Fuck the NSFW Label

How's this for NSFW?

How's this for NSFW?

As regular readers know, I have no problem using George Carlin’s septumvirate of “dirty words.” (shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits). I also link to images and websites that some might call “Not Safe For Work” or “NSFW”. In fact, I have gotten a few nasty emails from readers who have complained that I should have labeled some posts, links, and images as such.

Fuck that.

I have, once or twice, used the NSFW tag, but for the most part I have eschewed its use — and I wish that everyone would join me in stamping out the label.

I’m not just being stubborn. I understand the dilemma in which many people find themselves. They want to be able to read and view what they like — and it is an unfortunate reality that American employers must constantly be vigilant that no worker ever sees or hears a sexual or profane thought at work, lest someone looking for a free lunch seize the opportunity to turn a co-worker’s frolic and detour into their own personal pay day.

The first step in getting out of a hole is to stop digging. I take the position that we are in a hole (dug for us by assholes) and the only way out of it is to reject this long-standing attempt to allow these assholes to define what is “offensive to them” as “un-safe.”

The short version of the story: Once upon a time, there was a douchebag named Anthony Comstock. This right wing religious nut wanted to cleanse American society of all sexual expression. He invented “comstockery:” Censorship of literature and performances because of especially broad definitions of obscenity or immorality. (Well, George Bernard Shaw coined the term, and I’m sure that AC wasn’t too pleased about it). Comstock was one of the first Americans to learn that carrying the censorial standard for “decency” was a nice short cut to being perceived as important and to gathering a nice quick charge of power.

Fast forward to the 1980s. Comstock is dead, but comstockery lives on. However, this time Comstock’s spirit comes to us in the form of a left-wing woman, Catharine MacKinnon. She grew up the privileged daughter of a conservative federal judge. As many poor little rich girls do, she got pissed off at daddy (while studying at Smith College on his dime no less) and decided to rebel against him. Hence, she joined the second-wave feminist movement (the kind with really comfortable shoes and really pissy attitudes). Hell, it is belittling to say she merely “joined” it, she picked up its flag and ran to the head of the army.

I don’t mean to demean the whole effort. There was a time when a boss could say “suck my dick or you get fired.” Those were bad times. That is a bad thing. But, like most on the left, MacKinnon and her whining minions couldn’t be satisfied with the power that comes from merely doing good. Like her spiritual ancestor, Anthony Comstock, MacKinnon also wanted to censor expression because of broad definitions of immorality and the delicious power that comes along with grasping that big red marker in her hand. By the time she was finished, she had linked up with right wing censors and the ever ludicrous Andrea Dworkin to pass unconstitutional pornography ordinances and to take an instrumental part in our current sexual harassment legal regime.

Today, Comstock and MacKinnon have intellectually mated without actually fucking — like slimy fish that shoot their loads on the sea floor while never actually meeting. From this unholy dark and cold union, the MacKinstock monster hatched, and it now gives us sexual harassment laws that have gotten so absurd that if a guy (or a girl) looks at Xbiz at work, there will be some lazy ass at that job who will pounce upon it as their ticket to the “sexual harassment jackpot.” Accordingly, virtually every workplace has to tell its employees that any “inappropriate” material could get them fired — lest the employer have to pony up an absurd award for some delicate flower’s “emotional distress.”

I know that I’ll lose some readers by never using the NSFW label. (This blog is already blocked by a number of filter programs — including those used by the U.S. military. How’s that for irony?). Nevertheless, I don’t make any money off this blog anyhow — so there’s that. Even if I did, I wouldn’t sell my principles for a few clicks and pennies.

Fuck the NSFW label. If someone wants to propose a new label, I may consider using it. But, I absolutely reject the notion that there is such a thing as “safe” pictures or “safe” words. The only thing that is un-safe is our civil liberties when we adopt newspeak definitions for words like “safe,” and try and make it mean “devoid of sexual content.”

Fuck that.

UPDATE: A reader made a good suggestion. We still need something to let you know that you might get fired. So, I will (from now on) try and label stuff that might get you in trouble with WYB (Watch Your Back) as in, look over your shoulder to make sure some bitchy asshole isn’t watching.

9 Responses to Fuck the NSFW Label

  1. tara says:

    I can’t thank you enough– this was better than a really great section in the Sunday times—

  2. Atticus says:

    You won’t necessarily lose readers, but those of us who read from work will stop following your links. If you insist on putting our jobs in jeopardy, we won’t have much choice.

    In other words, all you’re doing is hurting your own ability to communicate (while risking your readers’ jobs).

    • Yeah, I know… and I’m not insensitive to that. But maybe the bigger problem is that there are employers who actually give a shit if you read a post with the word “fuck” in it, or the occasional boobie.

      We’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. You ought to be able to read what you like. If you can’t read it because you should be doing something else, well thats one thing. But this is political speech — whether it has the word “Fuck” in it or not.

      Anyhow, you get people to use MWW (MacKinnon would whine) instead of NSFW, and I’ll use MWW. But there is nothing “unsafe” about a picture of a twat, nor the word “twat.” The only thing “unsafe” are censorship minded twats.

      • jesschristensen says:

        While I agree with you that the American workplace has gotten awfully sensitive, and that there’s a legitimate argument that “hostile work environment” sexual harassment laws veer into impermissible First Amendment territory, as an employment attorney there’s another practical issue that, I don’t think should alter the “No-NSFW” policy of this blog, bears noting…

        Sexual harassment is the lesser concern for employees when it comes to viewing sexually-oriented material at work. The airline case aside, you generally have to do more than show that there was porn in the workplace in order to prove up a hostile work environment claim.

        The bigger issue for employees is that employers maintain “computer and internet use policies” which prohibit employees from viewing sexually-oriented material from a workplace computer. Period. If even it doesn’t create a “hostile work environment.”

        While you (or I) can argue with the wisdom of the policy, fact is that the equipment belongs to the employer, and they can prohibit you from using it for any non-work related purposes. And, if you do, fire you for it.

        So, while I agree that if a person is getting their job done, employers shouldn’t care one way or another if the employee also sees a boobie or reads a pron-related blog, I also think that it’s a kinda stupid reason to get fired, have to go on welfare, or get your house foreclosed on.

        One solution is to subscribe (to your personal email account) to out RSS feed or follow us by email, in which case you’d only be accessing your personal email at work, as opposed to racking up website visits.

  3. Clint says:

    Good move. Fuck it!

  4. Richard Schimelfenig says:

    There is a fairly widespread military term that could also substitute, though it lacks the penache of MWW.

    How about WYS, which means Watch Your Six. It indicates that one should be aware that someone may be sneaking up ready to shoot someone down for normal behavior.

  5. […] firmly in agreement with Marc Randazza about the “NSFW” label, but for slightly different reasons. I can sympathize with […]

  6. […] Some blogs and websites use the acronym NSFW – not safe for work – to describe their content.  We don’t.  We don’t believe in it, and here is why. […]

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