Musings on Explicit Content

The term “explicit” in the context of something that is not suitable for younger or more sensitive audiences is an interesting, and extremely loose term. One individual may think that a picture of a woman in a bikini is explicit, while another may think that only the most heinous, taboo acts of violence and sexuality are explicit. Judgment of the term varies heavily across a spectrum from mild to graphic to “why would a human make this” levels when it comes to art and writing.

Personally, I consider “explicit” content to have material that may be extremely upsetting, somewhat tasteless but not promoting harm, or has enough nudity that you couldn’t look at it at work. I agree… somewhat begrudgingly… to websites mandating an explicit filter, such as DeviantArt. Anyone who doesn’t have an issue with possibly explicit content can just turn the filter off.
However, if the website is for adults and older teens, there is no purpose in being childish like Tumblr and outright banning anything that might be explicit, even if most people would not agree that it is. I have difficulty using Tumblr that often anymore because their new filtering system seems to have broken my tag system, and little that I write shows up on the search anymore. But that’s a rant I’ve already gone through.

When does someone consider a piece they’ve done explicit? It’s a pretty different experience between visual media and writing. Most writers are very aware that their content might be inappropriate for some, seeing as they usually have a clear audience in mind, but what about art?
Artists usually don’t think of their work, at least I don’t think of mine, as something that would bother somebody else, because it just kind of happens for us without there being much thought. Nudity is natural to art, and has been since cave drawings. The beloved classics of art can get quite raunchy for their day, as well, though this doesn’t keep photos of them out of textbooks, as it shouldn’t!

When I on rare occasion have to use the explicit filter, I usually take the impact a drawing might have into account before its visual content. Art faces controversy because of the emotional and visual impact it has, I believe, more than the fact that there’s nudity or violence in it. Some of the most controversial art throughout history has neither of those things but sends a message that hits people in the tender part of their mind.
I haven’t re-posted this drawing yet, but there was an older one I had from around 2017 or 2016 that depicts the phantom of a boy and his dog who have committed suicide looking at their bodies in yearning. I feel something that depicts a dark murder-suicide like that would warrant an explicit filter. It’s the story and image of it that earns the filter, not graphic content. A drawing like this, even though it’s hardly realistic, could upset somebody in a realistic way, and not just the “oh, I’m sort of offended” Tumblr method of being upset.

It can be hard for a creator to judge what is “explicit” about their work, when it came out of their head. Creating and consuming fiction desensitizes you to dark content as far as fiction goes, as you come to terms with none of it being real.
I do ask that you be lenient towards artists of graphic works, and writers of genres like erotica and splatterpunk, even if it’s not your thing. I faced a lot of rejections for poems solely because they were on topics that are sensitive. This is not a healthy mindset to have because it’s focused around ignoring and purposely obscuring things that you don’t like, regardless of how they effect anyone else.

Genres like erotica, horror, etc. already suffer stigma from being inherently adult, and they don’t need any more stifling when they are somebody’s outlet. You can do good things with any genre. It is just fiction, and though you might have some responsibility as a creator not to send poor messages with your work, there’s zero obligation to cater to anyone and you shouldn’t be expected to. Especially not to the people who lie by saying they want diversity then reject the darker side that inevitably comes with exploring other people’s histories.

Just do what you want, for your own sake, and if it’s edgy, use a filter. I can agree with filters. There’s no reason to censor beyond them.

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