The first video-intensive website I remember visiting is a special site that Norelco built to sell a new razor that was designed to capitalize on a new trend, one that’s called “manscaping” these days. Not only was the instantly-loading video kind of a shock to me at first (as was automatically-playing audio, which had become a no-no back when so many of us were loading our websites up with crappy MIDI sound files), but the website, shaveeverywhere.com (which is now owned by a domain hoarder, so don’t bother loading it up), had an edge to it. As the spokesperson talked about the benefits of shaving the pubic area, he employed a number of semi-dirty words that got bleeped, which appealed to my inner twelve-year-old as much then as that kind of humour still does now.
I don’t pay close attention to the popularity (or lack thereof) of manscaping, but I remember seeing a clip from one of those venture capital “reality” shows, maybe a little less than a year ago or so, of two men pretty much ripping off half the jokes from the shaveeverywhere.com website as they tried to get funding for their own manscaping electric razor. The clip ended before the judges made a decision, but they must have liked it, because I’m now seeing ads for that razor nearly every time I load Twitter. Maybe their product works better than Norelco’s, but even if I hadn’t recognized so many of the jokes from their presentation, I guess that kind of comedy just seems stale to me now.
More to the point, do you know what I’m not seeing ads for on Twitter? My novel. Because Twitter’s still banning me from doing any kind of advertising on their service.
It’s been almost a year now since Twitter blocked me from buying advertising, in the wake of the passage of anti-sex work legislation that purported to be targeted against child sex trafficking, but was written so broadly (and likely intentionally so) that it devastated the ability of adult consensual sex workers, or those with professions related to sex work, to do their jobs. Several online services that had let me advertise on their platforms just a year previously either told me that I couldn’t advertise with them any longer, or else they said that they’d place my ads and then never did. Facebook was the only service I could afford to advertise on at the time, and my conversion rates there were so pitiful that I soon gave up advertising on there as a hopeless cause.
A lot has changed since then, and I’m almost hesitant now to keep fighting this fight. Not only am I not in life-threatening danger as a result of the passage of SESTA/FOSTA, as so many sex workers found themselves last year, but the fact that I finally have a full-time teaching job means that I’m no longer as dependent on book sales for income as I was at this time last year. It almost feels like selling lots of copies of my novel now would just be a nice thing for me, not something I need to fight tooth-and-nail over, and my new job is certainly keeping me super-busy as it is.
The problem with doing that is besides my stupid pride still wanting recognition for all the hard work I put into my novel, I’m fighting for more than that. For my fellow artists, I’m fighting for our own artistic freedoms here, to be able to produce artistic works that use sexual themes and not be blocked off from important platforms just because a company doesn’t like a word in a title. For sex workers (and again, I used to teach classes about safer sex, which makes me a sex worker in some people’s opinions), I’d like to think that my novel, and the controversies now surrounding it, can open dialogue about the realities of consensual sex work, and the grave dangers posed by increasing prohibition.
More than that, though, I’m just sick and tired of the hypocrisy of Twitter banning me from advertising on their service when they continue to take all these ads for products that are far more sexually explicit than my novel. The Twitter ads for that one razor even use words like “balls” and “sack” (which the shaveeverywhere.com website, in its good sense, bleeped in order to increase their comedic value), but because my novel has the word “prostitutes” in its title, and I mention that in my Twitter bio, they won’t let me advertise anything on there. I know that Twitter is a cesspool (I only use it as a promotional tool, as well as communication with friends who don’t use any other social media platforms), but this business of singling me out for an ad block is nothing short of infuriating.
I’d like to think that I’ll eventually find a way to make my novel a hit, and that I’ll be able to use my resultant popularity to get Twitter (if not other online platforms as well) to stop doing stupid crap like this. Without access to so many of these soapboxes, though, my novel will likely continue to languish in obscurity, and even if that’s no longer as economically concerning to me as it was at this time last year, it still stinks. Maybe something will happen to change that, but I’m going to be stuck looking at blasé ads for manscaping razors until then, shaking my head at the latest double standard I’ve run into.