So, at the time of writing I’ve (temporarily at least) put my Twitter account on private while I process some thoughts. Specifically regarding content and unintended/unwanted exposure to adult content.
Someone on my feed posted a tweet basically asking people not to retweet porn. I took the point that they didn’t necessarily want to see what people enjoy wanking to. That said, social media and retweets/other forms of sharing are really important for independent adult content producers, and often if I like what someone’s doing, and whether or not I choose to buy their content, I will retweet what they are up to. This can potentially help them reach a larger audience and, more importantly, a larger audience who is more likely to be into what they’re offering than a more mainstream account. I raised this issue with the original tweeter (I know that I’m by no means perfect and am happy to reassess my approach if it means I can do better). Their response equated unexpected porn tweets with flashing.
There is, I don’t hesitate to say, a lot to unpack here. Certainly there’s enough that I’m not going to pretend that this post can cover all of the main bases, and I may well delay posting to seek additional thoughts on the matter. But it’s been running around my head for a couple of hours and here’s what I’ve got so far.
First up (and I’m going to make this one brief) intent is important. Flashing is a targeted form of sexual assault. There is intent to do something to someone against their will, with their distress forming an inherent part of the motivation. Comparing sharing adult content with flashing is a bit extreme on that basis alone.
That said, I don’t want to deny that the effects are very real for some people, and actually “I didn’t mean to” doesn’t disregard the impact of triggering someone. I guess my thought on that (and content warnings in general) comes down to sharing stuff is one thing, sharing stuff recklessly is another. For example, were I to write a post or tweet about self harm or sexual assault I would probably add a content warning.
But adding content warnings to tweets (let alone RTs) is tricky. Sure I can (and now have) added an NSFW disclaimer to my twitter profile, but you’re not going to see that if someone retweets a picture of my butt into your timeline. Twitter has an option for flagging your tweets as potentially containing sensitive material (I’ve now enabled this option, although again I don’t really know how it works in practice and whether it applies to things like retweets).
Context is also quite important. So, my twitter feed is generally pretty adult content heavy. This isn’t really an instance of me having a vanilla feed that just once in a while posts a close-up for someone’s butt-hole that can catch you by surprise. I never thought I’d be thinking of this as a defence, but at least I’m consistent in what I post and retweet. Looking at that written down it doesn’t really offer much comfort.
One option would be to basically self-censor, to not have anything on my feed (either my content or RTs) that isn’t safe for work or at least fairly unlikely to cause issues for anyone. But at that point I’m asking genuine questions about why I’m on Twitter at all. One of the main reasons I engage with it as a platform more than instagram, Facebook et al is that Twitter is relatively open to having adult content and, deep down, I really believe that having that content out there, and enabling sexual expression is an important thing, something worth fighting for.
And again, I’m in the privileged position of not relying on getting my stuff out there in order to pay my rent.
So what should I do? I am trying to examine what I’m doing and happy to look for ways to do better, but right now I’m not sure what they are.