When did Instagram become an excuse to look at soft porn

Answer: as soon as you downloaded it


The 21st century is the internet century. It is on the internet. 

In the early days of mass accesses to it, some commentators argued we were seeing a phenomenon as significant as the birth of cities.

If today’s internet is a city, Facebook would be its streets, Twitter its pubs, 4chan it’s squats, Netflix its cinemas, Amazon its department stores and Instagram, well, Instagram would be its strip clubs.

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Burrow under the smashed avo, the glimmering supercars, the pushy fitness memes and you’ll find that whole fleshy zones of Insta are flourishing porn communities.

In these alleyways you will find all the sex – breasts, anuses, fifteen second videos of people fingering themselves or wanking. There’s a reason why the eggplant is the one emoji Insta won’t let you search for (check out #eggplantfridays).

Officially nudity isn’t allowed on Insta. The guidelines say: “For a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram. This includes photos, videos, and some digitally-created content that show sexual intercourse, genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples.”

Unofficially, rules are made to be stretched until they start twanging. Broad, basic boobs and balls stuff is out there (#seduced, #exposed) as well kink (#femdomme). Neither are hard to find.

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Back in 2012, before Instagram reached the critical mass which means your Mum has it, the early porn community on it could get away with with flagrant hashtags like #instaporn and #fuckme.

Now everyone does have it, Insta wages a perpetual war to make these hashtags, pictures and users disappear. And as a consequence of making sure your little sister can’t see male strippers post pictures of their bulges, the pornification of Instagram followed a new trajectory: from hardcore to softcore.

Everyone of us who grew up on the internet who’s not too stupid or blind to understand what’s going on understands the point of it: get attention. Get as much attention as you possibly can.

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It’s why people die taking selfies next to loaded guns or posing with bison or rattlesnakes. It’s why you feel a low level dread (will anyone give a fuck) immediately before you share anything. It’s why you delete tweets that don’t immediately bang.

It’s why if you’re fit and you’re willing to get naked enough to still be cool with the Insta censors it’s easy to create followings in the thousands and millions. Anyone can be known, instantly. But it’s far easier to be known if you look good without your clothes off.

When Essena O’Neil quit Instagram last month she birthed a thousand laboured think-pieces asking why. Most of them ignored the reality of what Insta increasingly resembles: the world’s biggest source of softcore porn.

You have to wonder whether Essena realised that her followers weren’t there for her inspirational veganess, but to leer at her gorgeously toned stomach.

Ignore the clandestine and outré hashtags and the underground kink shit that the censors are quick to eradicate. I’m not sure it’s possible to answer the question of how the Insta mainstream became cultured and condition to evoke soft porn, and I’m not sure it really matters.

The conversation we need to have is whether this is a good or healthy thing. The reality behind fashion and fitness on Instagram is wearing a bikini and high-heels, usually near a very expensive car or an infinity pool.

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The impulse behind is still the objectification of women for their looks and their bodies, more than craving a lifestyle most people will never have. 

I’m not saying it’s wrong to build a business or a following based on getting naked. That has a long and noble tradition. I’m not arguing for censorship or limits on sexual freedom.

But right now the only message Instagram is sending isn’t about food or fitness or fashion or sex as people genuinely have it. It’s about showing enough skin to get as many followers as you can.