Etsy’s new ban on sex toys and erotic items sparks backlash from sellers

Etsy’s new ban on sex toys and erotic items sparks backlash from sellers

7 Jul    Finance News, News

Etsy, the online marketplace focusing on handmade, vintage, and craft items, is facing significant backlash from sellers following its decision to ban sex toys and other erotic items.

Effective 29 July, the new regulations will also prohibit items that expose body parts such as female nipples or the cleft between the buttocks when modelled.

The platform cites “evolving industry standards” as the reason behind these changes. However, affected sellers have expressed their disappointment, predicting severe impacts on their revenues. Anna, the founder of Simply Elegant Glass, which produces sex toys, shared her feelings of betrayal, stating, “As creators who have helped make Etsy what it is and who have remained loyal to their platform for years, we feel betrayed.”

Etsy’s Alice Wu Paulus defended the policy, emphasising that it aims to maintain the marketplace’s creative spirit while adhering to industry trends. “We carefully crafted this policy with the goal of continuing to enable creative expression and the spirit of our marketplace, while taking into account evolving industry standards,” she explained.

This move comes amid growing pressures on online platforms worldwide to shield under-18s from explicit content and to eliminate illegal or harmful materials. Additionally, payment processors are increasingly hesitant to work with platforms that facilitate sex-based commerce.

Anna suggested that instead of imposing a blanket ban, Etsy could implement more robust content-filtering tools and clearly label adult products. She argued that this approach would address concerns while preserving artistic expression. Having specialised in adult glass products since 2015, Anna highlighted the significant portion of her orders that come through Etsy, making the transition to another platform like Shopify a daunting prospect.

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In an open letter posted on X (formerly Twitter), Simply Elegant Glass voiced these concerns. Another anonymous seller from the Czech Republic echoed these sentiments, stressing that many businesses reliant on Etsy would suffer a “significant drop in income,” potentially forcing them to seek new employment.

Mike Stabile of the Free Speech Coalition, a group advocating for adult industry rights, condemned Etsy’s decision as “sweeping sitewide censorship” in a post on X. However, some sellers have expressed support for the new rules on Etsy forums, though they have questions regarding enforcement.

The updated policy outlines specific bans, including:

  • Adult toys designed for insertion into the body
  • Pornographic materials, including vintage magazines and films
  • Items modelled by humans showing genitalia, gluteal clefts, or female nipples
  • Advertising sexual services, such as custom nude photographs and videos
  • Explicit non-photographic art depicting sexual acts

This is not the first instance of controversy surrounding Etsy’s policy updates. In 2015, the platform faced backlash for introducing rules on the sale of spells.

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