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I've written before about the trouble with categorizing erotic (not pornographic) works on this site, but today I want to bring your attention to the dilemma of the non-nude artistic nude. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but bear with me. By "non-nude" I do not actually mean "not, in fact, nude"; I am referring, rather, to this site's policy on tagging nudity as mature content. It is entirely possible for works involving implied or suggestive - but not explicit - nudity to fall within the bounds of art that does not require a mature content tag on this site. The problem, however, is that when you try to submit an image to the "Artistic Nude" category, a mandatory and irrevocable tag is applied.

This is fairly intuitive, right? Artistic nude images are bound to contain nudity, and the site is doing its userbase a favor (I presume) by adding the mature content tag (in this pretty straightforward instance) in case you forget. Although, you could argue that this encourages users to be less vigilant about their own tag usage, so that when somebody goes and adds an image (that happens to be nude) to the Body Art category, they might forget to add the tag themselves, because they are not in the habit of doing so, and anyway, doesn't deviantART handle that itself? (The answer to that question is: not usually). From a more cynical perspective, you could view this automatic tagging as a fail-safe against the sort of unscrupulous users who would post indecent images without much thought to who might see them, and are (presumably) most likely to post them in the Artistic Nude category - or Fetish Portraits, which is the only other category I know of that automatically applies a mature content filter (albeit also for nudity, rather than sexual themes - which doesn't seem like it would be 100% accurate, either).

So, in essence, the entire Artistic Nude category has been placed behind a mature content filter. Is this not reasonable? Could there conceivably be anyone who would want to browse Artistic Nudes with the filter still in place? (I would argue yes). Shouldn't we tag even the borderline cases - suggestive and implied nudity - just to be safe? This is certainly the position some would take, while others would disagree - I am among those who would disagree, citing concerns about the chilling effect that an overly restrictive approach has on people's speech (including art). But what really matters is the fact that deviantART is also among those who disagree. Their rules explicitly state "not all nudity requires a tag". If they do not really mean this, then they need to change the rule. If they don't change the rule, then users are justified in posting images that imply or suggest nudity (without being explicit), without using a tag. Which is really not unreasonable - this is the standard that mainstream magazines, and "wholesome" websites like Facebook, use. They just can't post these images in the Artistic Nude category...

Which brings me to my dilemma - if the image in question is very clearly an Artistic Nude, and does not quite fit into any other category, what does one do? Part of being an artist and sharing one's work is finding an audience. If I want people interested in Artistic Nudes to see my work, then I'm not going to want to post it under any other category (especially when that category most accurately describes the image in question). I could bite the bullet and add the mature content tag - but there's a very real disadvantage to doing that. It cuts my potential audience down significantly (which could be viewed as a form of discrimination against nude art). Now, if the image in question deserved the tag, then I would be justified in adding it, because that would actually help it reach the right audience (people who want to see mature content), while avoiding those who would be reasonably offended by it. But this isn't actually mature content. I've got a PG-13 film here, and you're asking me to shoot myself in the foot by rating it R!
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May 8, 2017
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