3 Reasons to Deprioritize Social Media for Adult Businesses

Imagine that merely mentioning “Link in bio” on your Instagram story could get your account flagged or deleted.

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A pho­to of a brightly-colored, abstract­ly shaped dil­do gets marked as “adult solic­i­ta­tion.” Or an edu­ca­tion­al info­graph­ic about sex­u­al health gets you shad­ow­banned — hard­ly any of your fol­low­ers see your posts on their feeds anymore.

That’s the reality of social media for plenty of sex-positive businesses, even when their content is quite PG or PG-13.

It’s like try­ing to run a busi­ness on an active volcano.

Can social media help build a com­mu­ni­ty and audi­ence? Yes, cer­tain­ly! But be pre­pared and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

If you’re a sex-positive con­tent cre­ator or busi­ness, here are just a few rea­sons to take your focus off social media — and maybe build your own website.


1 Plenty of services already aren’t adult-friendly

You prob­a­bly already knew that, but I had to say it again.

Tumblr infa­mous­ly had its down­fall in 2017 with the “porn­poca­lypse.”

Pinterest doesn’t “allow ads for adult prod­ucts and ser­vices,” except for “fam­i­ly plan­ning and con­tra­cep­tion as long as the focus isn’t on improv­ing sex­u­al per­for­mance or pleasure.”

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Their pol­i­cy par­tic­u­lar­ly epit­o­mizes American sex ed: talk a lit­tle about preg­nan­cy and scary STIs, but not at all about pleasure.

Oh, and say good­bye to any long-term plan of pro­mot­ing your sex-adjacent busi­ness via Facebook ads — unless you’re a big­wig with deep pock­ets like LELO.

That brings me to my next point…


2 You don’t always know when the content restrictions apply to you

It doesn’t exact­ly help that social media com­mu­ni­ty stan­dards for sug­ges­tive con­tent tend to be some com­bi­na­tion of the following:

  • Vague
  • Highly, high­ly sub­jec­tive, and up to the sen­si­bil­i­ty of the mod­er­a­tor you get
  • Explicitly dis­crim­i­na­to­ry towards LGBTQ+ people
  • Inconsistent in their enforce­ment and lack­ing in trans­paren­cy about it

Consider, for exam­ple, a pho­to of a woman sit­ting in under­wear and cov­er­ing her breasts. Heck, plen­ty of thin and white-passing influ­encers can post pho­tos with their ass or tid­dies hang­ing out, as long as nip­ples are censored.

But a fat Black woman doing the same could have her pho­to removed for “sex­u­al activ­i­ty.” When she posts a follow-up dis­agree­ing with their deci­sion, it could get flagged as “hate speech or sym­bols.” This sit­u­a­tion isn’t hypo­thet­i­cal  — it’s hap­pened to writer Cheyenne Monique Davis (@chey­mod­ee) before.

 

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A post shared by Cheyenne Monique Davis (@cheymodee)

Further food for thought: even in ear­ly 2021, iPhone users with the “Limit Adult Websites” set­ting couldn’t web search pret­ty much any­thing with “Asian” in the query. Because the con­tent fil­ter deemed it as adult content.

It doesn’t per­tain to social media specif­i­cal­ly, but it’s just a drop in the buck­et as far as ways that cer­tain groups are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly hyper­sex­u­al­ized. (Frankly, the sex­u­al­iza­tion of Asian women was part of why I stayed anony­mous on my sex toy review blog for so long.)

Even if you’re not cur­rent­ly per­son­al­ly affect­ed by com­mu­ni­ty guide­lines or terms of ser­vice, pay atten­tion because…


3 You don’t know when their TOS or algorithm will change

Google was mil­lime­ters away from ban­ning adult con­tent on Blogger in 2015. Tumblr’s porn­poca­lypse was as recent as 2017. And even OnlyFans isn’t immune.

OnlyFans’ updat­ed terms of ser­vice, as of March 2021, no longer allow the fol­low­ing: hyp­no­sis, hard­core bondage, extreme fist­ing, and water­sports, among oth­er things.

Again with the sub­jec­tiv­i­ty: what con­sti­tutes “hard­core” bondage or “extreme” fist­ing? Where does squirt­ing fall on the dichoto­my between vanil­la sex­u­al­i­ty and out­landish fetish, con­sid­er­ing the horse­shit click­bait about whether squirt is or isn’t pee?

Don’t get me wrong — plen­ty of TOS guide­lines and con­tent warn­ings are nec­es­sary for main­tain­ing a safer, more consent-informed envi­ron­ment. I can see how hyp­no­sis and intox­i­ca­tion would be dicey ter­ri­to­ry; it’s a com­plex top­ic beyond the scope of a sin­gle rant by lil ol’ me.

There are still some adult web host­ing TOS to make sure you’re not doing any­thing ille­gal. However, you’ll get a lot more flex­i­bil­i­ty than you would with a free plat­form. Just make sure to pay for pri­va­cy pro­tec­tion, too, so that your address and phone num­ber aren’t public.


4 The perks of running your own website

I start­ed self-hosting my sex toy review blog, Super Smash Cache, for the rea­sons I men­tioned above and more.

1. Sex-positive content on my website won’t get taken down or censored based on arbitrary standards of obscenity.

With an adult-friendly web host, it pret­ty much comes down to, “Are you doing any­thing harm­ful to oth­ers or ille­gal? No? Then you’re good.”

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2. It’s easier to monetize when you have a structured layout and index for long-form content.

Sure, you COULD put in your Instagram bio a link to a grid gallery with mul­ti­ple oth­er links (e.g., to affil­i­at­ed shops or old posts). That’s a valid busi­ness strat­e­gy, too, but I’d rather have the best of both worlds, with a visually-oriented Instagram feed AND a blog with links and cita­tions and foot­notes right in the text.

3. I have greater flexibility as my business grows and adapts.

Maybe one day, I’ll set up a shop of my own to sell art­work, merch, edu­ca­tion­al videos, cours­es, and so on. Or maybe a dig­i­tal gallery for pho­tog­ra­phy. Having my own web­sites means choos­ing what­ev­er adult WordPress themes I want and incor­po­rate a wide vari­ety of media and page types.


That doesn’t mean I’m entire­ly free from the online world’s ever-changing algo­rithms. My rank­ings on Google, for exam­ple, dropped faster in 2020 than I could say “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.”

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But I’d rather that than find­ing out that a busi­ness I’ve built entire­ly on social media has been tak­en down.

Because I — heav­en for­bid — shout to my fol­low­ers that sex can be incred­i­bly plea­sur­able for women and queer peo­ple.


Heads up!

This post was spon­sored. As always, though, the writ­ing is my own.


Further reading

1 Response

  1. D. Dyer says:

    I found this par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant as a dis­abled user/creator for whom find­ing the ener­gy to nav­i­gate these murky social media cen­sor­ship waters is increas­ing­ly difficult.

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