If you’re trying to create sexual wellness content on YouTube, you’re bound to come across several restrictions. In recent years, online platforms and social media companies have come down pretty hard on the content they deem to be sexually suggestive or explicit. The policies are often vague and leave plenty of space for sexual education platforms to be demonetized or penalized.
YouTube monetization and advertisements are crucial for all creators. They incentivize creators to take valuable time out of their days to craft engaging and educational content for their viewers. Considering the lack of sex education in schools, YouTube is considered a platform where content creators can educate their viewers about valuable topics like sexual health awareness, sexual wellness, consent, gender and sexuality, etc.
However, YouTube’s current advertisement guidelines make it incredibly difficult for content creators to continue doing what they’re doing. Furthermore, sex education vloggers have also been reporting “shadow-banning,” a process whereby YouTube limits the visibility of certain videos and content on the platform, diverting viewership away from specific channels.
If you want to launch a channel dedicate to sexual wellness and health, you’ll need to perform a delicate tightrope action to avoid being censored. This article helps you understand YouTube restrictions on sexual wellness content.
What are YouTube’s sexual content policies?
“Explicit content meant to be sexually gratifying is not allowed on YouTube. Posting pornography may result in content removal or channel termination. Videos containing fetish content will be removed or age-restricted. In most cases, violent, graphic, or humiliating fetishes are not allowed on YouTube. Sexually explicit content featuring minors and content that sexually exploits minors is not allowed on YouTube.”
That’s an exact quote from YouTube’s guide on nudity and sexual content policies. According to YouTube’s community guidelines, you can’t post the following at all:
- Depiction of genitals, breasts, or buttocks (clothed or unclothed) for the purpose of sexual gratification.
- Pornography depicting sexual acts, genitals, or fetishes for the purpose of sexual gratification.
- Explicit or implied depictions of sex acts.
- Masturbation or fondling of genitals.
- Using or displaying sex toys.
- Animated pornography or fetish content.
- Nudity or partial nudity for sexual gratification.
- Non-consensual acts.
- Nude photo leaks.
The following types of content may be subject to age restrictions, i.e., they’ll only be visible to adults over 18 or 21, depending on the region.
- Videos focusing the breasts, buttocks or genitals, clothed or unclothed.
- Sexually-suggestive poses.
- Lewd or graphic language.
- Kissing, provocative dancing, fondling, or other acts that “invite sexual activity.”
- Lingerie and other forms of clothing “generally unacceptable in public contexts.”
- Challenges that invite sexual acts.
How and why are YouTube’s policies problematic?
The most important thing to note in the policies is the repeated use of the term “sexual gratification,” which ascribes a motivation to the videos. You can’t depict genitals, buttocks, breasts, either clothed or unclothed for the purposes of “sexual gratification.” The same can be said for depictions of sexual acts or positions and partial nudity.
The term “sexual gratification” doesn’t have a fixed meaning. As such, it’s left to the moderator’s interpretation, because of which sexual education and wellness videos can be flagged because of the moderator’s inherent biases. We’re not citing a hyperbolic scenario — sexual education vloggers frequently find that their videos are “shadow-banned” on YouTube.
But what does shadow-banning mean?
Shadow-banning is a process whereby YouTube limits the visibility of a channel. When users search for the channel, the thumbnails may appear blurred, pixelated, or the thumbnail may be replaced with a screengrab from the video. These actions de-incentivize users from clicking the video, essentially turning traffic away from sexual education and sexual wellness videos.
Amp Somers, the co-founder of YouTube channel Watts the Safe Word, asks, “If you're going to consume any content online, what is more enticing? A pixelated icon in search that has very unflattering faces, or an icon that looks thoughtful, put-together and makes it clear what the video is about?”
By shadow-banning videos and content on sexual wellness, YouTube states that these discussions on sexuality aren’t different from porn. By collapsing the distinction between the two, YouTube creates a scenario wherein it’s easier for viewers to access porn than healthy discussions of sex education and sexual wellness.
It’s worth noting that YouTube does pay lip-service to distinguishing between “sexual gratification” and “sexual education.” Their policies also state, “We allow nudity when the primary purpose is educational, documentary, scientific, or artistic, and it isn’t gratuitous. For example, a documentary on breast cancer would be appropriate, but posting clips out of context to sexually gratify from the same documentary is not.”
Even though that clause technically exists, its implementation is inconsistent. Sexual wellness and education videos are far more likely to be categorized as gratuitous rather than educational, especially when the videos are made by LGBTQ+ individuals.
Recently, queer YouTubers realized that YouTube was running anti-LGBT and conversion therapy ads alongside videos made by LGBT creators. Apparently, anti-LGBT organizations (liked Alliance Defending Freedom) could create advertisements to target queer users based on their usage patterns. It essentially meant that proponents of harmful and discriminatory practices like conversion therapy could specifically target the most vulnerable queer individuals trying to find answers in videos created by LGBT YouTubers.
In its existing form, YouTube videos that promote safe sex and sexual awareness are liable to get demonetized while simultaneously being targeted by hate groups.
What can we do about these YouTube content biases?
We need to come together to push for sensible policy changes and updates. We need to draft petitions that force social media platforms to act responsibly. Especially considering they’re used by vulnerable individuals who may not have access to educational resources on safe sex practices and sexual wellness. If you’re a sexual wellness content creator, you can try finding creative means to get around YouTube’s restrictions and policies. Let’s make a concerted effort to stay vigilant and hold social media platforms accountable.