Gay Sex And Censorship: How Gay Spaces Are Being Changed By “Family Friendly” Standards

As gay society continues to be accepted into the mainstream, its sexual identity is thinning out.

Gone are the days where a gay man could experience an establishment full of other gay men. Instead, the gay man is losing the place he so greatly needed. Spaces of self-expression where attraction and inclusion were guaranteed.

Now, our gay bars have become mainstream. The place to be. Now, a gay man will enter "the straight man's gay bar" where female friends will feel comfortable and safe, and straight male friends will complain about having their butts groped.

Of course, some spaces do still exist. The occasional sex shop with a backroom used for unspoken exploration, the remaining bathhouses that pale in comparison to the social hotspots of the past century, and the leather bound clubs stationed in plain sight but covered with a "need to know" front. But these spaces don't speak for all queer men.

Stock Photo / Image via Pexels

Then there are, of course, gay apps. Apps like Grindr, Blued, and Scruff have become the calling card of gay men. They are the digital spaces where men can converse and, more likely, hunt for their next sexual adventure.

But the distance from our screens has created distance in our hearts. We have devolved into dehumanizing each other in preference of jockstraps and headless torsos. While gay men have always been overtly sexual, this digital age has made us less empathetic than ever before.

And worse of all, even these digital gay spaces are under attack of the mainstream eye. Social media apps like Grindr, Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook are under attack from censorship.

Grindr is fighting a court battle with a man named Matthew Herrick. Herrick's ex created several fake accounts of him. These accounts then pointed strangers to the man's home address and place of work. But instead of suing his ex, the man is suing Grindr. He claims the app and company are negligent in monitoring its users.

If found guilty, Grindr's case could change the face of the tech industry and apps in general. Companies will then increase their monitoring of users in fear of also being sued. While this result might, at first, seem appealing, it ultimately will lead to stricter rules and more oversight on apps.

We're already seeing how that can be a bad thing with Scruff, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Last month, Scruff released an update to its policy on profile pictures. Users are no longer allowed to post pictures of themselves in jockstraps, underwear, or bikini styled swimsuits.

While some may celebrate this change as an effort to humanize and de-sexualize users/the app, the real effort was made to fit in with family friendly standards. Scruff made the change after its app was taken off the Apple app store. They want to appeal to the mainstream program's regulations and are thus changing this gay space to do it.

Then there's Tumblr with a very similar story. Tumblr got taken down from the Apple app store because child pornography had slipped through its censors (never mind the fact that the site was riddled with porn bots for years).

To fix this, Tumblr banned all adult content. Their very sloppy way of enforcing this is by flagging any pictures, videos, and gifs that can seemingly appear sexual in nature. If a post or picture includes too many flesh colored pixels, it's flagged down.

In the process of this NSFW visual crackdown, LGBTQ users have found their accounts and posts flagged for deletion. Some with reason, but many without.

And then there's Facebook. Ever since the site was used as a tool for influencing US voters, it has been changing its algorithms and policies left and right. Then late last year, the site updated it's Community Standards Policy.

Now, gay users on the social media app have been flagged and outright banned for sharing LGBTQ content. In this case, even the inclusion of certain words and terms can incite a ban.

It's not just everyday citizens who are getting banned or flagged for sharing gay content. Gay publications and sites are also feeling the pressure. Perhaps even more.

Due to Facebook's constant tweaking of its algorithm, posts from gay sites get flagged and are shared less. Facebook will make it so fans and page-likers won't see posts about gay content. This is partially because they are gay in nature, and partially because Facebook wants to avoid the spread of fake news.

In a business where clicks equal pay, the inability to reach your audience is a punch to the stomach.

But speaking of advertisers, there's another problem here. Advertisers are pushing for more "family friendly" content from gay sites. That means tweaking the way that gay stories are told and presented.

On top of that, mainstream sites like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have dedicated separate staff and sections for LGBTQ stories. Some believe that gay sites like Instinct, Queerty, and more will soon disappear. Then, queer citizens will have to go to these mainstream sites to find their news.

Clearly, there's a change in the air. As gay men become more accepted by the mainstream, we are being forced to work under their restrictions. Our spaces, real and digital, are fading into theirs. Meanwhile, our self-expression and sexual exploration are being pressed down or outright banned in order to fit a global standard.

But here's the thing, is all of this bad news? Not every gay man finds comfort in the gay sex scene. Once idolizing the gay club and sex scene through shows like Queer as Folk and movies like Not Another Gay Movie, I too have found the gay sex scene to be tiring. As I wrote last year, the hyper sexualized spaces no longer excite me but discomfort me.

It appears that specifically for gay men, this mainstreaming of LGBTQ culture is focused on watering down the heightened sexuality that we've indulged in for decades and centuries.

And as much as it's a shame to lose the clubs and the sexual history, we gay men have evolved beyond it. Even further, we are not beholden to sex.

Gay men can be gold medal winning athletes, business men, singers, actors, politicians, teachers, lawyers, construction workers, drivers, and more. Sex is only one factor of what it means to be a gay man.

It's a difficult issue, because gay men should fight to maintain our existence, our safe spaces, and our right to sexual expression. But, are we still only defined by our love of sex in dark and secluded spaces?

We are under attack by censorship, and we certainly should fight back. But, our pursuit of happiness is not determined by merely our right to sex but by our right to sex, love, and life.

4 thoughts on “Gay Sex And Censorship: How Gay Spaces Are Being Changed By “Family Friendly” Standards”

  1. Yes, mainstreaming is erasing

    Yes, mainstreaming is erasing us. All of our safe spaces are disappearing. Everything that was just ours is becoming everyone's. You see it in everything. The gay bars & sex shops are closing in the big cities, making way for "family friendly" spaces.  RuPaul's Drag Race has become mainstream.  It's not coincidental that, as that happens, the fandom is becoming increasingly volatile in nature. In people's hurry to become "just like everyone else", our community has lost it's sense of individuality.  I want to be treated equally.  I have no desire to be "just like everyone else".  

     

  2. Sad accounting in this

    Sad accounting in this article of the state of Gay America that was pretty weakiy studied and described in a sexually explicit driven magazine.

    Let things happen as the days pass….will probably lead to a future time when same sex activities will be considered illegal. 

    It would be wise for the gay community to stand up and work together as one to drive the future needs of OUR new world in the direction that we find civil, inclusive and sources for improved living. 

    As the right wing is radically controlled in their own forum of churches….what does the gay community have ready to balance the right. I highly suggest a large movement to create a Gay government across the states to study options and dreams….to tabulate numbers of our differences and to keep tabs of the extension of the gay community….and add more ideas here…

    Alot of what I read in the article might make sense in Boys Town of Chicago or Greenwich Village…or the Castro….but nobody is following what is happening in the small 150000 size communities. I am literally watching MeToo bothered straight men being scared to just be gay instead of some sexual stalker. I am seeing many married men disallusioned with their female wives or vice versa and choosing to be gay to enjoy sex. 

    The world is evolving and the gay community does not have any leaders to point which way we should be headed to have the future we want. 

    But just be ready that when (or if) Trump leaves office….this country has Pence all ready working against the gay community and attempting to destroy all things associated any same sex activities. The gay press is so stupid that I have not even seen a list of Pence's accomplishments during the term of Trump's presidency. 

    • Hi Chuck,

      Hi Chuck,

      I never said let things happen. I said that gay men shouldn't be defined by hyper-sexualized activity and thus moving away from it isn't completely bad. Nothing is as simple as being purely good and bad. That said, the majority of my article is to point out that the sexual expression of gay men and LGBTQ people is under attack from censorship/going mainstream. And despite your rather haughty response, you don't disagree, correct?

      Next, you are right that LGBTQ people don't have a solid union/organization. But we're more disjointed and separated than we like to admit, so creating such an organization would be hard. Some orgs like the Trevor Project or GLAAD attempt some of the functions you described, but don't have full support of LGBTQ people.

      Frankly, the topic of banning together, and figuring out what we need to do it, is a whole article on its own. But there are several leaders on the rise. Not a one and only leader, but several politicians are running for office while openly expressing their sexuality. Names like Brian Sims, Pete ButtigiegMalcom Kenyatta, Adrian Rivera-Reyes, Corey Johnson and more are running for and working in political positions from town mayor to U.S. President. (And this gay press writer shares news about them regularly).

      As for the relevance of this article to gay men, I stand by my words. Its true that the first section may be more relevant to populated areas and cities, but gay men in small towns are still affected by the censorship of digital spaces (which was the majority of my article). I can't speak towards your personal experiences with gay/straight men in your area. Consider pitching the story to Instinct or wherever else. It could be an interesting read.

      As for Pence, I think you're right. Pence is the real threat to LGBTQ people. Unfortunately, he's also a smart man who's hidden behind the big orange target sign we call a President. It's my sneaking suspicion that he's behind the Trump administration's more daring actions, but Pence is fairly quiet about his actions since becoming VP. (Frankly, I'm one writer who an can only take responsibility for my own work as mentioned above).

      Lastly, I would like to add that "the sexually explicit" side of this magazine is a two way street. We write what readers want. And sadly, articles like this, which attempt to create commentary on gay life, get way less views (and more criticism) than articles like what's currently trending ("Look at this model's yummy photo shoot"). Hyper-sexualized, remember? We came full circle.

      • thank you….I agree with

        thank you….I agree with your reply to my post, Devin. I am just seeing all the true avenues that gay men use for communication dropping away. 

        To think 25% of the responses of this article is now Heteros Rule….gay rights are being left in the dust and at least I can make a response here. 

         

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