohibits the promotion of adult or sexual products or services. “Safer sex education, HIV/STD awareness campaigns, and non-prescription contraceptives” can be promoted, but only with the provision they “do not contain sexual content and do not link to sexual content.” For example, an approved condom tweet might read: “A condom can actually fit over your entire head! #Themoreyouknow,” whereas an offending tweet would be “If you think condoms aren’t for you, you just haven’t found the right one yet. See how good safer sex can feel.” - The Atlantic
So, how does one speak about sexual content without being overtly sexual? Well, it’s pretty challenging. Human psychology doesn’t operate well with ambiguity - we’ll go out on a limb and say that simply advertising “use a condom” will not be very effective. To promote positive behaviors, we crave creativity, humor, and positivity - and the imagery associated with it all.
Social Media as Modern Sex Education
Here’s a really scary statistic for you: in the US, only 30 states have laws that mandate sex education and of those states, there is zero guarantee for the quality or breadth of subjects covered. To break that down, fewer than ½ of high schools and ⅕ of middle schools teach the sexual health topics that the CDC believes is essential. (source: Guttmacher.org)
Given our limited exposure as youth to important health topics, it can be only assumed that many turn to social media for vital information. So, what happens when these resources become stunted or even blocked? Social pages that promote sexual pleasure, education, and women’s bodily autonomy are particularly at risk of censorship. For those in the sexual wellness space, the restrictions and guidelines placed have become very hard to work around and could absolutely catalyze into changes in the real world. We think Erika Lust explained it best here:
“If the internet mimics real life, then real life can also mimic things happening online. If women are censored on Instagram there is no doubt that we could be censored in offline life too. When Instagram pages that promote female pleasure are hidden, young women will come to understand that their pleasure is invalid in real life.” - USA Today
Our Personal Experience
As a sex toy company, we have come head to head with advertising and censorship restrictions. There are tremendous limits to what we can say, show, and promote, simply because we are a company rooted in pleasure. We are able to show assigned-male-at-birth (AMAB) nipples, however, if we were to show assigned-female-at-birth nipples (AFAB), it would immediately be taken down. On platforms like Instagram and TikTok, it is recommended to not fully write out “explicit” words like sex, clitoris, or orgasm.
Additionally, we are not able to advertise in a traditional sense. In fact, Facebook downright refuses to run ads for sex toy companies: “Ads must not promote the sale or use of adult products or services, except for ads for family planning and contraception,” declares the company’s advertising policy. So, instead sex toy companies are reliant on Google AdWords or porn sites. The biggest confusion around all of this, is that if advertising pertains to sex as sexual health (i.e. wear a condom) there is less of an issue, BUT if it has anything to do with simply pleasure for pleasure's sake, it is immediately blocked.
So what now? Now, we continue to advocate, educate, and empower. We won’t give up our fight. It is our mission to provide a safe space to encourage pleasure and hope, that in time, we hope will eventually be seen as an essential component of sexual health and wellness.
Social Media Censors Sexual Education: The Atlantic