Update: Facebook has reviewed and approved Dorian Electra's ad. "Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and we sometimes make mistakes. This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad," Facebook told Refinery29.
ICYMI: Last year Refinery29 teamed up with musician Dorian Electra to produce a fun and informative music video about the clitoris, and how women's sexuality has been policed throughout history.
Now, even this video about the policing of women's sexuality is being policed — by Facebook. Dorian Electra reached out to Refinery29 after an attempt to boost her original post of the video on Facebook was denied, she thinks, because the video was deemed sexually explicit.
"I think Facebook's guidelines are made with good intentions — they don't want over-sexualized or objectifying imagery used in advertising on their website," Electra told Refinery29. "What upsets me is that they would explicitly ban an advertisement that is for educational purposes. Sexual education is the best way to fight the damaging messages about sex and pleasure that we're bombarded with in the media. By censoring content like this you're sending the message that words like "clitoris" are explicit, that they exist for the (male) observer's pleasure and not the person whose it is. This robs people of the agency to talk about their own bodies."
Although Electra has purchased ads for her Facebook posts before, her attempt to boost "Ode to The Clitoris" was met with a vague disapproval.
"I figured it had to do with the use of word 'clitoris,'" she told Refinery29. "I figured that a computer automatically denied it after picking up on the word so I wrote an appeal to revoke the decision to not approve the ad and explained that it was for an educational video and there was nothing pornographic about it."
The appeal was denied again, with no explanation except several images of what Facebook deems sexually explicit and therefore inappropriate for boosted posts. And all of those images — no surprise here — were of women's bodies.
"This issue is symptomatic of the larger issue of the censorship of women's bodies and valuable sex education material that is deemed inappropriate because it focuses on female anatomy," Electra said. "You'll notice there's not one example picture of a man's body on that page."
Electra has a point. It's terrible, but not exactly shocking that women's bodies are policed, on Facebook or anywhere else.
It wouldn't be fair to say Facebook has completely censored this video, as it does exist both on Refinery29 and Dorian Electra's Facebook pages. But not allowing the musician to boost the post — which would ensure that a large number of her followers would see it — is a form of censorship. And providing examples solely of women's bodies as the "sexually explicit" content Facebook does not allow to be boosted only serves to prove that point.
Refinery29 has reached out to Facebook for comment, and will update this story if we hear back.