Reddit NSFW ads: Viagra is good, sex toys are shameful

Image by the brilliant Stuart F Taylor

Today Reddit announced that it has ‘updated’ its NSFW advertising policy. In news that will frankly surprise no one by now, ‘updating’ means ‘getting rid of adult content.’ Adult ads will no longer be allowed on Reddit – porn ads, sex toys, you name it – and NSFW subreddits will no longer display advertising at all. Interestingly, though, Viagra ads will still be permitted – Reddit appears to be telling us that Viagra is good, but sex toys are shameful.

Reddit NSFW change: an overview

You can read the full announcement at the text above, but here’s the relevant bit for those who are interested:

  • The advertisement of adult-oriented products and/or services ads is no longer permitted. Specifically, this includes pornographic or sexually explicit content, as well as adult sexual recreational content, products, or services.

Please note that for the purposes of this policy, ads pertaining to products for the prevention of pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections, and erectile dysfunction are permissible, so long as they do not target minors and only focus on the clinical aspects of the product, rather than sexual performance or enhancement (see full advertising policy for details.)

So porn is banned which – as one user quite rightly pointed out – “simply drives people to the piracy tubesites to find their adult content and deprives studios and performers of income.”

Sex toys and other pleasure products are banned. And again I find myself agreeing with another user who succinctly explained: “Reddit is now another perpetrator to the stigma surrounding ‘self-love'”

I’m furious about this change, and not just because it indicates the NSFW subreddits will eventually disappear too – with that section of the site no longer making revenue, we can almost certainly kiss goodbye to awesome subreddits like GoneWildAudio, BoredAndIgnored, GoneWild30plus, SexToys, Swingers, BDSM, and a whole lot more besides. Some of the funnest things about Reddit now make Reddit no money. How long will they survive?

Viagra is good, sex toys are shameful

I could argue on any and all of the points raised by the Reddit NSFW ad change, and naturally please go ahead and assume I am annoyed about all of it, because I am. But the thing which caught my eye in particular was their exemption for Viagra. I’m pleased that they are allowing pregnancy/STI and Viagra ads, but I can’t help wondering why Viagra gets a pass here and sex toys do not.

Why is my boyfriend’s boner precious and worth protecting, but my orgasms are not? Given that we now know the orgasm gap is a significant thing, why are we still selling the lie that sex toys are somehow shameful fripperies rather than important tools for pleasure?

I understand that Viagra is often prescribed (though here in the UK you can buy it over the counter, and now you can even buy it online at Boots – all you need to do is fill out a questionnaire. It’s easier to get Viagra than it is to get the contraceptive pill). I also realise that many people would not be able to get sexual pleasure without it. However, this is also true of sex toys. You can buy sex toys in Boots too. They are also often medically necessary.

As someone who struggled with anorgasmia on SSRIs, I am convinced that without sex toys (thanks Doxy and Zumio) there is a significant portion of my life throughout which I wouldn’t have been able to orgasm at all. Sex toys are not just for having a casual/fun wank: for many people they are vital in maintaining an active sex life. To the point where medical professionals often recommend sex toys to patients. Here’s a great blog explaining why sex toys are often medically necessary, but if you need some examples, consider: people with arthritis, or spinal cord injuries, or vaginismus, or who are going through the menopause. Surgery, illness, age, mental health: all of these things can affect your ability to get sexual pleasure.

Erectile dysfunction is not the only sexual condition that is worthy of attention. And in fact even erectile dysfunction can be alleviated with – you guessed it! – sex toys!

Sex toys are more than just ‘fun’

I’m not arguing that we should ban Viagra, or that ads for it should be banned under the new Reddit NSFW guidelines. On the contrary, if Pfizer would like to get in touch to buy some advertising I will happily and joyfully spread the word about this wonderful drug on my website! I’m saying that it’s ludicrous and discriminatory to act as if erectile dysfunction is the only sexual condition that is worthy of treatment and support. Allowing adverts for Viagra while disallowing sex toys exposes a bias that runs through so much of the increasing puritanism of the internet. As NSFW content/ad bans always disproportionately impact indie/queer porn sites, leaving large porn companies like Mindgeek to hoover up the traffic, so bans on sexual products tend to disproportionately impact those who have non-reproductive sex. Dick-focused, penetrative, cishet sex is protected, even as pleasure of other kinds is banned for the sake of propriety.

Seeing as I now struggle to orgasm during sex without using sex toys, the new Reddit NSFW rules essentially tell me – I am allowed to get fucked, but I’m not allowed to come.

Or as Dr Jamie Lawson put it in his excellent guest blog for me on the bizarre choice to label condoms and lube ‘family planning’:

“It’s almost as if society is built around the idea that the only sex that really matters is sex that helps (straight, cisgendered) men reproduce. Funny idea that.”

As I say, I’m not arguing against Viagra. I’m arguing that any logic which allows Viagra ads but not sex toy ads is fundamentally fucked. It’s prioritising erections over any other kind of sexual pleasure, ignoring people who require clitoral stimulation in order to come, and feeding into the wrongheaded narrative that sex toys are somehow dirty or shameful.

Sex toys are vital. For many many people, pleasure just isn’t possible without them. If erections are important, then sex toys are too.

 

19 Comments

  • Golden Hare says:

    Yes to all of this.

    Jamie is so right about cishet male reproductive sex being the only kind that matters to this type of social norm. And yet it is women, not said men, judged and punished for not “protecting themselves” if reproduction ensues, especially with US abortion laws becoming more and more restrictive.

    I do not understand why we are going backwards. It’s so dangerous.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Thanks GH! And yes, I totally agree: what’s happening is really dangerous, and I think it risks cementing the idea that only one kind of sex is acceptable, all else is shameful and bad. On top of this, just after I put that post live there was an announcement that the UK porn block is going to come in on 15th July. *collapses into a big sad pile* https://www.wired.co.uk/article/porn-block-uk-date-confirmed

      • Phillip says:

        There are people who will fight back and in the end win. You are one of those people. Additionally I just don’t think it will work. I think that people will raise a real ruckus over the ‘block’. It will tie things in knots and there will doubtless be some kind of black market work around.

  • Golden Hare says:

    Collapsing into that pile right next to you, raging and sobbing!

  • fuzzy says:

    Fuck these fucking fuckers, they make me sick. I am so tired of living in this puritan fucking society that represses all forms of physical contact.

  • Phillip says:

    The Puritans left their mark in indelible ink in the USA. I am sorry that you have to deal with these problems. Besides being repressive in a kind of sick way it will also hurt business. That might be the Puritans’ Achilles Heel! There has to be some negative to their plan. I think that here there are a lot of mail order catalogs that have a smallish layout of ‘toys’.

  • [comment deleted at poster’s request]

    • Girl on the net says:

      OK so I think Addyi is an interesting thing to choose as a comparison, and it doesn’t really hold up to it I’m afraid so I’m going to lay Addyi to one side for the moment. Basically Addyi is attempting to alter libido rather than arousal – it is not a tablet taken ‘in the moment’ to enable someone to have sex, rather it’s a long-course medication (with some pretty worrying side-effects) which aims to eventually increase libido. There’s more info on it here, but basically let’s just set that to one side: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/another-controversy-for-the-female-viagra/

      To your other examples, I think you raise a good point but it’s not really one that runs counter to what I’m arguing. Yes, cock rings/masturbators/other dick toys will be banned under the rules, and I’m annoyed about that too – there will be people for whom sexual pleasure is impossible without these things too. But I’m not arguing that no one with a dick will be harmed by these rules. On the contrary there will be many people – I’m thinking especially of disabled people with limited mobility or others who may struggle with manual masturbation – who have dicks and may not be able to access pleasure without sex toys. The thing is, though, allowing Viagra is a way to ensure that cishet sex (i.e. sex that requires erection and penetration) is protected. Why? Why is this kind of sex allowed/important over and above other kinds of sexual pleasure? The bias I’m talking about isn’t towards ‘men’ as a whole – it is towards cishet reproductive sex. If you click through to the article by Dr Jamie Lawson linked in the piece, there’s more info on the broad concept there, and I’m grateful to him for teaching me more about it!

      • [comment deleted at poster’s request]

        • Girl on the net says:

          It’s not about timeframe, it’s about the literal function of the drug. Have a look at that article I linked you to. Addyi is not ‘the female Viagra’, you have been misled by that marketing slogan. It is a pill that you take long-term in order to try and increase libido. Viagra is a drug you take to give you instant erections. To be really blunt about it: Addyi does not have a direct effect on whether you can or can’t have reproductive sex – Viagra does.

          And you’re missing my point again re: Viagra. The point is not ‘it is only there to help cishet dudes’, but that it’s primary purpose is to facilitate reproductive sex. The bias here is towards *reproductive sex.*

          A question for you: what purpose do commercial adverts for Viagra serve that commercial adverts for sex toys do not? What does Viagra do that sex toys do not?

  • Johnny Ringo says:

    We feature non-nude real and competitive female vs female and female vs male wrestling. We have been banned from Youtube, Dailymotion, and Vimeo.

    It’s not just Reddit. Tumblr cracked down recently as well.

  • [comment deleted at poster’s request]

  • I think Viagra is also an adult product as sex toys. In spite of that sex toys are being banned not sex toys.

  • cj says:

    I enjoyed this post! Thanks for showing me a perspective I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
    I did have one question though – isn’t Viagra also used to facilitate sex between gay men? So it seems to be more of a bias towards men’s pleasure…but then like you said there are cock-oriented toys as well. So I’m a bit confused.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Viagra is also used by women (although as far as I know it’s not clinically tested on/recommended for us?) so it’s not specifically about who uses it, it’s about why this particular thing is allowed but others are not. My suspicion is that it has nothing to do with sexual pleasure (because if it were, as you say, cock-oriented toys would also be allowed) but everything to do with reproductive sex. If you click through to the blog post I recommended by Dr Jamie Lawson, he explains this concept beautifully – reproductive sex is protected and cherished in a way that pleasurable sex simply isn’t.

  • guttam Kumar says:

    I’m thinking especially of disabled people with limited mobility or others who may struggle with manual masturbation.

  • Mayank Pawar says:

    I enjoyed this post! Thanks for showing me a perspective I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.There are people who will fight back and in the end win. You are one of those people.

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