Queer historians are warning eBay’s recent ban on the sale of sexually explicit material will make it harder for them to find and preserve valuable LGBT+ history.
In May, the online commerce giant banned the sale of “sexually oriented materials” including magazines, movies, and video games.
The ban began in June, with eBay blocking new listings in the “Adults Only” category. The company is also reportedly ramping up enforcement efforts.
The company allowed explicit exemptions for straight magazines Playboy and Penthouse, as well as a select few LGBT+ titles.
However queer archivists and historians in the US say eBay is a vital resource for them to collect other historically significant material.
They say gay subcultures are particularly vulnerable to eBay’s ban, for example the leather community’s history.
Leather magazines such as Drummer are historically significant but don’t meet the bar for acceptance under eBay’s policy, the New Yorker reported.
Filmmaker Evan Purcell told the publication that Drummer has erotic content. However it also featured advice columns, letters and features about gay life and community issues.
“My biggest fear is that people who come into possession of this material will not know what to do with it,” Purcell said.
“They won’t think it has value. And they’ll throw it in the trash.”
eBay’s policy ‘creates a huge vacuum in access’
Cathy Renna from the National LGBTQ Task Force said eBay’s policy “creates a huge vacuum in anybody’s ability to access these things.”
“We are talking about a part of queer history that is really hard to locate,” she told Axios.
“It’s being saved by a small number of folks in the community. [This material is] really hard to find.”
Archivist Heather Roberts tweeted, “Lots of queer/LGBT+ histories are difficult to evidence because of lack of documentation.
“This is due, in part, to criminalisation [of homosexuality].
“eBay and similar sources have made it easier to at least monitor and document the fact content exists, even if we can’t acquire it.”
eBay says nudity still allowed in art and publications
An eBay spokesperson said the policy change covers “pornographic media (sex acts)”. However nudity is still allowed in both art and publications for sale.
“eBay is committed to maintaining a safe, trusted and inclusive marketplace for our community of buyers and sellers,” they said.
“We are continually reevaluating product categories allowed on the platform.”
It comes after content subscription service OnlyFans this month announced shock plans to ban sexually explicit content.
Amid widespread outrage, the company blamed their banking partners for “unfairly” cutting off their accounts.
Just days later, the company backtracked and “suspended” the ban before it started.
“We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned 1 October policy change,” the company said.
“OnlyFans will continue to provide a home for all creators.”
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