These Emoji Are Controversial For A Surprising Reason

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
You might remember Flirtmoji from when it first came on the sensually (and sexually) playful emoji scene last year. With its symbols paying homage to rough sex, birth control, and sex toys of every sort, Flirtmoji quickly became part of our texting repertoire. Earlier this month, it continued to push its sex-positive message in an amazingly cheeky way with a line of vulva emoji.

The 15-plus options range in shape, size, and color, from the hyper-realistic to the muppet-esque — and they're all better than any taco emoji. All systems were go as we sat with our phones, crafting the perfect sext with a neon-green vulva in the starring role. Our plans were put on hold, however, when accusations of Flirtmoji plagiarism started circulating on Twitter. There was no denying it — many of the vulva emoji bore a striking resemblance to the artwork of Erin Tobey.

Jeremy Yingling, one of the self-described "hornballs" behind Flirtmoji, caught wind of the claim, and, upon looking into it, instantly pinpointed where everything went wrong: "My first reaction was to immediately recognize [one of Tobey's designs] as being on my Flirtmoji inspiration board," he writes in a post on the company's blog. He did, in fact, use Tobey's design as inspiration early on in the process, and it eventually crept into the final vulva emoji images long after Yingling had forgotten anyone had drawn those images before — a case of accidental plagiarism.

He continues with a refreshing display of honesty, speaking for all of Flirtmoji and owning up to its errors: "We’re calling it plagiarism. We called it that as soon as we became aware of this on Twitter... We’re tremendously sorry, embarrassed, and humbled by this. Not just to Erin, but to the entire community that have been using our site, loving our art, and believing in our sext-positive mission."

Yingling tells us that the Flirtmoji folks are in touch with Tobey and are working toward a resolution with her. The entire blog post is worth a read.

We applaud Yingling for his transparency and willingness to admit fault, and hopefully the takeaway from this artistic dispute will be that more people see and appreciate Tobey's work. We hope that both parties move forward with an understanding that they are allies in sex positivity and honest, proud depictions of the female body.

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