The official policy for deviantART prohibits the submission of pornographic works. While the community as a whole, with few exceptions, agrees that this policy is required there are many who demonstrate a marked misunderstanding of exactly what is and is not defined as " pornographic " under the current policy. This misunderstanding often leads to many reports being marked as invalid due to the deviation not being officially considered to be pornography and dissatisfaction tends to lead to some community members attempting to explain the outcome by maligning the staff or speculating that deviantART policies are not actually enforced or not enforced consistently.
We will be attempting to dispel these myths today by explaining exactly how official policy can differ from individual opinion.
Over the years we've attempted to bring clarity by modifying the official definition of " pornography " to use wording which is more specific about what is not allowed, but unfortunately some have demonstrated a tendency to expand upon those definitions to encompass situations and themes which fit their own personal viewpoints.
At one point in time the definition of pornographic content was more restrictive but beginning in 2006 deviantART policy was gradually modified and relaxed so that a wider amount of erotic artwork and sexual themes could be accepted into the galleries. While some of you may disagree with this official stance of acceptance, policy will continue to be accepting of erotica which remains within certain defined boundaries.
Policy and Definition vs. Community Viewpoint
Official policy and definition differ from community viewpoint in several key areas and these differences are responsible for the disproportionately large number of invalid reports; up to fifty percent (50%) of reports involving pornographic content are marked as being invalid each week.
The primary difference between official policy and your own personal viewpoint or standards is the fact that as a member of the community you are personally able to subjectively judge the intent of the photographer or artist or guess at how they intended the work to be viewed.
Official policy does not, and cannot be allowed this luxury.
While the community is free to attempt to divine intent and attempt to second guess the reasoning behind a particular work policy cannot be allowed to do this and must limit itself to the judgment of the actual content visible in the work itself. This primary difference of community members viewing a work subjectively and policy judging the same work objectively is an issue which will most likely never be resolved regardless of any educational effort which we staff members may embark upon because everyone is entitled to their own opinion and obviously most will not share the same stance embodied in official policy and we cannot expect everyone to change their views to match it.
This means that if you report works for having "No Artistic Intent", you should expect that the report will be marked invalid by staff because "intent" is not part of the judgment process and in the absence of any other circumstance this is not a reason for removing a work. You are personally entitled to view a work however you wish, including holding the viewpoint that a nude is pointless and without any redeeming artistry at all but official policy does not consider this to be a reason for removal.
There are several other areas where official policy differs radically enough from a personal viewpoint to cause some dissatisfaction if one is not aware of the criteria being used.
Many have noticed that reporting a work for the reasoning of "masturbation" will tend to see a large number of reports marked "invalid" by staff. The main reason for this is that official policy judges "masturbation" based upon what is specifically visible and how the various elements in the scene appear to interact. What is not considered is what might be suggested. This allows for erotic and sexually themed works to display hands and other objects coming into contact with the genital region in certain ways and under circumstances and still be allowable under policy. We have found that the average community viewpoint maintains that anything which comes into contact with the genital region in any manner at all should be ruled automatically as masturbation regardless of what may or may not be clearly visible.
This difference means that only those works which clearly show an act of masturbation will be removed while works which use camera angle, shadow, props and other circumstances to suggest something sexual will not be removed unless the staff can find some visible element which suggests that masturbation is actually occurring.
We realize that many in the community may be upset with this completely objective judging of what is plainly visible in the work but as I have already stated, policy will not venture into the realm of assigning "intent" to an image.
On the subject of images depicting "sexual intercourse" a similar difference occurs. While official policy prohibits any depictions of actual sexual intercourse it does allow for models, same sex or opposite sex, to be posed in various ways which include bodily contact which may in fact be sexually suggestive to a certain degree. As a member of the community you are free to dislike such posing and bodily contact or personally classify it as sexual intercourse regardless of the presentation or circumstances but official policy will remain primarily focused on depictions of actual sexual penetration and other cases of clear sexual contact. Again, we realize that many may be dissatisfied by this official stance but unless a work contains a visible indication that sexual penetration is occurring or the work is judged to be too graphic in its level of sexual suggestiveness it will most likely not be removed by the staff.
Another subject which seems to cause a large amount of confusion is the depiction of "erections". The average report of an "erection" tends to involve any penis which is not in a clearly flat and flaccid state and any depiction of a penis which is of larger than average size regardless of whether any sign of arousal is present. Official policy reviews images for a certain level of arousal, which takes into account the actual tissue structure of the penis, while recognizing that the human penis comes in many shapes and sizes and that they may "hang" at certain angles dependent upon size and the strength of the suspensory ligaments.
While this might sound somewhat technical these standards ensure a consistent application of the rules which is not as certain using the subjectivity exercised on a personal level.
The last subject which seems to have the greatest amount of confusion by community members involves the prohibition against images displaying "Vaginal or Anal Spreading". Members of the community commonly misinterpret this restriction to include any case where the model's legs are spread apart and any case where the vagina or anus is visible. Official policy is only concerned with whether the labia or anus has been physically pulled open using the hands or some form of instrument or object; the simple spreading of the legs, the act of bending over, or showing of the vagina or anus is not sufficient by themselves to meet this definition and is the cause of most invalid reporting.
Given the subject matter and the vastly different personal viewpoints which could be held by the millions of people who make up the deviantART community it is impossible to craft a policy which would possibly address every possible definition of " pornography " but we of the deviantART staff have worked and refined a policy over several years which is able to address the most serious concerns while still avoiding undue censorship.
We do not expect that this explanation of the differences in official standards and personal viewpoints will please everyone but we do hope that we have helped to dispel the misinformation which is making its way through the community and that you come away from this article with a better understanding of how the review process works and what may cause certain reports to be marked "invalid" by staff.
FAQ #565: You prohibit the submission of 'pornographic imagery'; what do you consider this to be?