Sex news: Twitter safe search and NSFW etiquette

Image by the ace Stuart F Taylor

Sex news this week: lots of people have been tweeting about Twitter’s safe search, which is now ‘on’ by default for a number of users (including me, which is WEIRD). If you’re following sex bloggers, porn performers, and other people who tweet adult content, here’s a quick guide on how to turn off Twitter safe search, and a little bit of info on NSFW etiquette and my own rules around tweeting sexy pics. As a bonus I’ll also give you some tips on how to support your local neighbourhood sex bloggers/adult content providers who might be getting a little bit downhearted by changes to adult content…

Twitter safe search

Safe search is a filter within a search engine that will show you only content that it thinks is ‘safe’ – i.e. it will filter out adult content (sex, drugs, violence, etc) and only show you stuff that is probably OK to look at on the bus.

Safe searches are often a useful tool – combined with parents/carers taking responsibility for their young charges, safe searches and filters can help keep kids safe online, and they’re also good for people who simply don’t want to see bums at 9 am when they’re scrolling through Twitter on the way to work. They’re not infallible, though, so they should never be used in isolation as a ‘keeping children safe’ strategy.

If you like looking at bums, however, you could be surprised to learn that Twitter may have safe search on for you by default. I have ‘show me sensitive content’ ticked in my Twitter settings, yet still they turned safe search on for me, for reasons I can’t discern. Maybe they’re just being extra cautious, or maybe they couldn’t be bothered to think it through.

Either way, if you’d like to turn this off, go to ‘search settings’ (top right-hand corner of a search page), click on it to open, and then untick ‘hide sensitive content.’

Picture below to illustrate. Voilà – you now have bums.

Sensitive content on Twitter: the basics

Twitter has other useful tools to deal with sensitive content: in your account settings, you can select ‘hide sensitive content’ as well as ‘content I tweet may be sensitive.’ I’ve ticked the latter – because obviously I tweet quite a few sexy pictures. And I’ve unticked the former – because I want to see sexy pictures.

I’ve had a lot of discussion with friends recently about what is and isn’t acceptable to tweet on a public timeline: some people would like to have content warnings before a nude image, others hate the very idea of content warnings at all, and say that if you’re following a sexy account you should expect the odd bum every now and then. Some people have, in the past, told me off for retweeting images that contain nudity, or tweeting sexy blog posts at a time of day when many people are at work. Others have told me off for warning about them, because they think I’m coddling people by mentioning it.

Thing is, though, Twitter is a global thing: I have followers from lots of different time zones, working jobs of varying shifts, so choosing ‘evening’ as a time to tweet doesn’t guarantee no one’s going to be reading at work. And if I try to make my timeline entirely ‘safe for work’ then not only will it not reflect what I’m writing about (let’s face it, it’s frequently filth), but it also means I miss out on the chance to support Sinful Sunday and other photography projects, or share porn that I think my followers might like. And on the other side, while it might seem obvious to you that my Twitter account will occasionally be nude/NSFW, it may not be so obvious to someone who started following just yesterday off the back of a joke I made while I was livetweeting Question Time. So: the answer that works for me here, as with lots of other things, is to just be totally transparent about it – tell people my policy on nudity/sexy pics and let them decide what they want to do.

Here are my sensitive content rules:

  • All my media on Twitter is automatically marked as sensitive – so if you tick ‘hide sensitive content’ in your settings, you won’t see my pictures. You can choose to click through to the blog links when you’re ready/in an appropriate place.
  • Over on facebook, I don’t post explicit pictures. Facebook’s historical dodginess around sexy pictures means you’ll usually get a cropped/SFW version of an image so you can choose to click through when you’re in a private place.
  • If you subscribe to email updates when a post goes live, you will get the first section of a post without the image in it. Then you can choose to click through and see the picture/full post as and when you’re ready.

Where you’re running NSFW social media accounts, there will always be a delicate balance to strike: you want to arouse and entertain people, but you don’t want to turn them off with a deluge of pictures that they’re going to be nervous scrolling past if they are reading in public. It’s even harder if you do what I do, and combine SFW posts with NSFW posts – my blog is marked by most ISPs as ‘adult content’, which makes tonnes of sense if you judge it by the posts about bumming, but is a massive hindrance if I want people to read posts about feminism on their lunch break at work.

It’s not always easy, and mostly it’s going to rely on transparency (as above) and individual user judgment. If you’re worried about seeing NSFW images in your timeline, but you like reading my posts in the comfort of your own home (or on your phone in the bathrooms at work), subscribe to the newsletter – it’ll send them to your inbox and you can peruse at your leisure.

If you’d like to follow lots of NSFW accounts, but you also want to maintain a ‘clean’ professional account, you could consider setting up a Twitter/facebook account for your NSFW stuff, though this option makes me a little bit sad because it shovels ‘sex’ off into a weird silo and reinforces the idea that ‘sex’ is – and should be – somehow separate to ‘real life.’

The NSFW conundrum and how you can help

Let’s be totally up front about this: people are embarrassed to talk about sex. That sex is still seen as shameful is … well … a shame, but it means it’s totally understandable that people are a little embarrassed about sharing their favourite porn. Unfortunately this makes it phenomenally difficult for your friendly neighbourhood sex blogger/porn producer/sex worker etc to get noticed. People might love their work, but they’re unlikely to walk into the office and announce their porn recommendations the way they would with the latest Netflix series.

At the same time, platforms like Twitter are becoming more commercial, and as they become more commercial they also often become more hostile to adult content. Like Blogger’s weird decision on adult content a while ago, more companies are making it difficult for people who make ‘adult’ content to get noticed.

You can help in a number of financial ways: buying products through our advertisers to support our work, buying books or donating/supporting us on platforms like Patreon. But you can also help really easily without spending a penny. All you need to do is share stuff. Share links to your favourite blog posts, images and videos. Ignore the ‘like’ buttons – share stuff. Post it on Reddit. Link to it from your own blogs. Retweet it, copy the link and post a new message that says ‘I enjoyed this’ or even ‘not sure I agree with this but I think it’s interesting.’ Email it to friends you think might like it. Tell people in the pub about this cool thing you saw.

And of course, you should absolutely pay for your porn. You should support artists whose work you love. But your support doesn’t always have to be monetary – if you’re broke you can still support us without spending money:

Share stuff. It makes a big difference.

3 Comments

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Ah Twitter, doing their bit to protect people from bums, but doing nothing to stop the rampant hate speech, harassment and death threats… I’m guessing such content will *not* be marked as ‘NSFW’.

    As for the issues with sexual content more generally, I appreciate the problem and how it hurts everyone in the broadly defined ‘adult industry’; but there is also some logic to the ‘silo’ policy. I mean, I’m friends with my mum on Facebook. I can’t really post sexual stuff there, and I’m happy that she doesn’t either…

    • jdgalt says:

      Around here, Twitter only seems interested in “protecting” people from viewpoints that oppose the snowflake movement. I use Gab instead — no filtering at all unless you create it for yourself.

    • Girl on the net says:

      SCS – Yeah, it’s definitely a conundrum – the silo thing works really well for some people, and it does feel a bit rich for me to go ‘sex shouldn’t be silo’d’ when I am anon and generally keep my blog stuff separate from other stuff. I do more of the mixing the other way – bringing non-sex stuff in here, and hoping that people who can’t share the smut can share the feminist pieces, etc. There are definitely more things that adult content providers can do to bridge the gap – I know a few pornographers who combine political with sexy to make a point, which has the dual benefit of a) helping to change attitudes towards sex/porn more generally and b) giving people content they feel they *can* share, even if they can’t share a video and say ‘here’s my favourite porn’ but I totally see what you’re saying, and it’s not a problem that’s going to go away so… hmm… it’ll always be difficult, I guess.

      jdgalt – long time no see. Looking back through your comment history here I see you’re a climate change denier and a rape apologist, so I’m unsurprised that you’d also be misguidedly convinced that Twitter is protecting ‘snowflakes’ from you. Alternative theory – maybe they just have you on mute or block because you’re tedious.

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