In other words, whose desires, bodies and self-presentation circulate online says much about whose desires, bodies and selves matter in society. It is not insignificant that Facebook and Tumblr’s policies on explicit content encapsulate all talk and imagery of sex positivity, sexual empowerment, body positivity and self-display at precisely the moment that women and queer-identified men and women are gravitating to photography to lay a claim to desire.
Cultural participation in online social networks through the production, consumption and networking of images need not be met with moral outrage and panic. Photography’s history shows us that the art has always held tremendous democratic potential in lending visibility to the marginalized and speaking truth to power. There is no need to weaken this tremendous potential — especially since social media already has a process for allowing consumers to help regulate the boundaries of acceptability with crowdsourced review processes for flagging inappropriate content. We are living through an era where democratic institutions are coming under siege every single day. We would do best to keep social media as a space of social mediation.