At the University of Chicago, Patty Fernandez runs an organization called Tea Time and Sex Chats. "What we do is talk about sexual health [and ] pleasure. We also have a branch that deals with sexual assault (the UChicago Clothesline Project) on college campuses," Fernandez explained in an email.
In 2012, Tea Time and Sex Chats launched a Facebook page to help promote the group. Like millions of other community organizations, the Tea Time and Sex Chats page was filled with announcements related to the group. Most of the posts were either links to sex ed websites, news articles about sexuality and consent, and posts advertising upcoming events, according to one of the site's admins.
"We've used it as a space to advertise physical campus events that we put on, in addition to sharing general information/funny things related to sex," Fernandez said.
On Aug. 27, Tea Time and Sex Chats shared a video about proper use of the female condom. The accompanying text (which they also tweeted) read: "Silly animation and peppy acoustic music: Obvs the cutest way to learn about an awesome contraceptive choice!" Above is the NSFW (cartoon) video that was shared.
Shortly after posting the video, the group got a message from Facebook, informing them of a violation of community standards. Tea Time and Sex Chats' admins quickly removed the video, but that didn't stop Facebook from banning the entire page. According to the admins, Facebook said the site was deleted due to pornography and nudity. But the only nudity the admins could find in the page's two year history was from the video, which they had taken down.
"I was given the option to appeal, which was a single button without any way for me ask questions or make a comment," said one of the admins.
Again, the entire page was obliterated by Facebook. With little explanation beyond the standard Facebook ReplyBot message and virtually no options to discuss the situation with a real live human being.
I guess it's somewhat understandable that a cartoon video of a naked woman inserting a female condom inside her lady sex parts might not be something that meets the criteria for material the social media site wants on their pages. By the way, there's plenty of sites dedicated to condoms on Facebook, many of which feature sexy women posed and ready to "get it on" in erotic stances.But that's fine for Facebook. As long as it's not a cartoon demonstrating how to use something that women have control over.
If you need more proof, look at the examples Women You Should Know discovered when they found themselves censored by Facebook for trying to share an image for a story they wrote on Laura Dodsworth's Bare Reality photography project. They couldn't show a picture of a collage of un-airbrushed breasts, but Facebook has no issue with things like this, apparently:
But before we say "hey it's their site, they can do whatever," let's stop and examine just how it is they determine what does or does not get to stay on those pages.
The issue is not that Facebook employs some fuddy duddy set of Amish anti-sex elders who wring their hands over each and every thing that gets posted on their billion or so user pages. That's actually not the case at all. The issue is that sites such as Facebook rely on community policing, meaning they pretty much only take action such as this when enough people click the "report" button on posts, photos, videos, etc. If you've ever wondered why so many photos of women showing their mastectomy scars or mothers breastfeeding got banned in the blink of an eye but shitty pages that actually promoted prostitution took FOREVER to get removed look no further than that as your answer.
And let's be completely honest about what the issue is, really. It's not the NSFW nature of a cartoon instructional video showing a woman inserting a female condom that "offends" people—it's the idea that women would dare take ownership of their sexuality and flaunt it in a unabashed and giddy way that just pisses people off to no end. That's the issue sites like Facebook don't want to address.
They have no problem hosting images that promote the commodification of women and their bodies for the pleasure of men but images and videos that celebrate women taking ownership of their sexuality are penalized. Because the power dynamic belongs to those who are uncomfortable with images of sexual women depicted as anything but lusty, passive sex objects.
This is no different than when body positive bloggers like Samm Newman get banned for posing in bikinis on Instagram yet literally thousands and thousands of other accounts of women whose bodies aren't an affront to the armies of douchebros and their precious boners manage to skate past the "community standards." It's easy for a company to hide behind claims that it is just responding to community feedback, but when one faction of the community disproportionately holds all the power in determining who or what gets censored, that company is full of shit.
Tea Time and Sex Chats is currently trying to appeal the decision (as soon as they can navigate their way through Facebook's mystifying appeals process) but in the event that the page doesn't make it back, you can still follow them on Twitter to keep up with the group's work.