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Algorithmic Bias

I Shared About My Assault Online and Instagram Deleted My Account

"I mean, come on–Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook as a way to rate women and find out if they were single because he was too much of an incel to talk to them IRL. Why would we be surprised that this is happening"

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Written by Tricia Wise aka Safe Slut.
Art by Onnissia Harries.

When I was diagnosed with genital herpes in November 2019 I felt so much shame and I thought I was completely alone. Our puritanical society left me with absolutely no information on how to handle this extremely common, extremely stigmatized condition. It wasn’t until I found herpes positive Instagram accounts that made me realize how truly manageable and common it is. I found a community.

In February 2020, inspired by these accounts, I started my own educational (but also cute and fun!) Instagram account called @safe.slut as a way to empower myself and others about our herpes diagnosis. Getting a large following really wasn’t my intention when I started the account, I just wanted to find some people who were also dealing with the same shit as me. I didn’t realize how much of an impact I was making on people, whether they were herpes positive or not.

My account was disabled a few days before Politico leaked that the Supreme Court was likely to overturn Roe. It was like a bad omen for what was to come in this backwards country.

It’s 2022, so instead of being burned at the stake, we’re deleted and stripped of our reproductive rights. This is nothing new, we’ve been silenced for centuries.

As Safe Slut I started talking about things I always wanted to say, not just about herpes. It was healing. I never had a platform to share my thoughts on slut shaming, hookup culture, herpes, vaginal problems, etc., but now I had this entire community who were so open to reading my work and sharing their personal experiences in the comments or more anonymously in my DMs as well. Safe Slut became a page for collective healing from our sexual traumas.

It might seem frivolous or self-serving to be so distraught over losing an Instagram page. But that page was my healing center. And not just mine. It was a healing  and freeing space for over 54 thousand people.

Throughout the two years my account was active, I had about ten posts taken down for “sexual solicitation,” “nudity,” and my favorite, “selling illegal goods.” Whenever I posted a sexy photo of myself in a bikini or lingerie the post was never taken down. But when I talked about certain topics my post was taken down almost immediately. On Small Business Saturday, I made a post about the herpes outbreak products I sell on my site. It was taken down for “sexual solicitation.” I made a post about how people can access abortion pills, it was taken down because they claimed I was “selling illegal goods.” I changed the caption to censor the word “abortion” and omitted the abortion pill information and the new post was fine.

Throughout the two years my account was active, I had about ten posts taken down for “sexual solicitation,” “nudity,” and my favorite, “selling illegal goods.” Whenever I posted a sexy photo of myself in a bikini or lingerie the post was never taken down.

If I made a post that was suitable for the male gaze, it was totally fine with the algorithm (just want to clarify–my thirst traps are never for the male gaze, they are for the girls, gays, and theys). But if I was making a post about actual issues I was censored. Accounts that cater to the male gaze do just fine, like PornHub and famous porn stars’ accounts. Not to mention, these accounts are all verified, No shade at all, I’m stoked these accounts are able to stay active, but it truly shows how arbitrary Instagram’s Terms of Service are. If I’m getting deleted, why not them? Because those accounts are primarily geared towards men.

One time, I shared a screenshot of a scary and sexually explicit message I received on a dating site from man. I shared it in my story with a caption that said something like “I’m so sick of men tbh.” It got taken down for hate speech. I can guarantee, if sexes were reversed Instagram would have let that story remain.

An unfortunately common and not surprising experience for sex positive content creators is that we receive a disgusting amount of unsolicited dick pics in our DMs. No matter how many times I reported the unsolicited dick pics in my DMs, Instagram literally did nothing.

Although I have been censored by Instagram many times, I’ve always made a point to be as authentic, candid, and as open as possible on my account because I know how talking about our personal experiences is so helpful for others to know they are not alone. I decided it was time to share my personal experience with sexual assault. I can talk about my herpes outbreaks, UTIs, and other vaginal problems all day long but like most women, I was terrified to share that I had been sexually assaulted.

In the post, I shared my title “Why I Wanted to Date the Man Who Seggually Assaulted Me” in bold pink letters with a hot pink sparkly background (typical Safe Slut aesthetic). Of course the word “sexually” was censored to “seggually.” The caption was short and mainly just said how nervous I was to share this, but figured it was something a lot of us would relate to. Then directed people to the link to my Patreon to read for free. You can read it here. Within minutes I received so many “me too,” “thank you for this,” “I feel seen,” comments and DMs. As scared as I was to share my story, it was worth it.

Throughout the two years my account was active, I had about ten posts taken down for “sexual solicitation,” “nudity,” and my favorite, “selling illegal goods.” Whenever I posted a sexy photo of myself in a bikini or lingerie the post was never taken down.

Within 24 hours after I shared this story, my account was deleted without warning. An entire community, a good amount of my income, two years worth of content, and a safe space where myself and so many others came to heal and grow together were gone–within a matter of seconds.

I sent numerous appeals. Unfortunately, there’s no way to contact an actual person in Meta’s customer support. It’s all AI, and absolutely not helpful whatsoever. Somehow, by sheer luck I connected with four amazing people at Meta who submitted internal appeals, on my behalf. They included a huge PDF of testimonials and tons of links to articles and podcasts to show them that Safe Slut is fucking legit. Finally, it was reinstated.


About the Author

Tricia Wise aka Safe Slut is an NYC based writer, herbalist, reiki master, meme lord, witch, makeup artist, and also a huge slut. She is co-owner of sex toy shop @sugarbushshop. After her genital herpes diagnosis in 2019, she created Safe Slut to foster a sex positive community and fight STI stigmas and slut shaming. In her free time, she fights the patriarchy by schooling men at soccer in her co-ed league.

Follow on IG : @safe.slut Follow on Twitter: @safe_slut


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