SlutforNature - Combatting the Shadow-Ban
SlxtforNature - The Implied Explicity:
When I started my brand SlutforNature, I was just starting to make my online sex work side-hustle into my full-time gig. This meant claiming my domain on as many social media platforms as possible, if they weren't already assigned to another user.
In the field of sex work, being shadow-banned is a very common occurrence when it comes to popular platforms that allow for younger audiences in their community guidelines. Due to these circumstances, sex workers often censor themselves accordingly in respects to the website being used. If you're posting on Reddit, most profiles and subreddits contain a NSFW warning before you can proceed to view the content - therefore, as long as it's consensual and doesn't go against the subreddit rules, you're free to post explicit content.
Other websites such as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok all have community guidelines that are far more strict. To avoid the consequences of being shadow-banned, sex workers will often use censored content as a teaser with links available to potentially view more explicit content on another platform. For myself, part of this process meant changing the handle associated with my brand across platforms with stricter guidelines. SlutforNature for my sex work, SlxtforNature for my art work.
What is Shadow-banning?
The term "shadow-ban" refers to the practice of blocking or partially blocking a user or their content from an online community so that it will not be readily apparent to the user that they have been banned. This usually occurs once your account has either been reported or the post contains key elements that trigger an algorithm that is in place to monitor violations against community guidelines.
Shadow-banning vs. Permanent Bans:
The difference between shadow-bans and permanent bans are fairly straight-forward. However, the extent at which these rules are applied depend on the level of violation. There are some platforms that have policies that prompt warnings when you have violated the community guidelines. The post is usually removed upon review for the violation as well as potential additional consequences. This may include a temporary suspension from the platform, or you may be limited to the functions available to you on the platform.
Permanent bans can also be a result depending on the level of violation or how many violations one has received in the past.
Intent vs. Impact:
The intent of these community guidelines are to protect users from being exposed to content that is inappropriate, illegal, or hateful. When it comes to the amount of unsolicited photos of genitalia that are received across the internet or platforms that allow children as young as 13, these guidelines are extremely helpful and effective. But when it comes to the use of language, the guidelines can be quite subjective and ambiguous. At what point does language become harmful or hateful? At which age is it appropriate to be exposed to the word "fuck" or "slut"? What level of responsibility do companies that create these platforms have for these violations? How do you deem someone capable of interpreting the damage associated with the nuances of the internet? Is there no consideration for context of the words being used?
With that being said, I agree that the word "slut" isn't the most appropriate, or the most politically-correct term. It has a history of being used in a derogatory manner, most often toward women. The term originated in the 15th century to describe a woman that was "unclean or slovenly". In more modern circumstances, it's most often used to reference to a promiscuous person/someone who has had many sexual partners. It can also be stretched to be associated with certain behaviours or implications of someone's actions (dressing "slutty").
What "Slut" Means to Me:
I am absolutely no stranger to being referred to as such, it actually seems so far engrained in how I view myself because it's context in my life.
In my own personal experience, the word "slut" was used against me by my abuser. It was sometimes used against me by my parents. It was used against me in high school, and it is used against me now - but the impact is so much less than it has ever been.
I've been called a slut my whole life; it wasn't until I was able to work through the feelings that were associated when I heard it, and discovering that it doesn't hold any power over me. I started to use the term to describe being a huge fan of something - changing the narrative to hold a different meaning. It was when I proclaimed myself as a slut for nature that I had found my brand.
I thought that by making the term less explicit and changing "slut" to "slxt" I could evade violating any of the community guidelines - and I was very wrong.
This creates a lot of barriers when you're trying to grow your brand. When you're shadow-banned, there is limited opportunity for people that don't already follow you to discover your page. Features that are used to help the user experience, such as explore pages, suggested accounts, and promoted content, are all features that are limited when you fall under the shadow-ban. I have even been excluded from paying for advertisements or promotions because of the implication of the word "slut". Even if I had endless support from existing customers that were sharing my posts to their audiences and promoting my content, I am still limited from organically growing my audience due to one single mildly-inappropriate four-letter word.
I have spent weeks contemplating if I should re-brand. I have always been one to try and hold true to my values - some may call me stubborn - but I have to believe that the things I care about and that are important to me are worth fighting for. I'm not sure if it's my ego talking, but re-branding feels cowardice and defeating. I feel empowered taking back control from the negative connotations associated with being a slut. If we're being honest, the only thing wrong with a woman having lots of sex with lots of people is that there will be people who think that she's less deserving of respect. If you're offended by a woman having lots of sex, you are the problem and you should re-evaluate why you feel so threatened.