I’d like to take some time today to address an issue which is currently being discussed somewhat passionately by certain portions of the fan art community here at deviantART.
The policy at the heart of the discussion concerns the deviantART policy which prohibits the submission of any sort of erotica depicting underage subjects whether they be actual people of fictional characters.
While the vast majority of the community understands the restrictions against erotica featuring actual children and younger teens, namely due to the fact that such material is highly restricted under the law, some segments of the fan community are having a difficult time understanding why deviantART prohibits erotica featuring fictional characters.
This lack of understanding, combined with a few minor changes this year has resulted in some “protests” and some misinformation being spread around; primarily that these restrictions are somehow “new” (which is incorrect).
Today I’d like to lay out the basic information providing the backdrop for our policy, dispel the misinformation and lay the matter to rest.
I will attempt to address all of the issues which have come to my attention and if I have missed anything major I will gladly address them at a later date but please be aware that I will not be addressing new arguments, justifications or other debates in this article and we do not intend to shift official policy to be more lenient in this matter.
Currently many are under the impression that the restrictions against underage erotica featuring fictional characters is “new” or otherwise did not exist until very recently.
I can state that this belief is completely wrong; the restrictions against underage erotica have been in place and largely unchanged since about 2003.
The belief that the policy is “new” stems largely from the fact that the majority were unaware of it until the restriction somehow affected their gallery, a friend’s gallery or the gallery of someone they Watched. Since they were previously not aware of the policy, and because it may have been some time before the staff became aware of the problem content it is easy for someone affected to deny that they were breaking our rules and instead claim that the rules changed.
Some people have also argued that while the rule is old, the way it is enforced is new. This claim is also largely incorrect.
The restriction against underage erotica has undergone refinement over the years as new situations have arose but the basic reasoning behind the policy, the stuff which it is intended to keep out, has never changed.
Yes, the FAQ entry on the subject has had its wording tweaked often, but not because of policy changes but because the community kept misinterpreting and misunderstanding what was written there. The FAQ has never represented the actual policy and procedure, it’s only ever intended to be a brief, easy-to-understand reference for the public; the actual policy and procedures involved are far too lengthy and complex to be suitable for a FAQ entry (which should preferably be kept short and simple).
The prohibition against erotica featuring actual children is easy to understand; this sort of content is criminalized in 94 of the 187 INTERPOL member nations, not counting those which simply ban all pornography outright, and the associated penalties can be quite severe.
While it is easy to be outraged over the exploitation of actual children, some people become more forgiving when the children in question are fictional, and even some laws become more lenient.
The United States, whose laws govern deviantART and all deviantART submissions, have been gradually moved towards criminalizing erotica featuring fictional characters.
This push by legislators began with the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 and continued with the PROTECT (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today) Act of 2003.
This legal trend is one factor in our prohibition with the other being, quite simply, a basic subjective decision by deviantART not to support erotica featuring underage characters.
Even if all the potential legal concerns were eliminated we would continue to prohibit this type of content just because we have chosen to exclude it from the deviantART galleries. While we expect that some of you will be unhappy with our stance we ask that you accept and respect it and simply locate one of the many other websites out there which cater to this type of content.
OBJECTIONS AND FEARS
As always, when a previously existing policy is suddenly thrust into the spotlight there are a lot of concerns, fears and paranoia which springs up; doubly so if the sudden realization is coupled with a slight shift in the way the policy is presented or when it affects someone "popular".
I'll try to address the more major concerns here.
THE RESTRICTION TARGETS SPECIFIC FANDOMS/ANIME
Contrary to this belief the deviantART policy does not target any specific fandom, genre or series. The policy exists to prohibit a specific type of content and if a particular set of fans or a particular series are believed to be “guilty” of breaking the rule more often than others then this is a reflection of how the fans treat their series and its characters and not due to a bias built into deviantART policy.
THE RULE WILL LEAD TO “ABUSIVE REPORTING”
Another fear voiced is that the restriction will lead to campaigns of people reporting certain artists and that somehow thousands of artists will have works removed for “no reason” or that the number of reports will jump by a factor of ten, or a hundred or a thousand.
The fact of the matter is that the Moderation system cannot be used in such an “abusive” fashion. This fear is built upon the belief that the system is automated or that every report leads automatically to a deletion. Fortunately the system does not work like that and every report is reviewed by an actual person and that report is actually evaluated before any decision is reached. Because nothing is automated and everything is reviewed by an actual trained human being the system cannot be “abused” and reports which have no basis to them are dismissed as invalid.
And as for the belief that reports will spike by tenfold or more, the truth is that reports of underage erotica have remained at the same level week after week, month after month over the years and even if they did spike, invalid reports are dismissed as invalid and people who are clearly filing too many junk reports can get blocked from reporting anything else in the future.
THE CREATORS/SERIES PUTS THE CHARACTERS IN THOSE SITUATIONS WHY CAN'T WE
Some animated series might actually allude to its underage characters being placed into sexually themed situations or "adult" situations; “Family Guy” has alluded to toddler “Stewie” having sex or having homosexual desires and “South Park” routinely places its grade school cast into mature situations are two such examples.
Regardless of how the creator or series treats its cast the current deviantART policy will still govern submissions without exceptions.
CHARACTERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO BE AGED
A natural request is to allow policy to acknowledge when characters age, or are aged by the fans.
This apparently simple request is actually full of complexity and nuances which make it extremely difficult to enforce by the staff.
In their actual series characters very seldom age. In most cases aging which occurs during the original series is not accompanied by any change in character design (making it impossible to tell the 'younger' and 'older' versions apart) and in those cases where they do visibly age it is because the original series ends and then begins anew with a spin-off series and new character designs.
Previously deviantART policy did attempt to acknowledge changes in character design to reflect an older individual but these attempts to grant reasonable exceptions were difficult at best. There was little way to distinguish a genuinely altered character design from variations in skill level and artistic stylization and in the end the decision was made to completely eliminate any possibility for an exception.
While this may anger and upset some who wish to age child characters for erotic portrayals we must ask that you respect our decision as it is the only way to ensure an even application of this policy for all artists and all works and circumstances.
BUT DEVIANTART ALLOWS (BLANK) WHICH IS WORSE
Some members, when they find that something they link is in fact not allowed, are pretty fond of drawing comparisons with other content which actually is allowed under current policy.
Typically the prohibited content is compared with nude photography or something else which the speaker finds personally offensive in an attempt to justify the content which our staff removed.
Overall these comparisons often amount to “apples and oranges”, even when two controversial subjects are being compared, and often the two types of content are both governed by their own guidelines and restrictions.
A political work featuring Nazism is not somehow “equal” to work showing an erotically posed and naked 12 year old fictional character simply because it is also offensive to some people. A closer look shows that political works are governed by their own set of restrictions intended to keep out racism and bigotry just as erotic works are governed by similar restrictions.
Other comparisons, such as comparing nude underage fictional characters with photographs of actual nude adults, might seem logical and valid as justifications but you can easily see why they are treated differently when you view them from a more neutral standpoint.
The facts here are that deviantART officially allows certain types of content which some people might find offensive or controversial while at the same time we restrict content which we do not wish to provide gallery space for within our community.
BUT WHAT ABOUT FREEDOM AND CREATIVITY
We’ve also seen plenty of protests stating that various policies are somehow impinging on an artist’s freedom to draw what they want or that it is undue censorship.
deviantART is certainly founded on the concept of creativity, but at the same time we do have the right to decide what we wish to host on our servers.
Ultimately deviantART is not restricting your right to draw what you want and neither do we prevent you from sharing your work with the world. What our policies actually do is tell you what we are willing to allow you to submit here; at no point do they actually prohibit you from drawing what you want and they do not affect your ability to submit that work to other websites
Our policies simply tell you what we are willing to display in our galleries and that is no different from what any brick-and-mortar art gallery will do if you were to walk through their door asking for space on their walls.
I simply wish to say that deviantART does recognize that fan art is a valid form of creativity and we obviously welcome it into our galleries along with a host of other creative works.
At the same time we recognize that there are fans of nearly every series who carry their passion for their series past where most people are comfortable and into areas which are considered erotic and sexual and unfortunately when the characters involved are underage we have simply made the decision that there is no place for these works here at deviantART.