The picture that violated Facebook’s community standards

I’m always a little leery about posting photos on Facebook–not so much because I’m concerned that someone’s going to start stalking me and wind up kidnapping my boyfriend’s ninja turtle collection, but because Facebook seems to be a little inconsistent in its application of community standards criteria. What I mean by this is that Facebook–like most of America–seems disproportionately concerned about nudity, to the point that a laughably inoffensive image was removed from New Times‘ Facebook page on Jan. 6. The image was one that Los Osos resident Mickey Wheedon had submitted, along with a defense of nudism (which is a surprisingly hot button issue in San Luis Obispo County).

Now, if there had been an opportunity to discuss or explain the reasons behind the photograph’s removal, I might not be sitting here, scratching my head, contemplating the source of Facebook’s distaste for butts. Instead, the social networking site sweeps its authoritarian hand down upon the sinners, who cower guiltily, fearful that if they are not obedient and unobjectionable, Facebook will follow up this action by wiping away your site entirely. You’re not given the opportunity to point out that you’ve seen a lot more skin in ads that Facebook promotes by “slyly” inserting them into your newsfeed. Or that you’re willing to go without the butt photograph on your wall if they’re willing to eradicate gatherings of morons promoting sexual violence through their site. Instead, without any dialogue, the photograph is gone, and everything I deem objectionable–threats of sexual violence–remains behind.


You can call me jaded or well, there are other words used to describe people who don’t see eye to eye with those who take the hardest line on what constitutes moral or ethical behavior. But I don’t find anything particularly titillating in this image, or in Mickey’s words. I was, however, offended by San Luis Obispo resident Steve T. Kobara’s response to the photograph, in which he railed against the horrors of “aggressive nudists” who “get a rush from forcing their bare bottoms, breasts, navels, and genitals on the rest of us.” Rather than huffing and puffing with the rest of the morality police, Kobara actually argued, “Seldom mentioned is the fact that naked women are fair game for rapists. And nude men may have to contend with male rapists.” Ah, the good ol’, “it’s fine with me if you don’t want to abide by my arbitrary rules, but if you don’t, then don’t come crying to me when something incredibly violent and traumatic and damaging happens to you. In fact, I rather think you deserve it” argument.

I’ve given up hoping that there will come a day when people–especially men–stop telling women how not to get raped. Or warning that their behavior warrants or invites rape. The truth is, no one ever asks to get raped. Rape is non-consensual by definition. Therefore, it’s not something that a person can ask for. And I don’t much care if a person is rolling around naked alone in the dead of night; they’re not inviting, don’t deserve to be, and should not be raped. But Kobara’s speech is the kind that you could make on Facebook and while reasonable people would tell you to shove your prudish condemnations up a very tight, repressed crevice, Facebook would allow this dialogue to remain.

In fact, Facebook has a history of allowing posts, messages, and even groups that threaten and promote sexual violence. Even after the groups have been brought to their attention.

So here’s the offensive image, the lurid horror of a naked, white butt. I’m not arguing that it’s beautiful or poetic or even that it’s art. I’m just arguing that it deserved to be seen, that perhaps we should reconsider what we find objectionable, and that, maybe, the fact of finding something objectionable–especially in a field as vast and diverse as the Internet–should not afford a guarantee that it will be swept dutifully out of sight.





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