If you read my twitter stream you know that last week Vimeo deleted four of my film trailers (and two private full videos) because apparently the films had violated their community guidelines. The original emails I got said:
Hello Ms Naughty (Louise Lush),
Your video “I.M. In Love Trailer” has been removed for violating our Guidelines.
Reason: Vimeo does not allow pornography or sexually explicit material.
If you believe this was an error, please reply to this email in a civil manner with your reasoning (“I see other people do it” is not a valid reason).
The other trailers/films deleted were those for The Thought Of Her DVD, Connections DVD and Kaleidogasm 3 (below).
I had carefully edited my trailers into very tame versions, tried my best to fit my content to Vimeo’s vague guidelines and made guesses about what was acceptable based on what I’d seen elsewhere on Vimeo. I figured nipples might be OK and images of sex where you couldn’t actually see anything.
Kaleidogasm 3 in particular was a bit of a shock because – while the film makes use of sexual images – it is not sexually explicit nor is it something that could conventionally be considered porn. It is deliberately warped and mirrored to create weird fleshy images and part of the purpose of the film is to raise questions about what makes us aroused (or horrified) and what defines pornography.
In any case, I replied to the email discussing the I.M. In Love Trailer thusly:
Dear Vimeo staff
Can you please clarify your definitions of “pornography” and “sexually explicit”?
This trailer video for my erotic short film was carefully edited so that no nudity was directly visible. I do not consider it to be either porn or sexually explicit.
I.M. In Love has screened at several film festivals around the world.
I would appreciate it if you would restore this video – or give me a chance to edit a different version to your (more specific) standards.
JUN 19, 2013 | 01:50PM EDT
Our moderation team has reviewed your case again and have decided to restore the video “I.M. In Love Trailer”. However, the other videos we have removed do indeed violate our Community Guidelines. We review these on a case-by-case basis we take into consideration not just the video itself but also the video’s description and any links to websites.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Content + Community Apprentice
So if I do not describe my video as “porn” and I remove the links (which I’ve just done), what else do I need to do to comply with your community guidelines?
Specifically, I want some kind of solid definition of “pornography”, “sexually explicit” and “non sexual nudity”.
At present all I have to go on is the other videos I’ve seen on Vimeo, for example:
“Mine” – a promotional video by GQ Spain. This is obviously an erotic film, it contains nudity in a sexual context and some non-explicit images of sex.
“Cabaret Desire Trailer” – a promotional video for an erotic film by Erika Lust. Contains nudity and sexual scenarios.
“Leave You In Me” – a short film where the actors are naked throughout most of the film, where the subject is sex and where simulated sex is depicted. Is this “non sexual nudity”?
I am a feminist erotic filmmaker. I make videos that both arouse AND explore sexuality, gender and relationships. I do my best to be artistic in this endeavour and my films have won several awards and been screened at international film festivals including Cinekink and the Berlin Porn Film Festival. I am not afraid to use the term “porn” to describe my work but I do consider it to be different to the majority of what many define as “porn”. I can just as easily use the term “erotic”. Words matter, it seems.
Today Vimeo removed my short film Kaleidogasm 3. This film was made up of images of sex that have been distorted to created a surreal effect. The film does not actually contain any sexually explicit material because the images do not show sex, per se, just strange, fleshy shapes. I consider that film to be a work of art and part of the reason I made that film is because it examines the idea of “what is a sexual image? Does it matter if you distort it? Is it still sexy?” Unfortunately Vimeo have now have labelled it pornography and censored it. In the absence of any actual clear guidelines this comes down to a simple matter of taste on the part of the staff member who deleted it. I would ask that you restore it.
I did my best to edit the trailers of my films into forms that Vimeo would accept, based mainly on what I’d seen elsewhere. I have no other guidelines to go on other than the extremely vague terms of “pornography”, “non sexual nudity” and “sexually explicit” and the ways in which others have interpreted those terms.
If you can see genitals, is it explicit?
If you can see nipples, is it explicit? Only female nipples or male nipples too?
If the subject deals with sex and if the actors are nude and simulating sex, is that explicit or porn?
How do you know the difference between simulated and real sex if you can’t see genitals?
If it *looks* artistic, does that make a difference?
If the images exist purely to arouse, is that porn? Even if there’s no nudity in those images? What if someone gets aroused at, say, images of feet?
I wanted to use the Vimeo service because I had thought that the approach to erotic film was a little more advanced and open-minded that other video sites.
I am an independent filmmaker, a one-woman operation, trying to get my films out into the world. If you believe I should be using the Pro service, let me know. I hadn’t done so because the terms there said: “The first two rules do not apply to small scale independent production companies, non-profits, and artists who want to use the Vimeo Service to showcase or promote their own creative works.”
Mikey, I would like to continue using Vimeo and I will pay for it if necessary. I would like to re-edit the trailers that have been censored so that they can fit the guidelines. But it would help if I knew exactly how best to please whoever it is that makes these decisions.
JUN 20, 2013 | 12:44PM EDT
As I mentioned, we review each video on a case-by-case basis and therefore there is no exclusive definition that we use to determine whether or not a video violates our Community Guidelines. Our moderation team has agreed that the removed videos did indeed violate our Community Guidelines, and we are not interested in hosting them on Vimeo.
I see that you have removed the hyperlinks to the sites as requested, but any text listing the websites’ domain addresses needs to be removed.
Regarding the videos from other users that you feel violate our Community Guidelines: With such a gigantic community and library, it is not possible for staff to review every video. Therefore, we truly appreciate the efforts of Vimeo users to bring inappropriate content to our attention. If you’re signed in and you encounter a video that you’re concerned about — or that potentially violates our guidelines — you can use the Flag link located in the lower right corner under any video. Choose from the options that best fit your reason for flagging the video. Flagging a video will bring the entire account to the attention of our Support Staff. We will review it and then take the appropriate action.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Content + Community Apprentice
Don’t you just love how, after refusing to give any useful definition and essentially telling me to fuck off, he then schools me in informing on other erotic filmmakers so they too can be censored just like me?
The rule about removing the links and even any mention of the domain addresses is not in the guidelines at all. It applies only to me, apparently. I did as they said, although I told readers to google my sites as Vimeo had prevented me from mentioning the site domain name. The Indigo Lush site isn’t even a porn site, it’s my official film page where I detail what movies I’ve made and what festivals I’ve been screened at.
So I thought I’d post this correspondence. It may be of use to other filmmakers who are thinking of using Vimeo’s hosting service. It shows that you can be arbitrarily deleted for unknowingly breaking the non-existent guidelines and there’s nothing you can do about it. Your fate is entirely up to the whim of some “apprentice” and other unseen “moderation team” members who can make up their own definitions of pornography according to their religion, their philosophy major, their own private squicks or what they had for lunch that day.
I know I don’t have to use Vimeo. Certainly I can host my own vids on any of my existing domains and I do that for my commercial sites. The reason I have trailers on Vimeo is to get traffic to my sites and publicize my work. Given the increasingly restrictive environment surrounding sexual content and Google’s recent downgrading of adult sites in their search algorithm, I need to use any and all ways to get my message out there so I can make money and make more films.
I chose to put my stuff on Vimeo because I thought they were more open minded and professional about erotic content… dare I say, more grown up about it. Obviously not.
Sex is just as legitimate a subject for filmmaking as gory horror film or weepy romance. I am trying to make erotic films that are smarter and more artistic than your average porno… but then, I shouldn’t be snobby about it. Explicit depictions of sex created purely to arouse have just as much of a right to exist as my Kaleidogasm film.
Vimeo has just launched their video-on-demand service which allows filmmakers to monetize their films – everyone except people who make films about sex, that is. In ghettoizing and censoring erotic content Vimeo is not only leaving money on the table, they are helping to suppress legitimate erotic expression. They are also making it a lot harder for feminist filmmakers like myself to try and create something more positive and less sexist than most mainstream porn.
If you think porn is bad, why censor those who are trying to make it better?