Instagram Wants to Ban Sex

Instagram's latest draconian crackdown on sexual content is a direct attack on sex workers and educators

Instagram is cracking down on sex, putting sex workers, sex educators, and your average horny thirst-poster at risk.

Sex workers, educators and activists across the internet spent the weekend scrubbing their Instagram accounts of anything remotely suggestive and creating backup profiles in anticipation of the platform’s new terms of service, which went into effect Sunday.

The new policy aims to prohibit “sexual solicitation” on the platform, and the vague yet sweeping new guidelines make anything even remotely sexual a target. That includes everything from nudes, even censored ones, to “contextually specific or commonly sexual emojis” and “regionalized sexual slang.”

Sex workers in various sectors of the industry have long used Instagram as a place to grow their following and promote their services to a wider audience, and critics warn that Instagram’s crackdown — which comes at a particularly vulnerable moment for the sex industry — could have a direct and devastating effect on sex workers who rely on their internet presence to make a living.

“These new guideline changes are another knife in our tired backs and, for many sex workers who are already fighting for survival after being denied COVID-19 aid from their governments, this has already greatly harmed our most vulnerable workers,” sex worker Rebecca Crow told Novara Media.

While the policy revision obviously threatens the sex workers it directly and aggressively attacks, these new restrictions also put sex educators and sex-positive activists at risk of losing their presence on the platform.

“Our community as a whole is going to be devastatingly impacted. Despite hours of purging our feeds and archives, it’s very likely our accounts will be gone overnight,” wrote sex educator Lorrae Bradbury, founder of the sex-positive blog Slutty Girl Problems. “I’m heartbroken for our whole community, and the impact it’s going to have on all of our livelihoods.”

Bradbury has been battling online censorship of her brand, especially on Instagram, for years, facing frequent bans and deactivations well before Instagram implemented its latest draconian crackdown.

“It’s hard to know that my passion and purpose in life … likely won’t be feasible to live on in the future, which means I won’t be able to show up and support others as vocally and openly on this topic,” Bradbury continued.

While the policy went into effect on Sunday, many sex workers and educators on Instagram who feared their accounts would be instantly deactivated are still waiting to see where the chips fall. In the meantime, members of Instagram’s sex-positive community are flocking to Twitter to take advantage of that platform’s more lenient approach to nudity and sexual content.

Unfortunately, social media platforms have a long history of being sex-friendly — until they’re not. Many have compared Instagram’s latest crackdown to Tumblr’s explicit image ban two years ago, which effectively banished sex workers from a platform they previously dominated.

As sex worker Mistress Eva told InsideHook earlier this year about the rising mainstream popularity of OnlyFans, “It’s a common reality that sex workers popularize platforms only to then be forced out when the platforms reach a level of mass popularity.” While Twitter may be a safe haven for the sex worker exiles fleeing Instagram’s puritanical crackdown at the moment, it’s hard to say how long anywhere will remain safe for sex workers amid the internet’s increasingly hostile war on sex.

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