This week in sexual hysteria: Apple loses it


It’s no secret that Apple doesn’t allow adult content in its app store. And without writing too much about it here (I will be writing about it elsewhere), it’s easy for those without iPhones to kind of shrug and go, hm, well, that’s weird and prudish and out of step with culture and life, but whatever. However, now that Apple has released the iPad — and importantly, it does not have the cat-flavored Apple OS we know and love — with the iPhone operating system on what is intended to be a reader and tablet computer, it means that Apple has now produced a computer with a very closed system indeed. And a closed *minded* one. Right now the best article about it is The New App Store Rules: No Swimsuits, No Skin, And No Innuendo by Jason Kinkaid on TechCrunch. Here we can read in detail the unsettling and hypocritical list of things the company classifies as sexual, and sexually inappropriate. It’s like taking a trip back through time, with its antiquated definitions on sexuality as consumed by the heterosexual male circa 1980. In fact, it’s just bizarre, especially since it seems that we would not be able to even enjoy an Olympics figure skating app:

(…) One developer, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to multiple App Store reviewers about the new policy. He was told, “there will be no more applications that are for any purpose of excitement or titillation”. He was told this included swimsuits — both bikinis and one-piece suits. Along with having dozens of his “sexy” apps removed, Apple also removed one that featured a popular fitness model in her workout clothes (the app was a marketing vehicle for the athlete’s line of protein powder). When he asked if the ban would also affect apps like Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit application, the Apple employee wouldn’t give a clear answer, but it was implied that the SI app would probably be removed as well.

Developer Jon Atherton, who is behind the popular application Wobble (which doesn’t actually include any sexual photos), also spoke to an Apple employee, and posted this list of rules to his blog based on what he learned:

1. No images of women in bikinis (Ice skating tights are not OK either)

2. No images of men in bikinis! (I didn’t ask about Ice Skating tights for men)

3. No skin (he seriously said this) (I asked if a Burqa was OK, and the Apple guy got angry)

4. No silhouettes that indicate that Wobble can be used for wobbling boobs (yes – I am serious, we have to remove the silhouette in this pic)


7. No apps will be approved that in any way imply sexual content (not sure how Playboy is still in the store, but …)(…read more,

Interestingly, I was just interviewed by The Unofficial Apple Weblog at MacWorld 2010 about what the Apple app store could easily do to monitor erotic (and borderline) adult content, without becoming censorious and maintaining transparency and inclusivity. The answers are in the second half of the interview. It truly saddens me to see a company I love make space for the competition to trample them in the marketplace. But, I guess that’s business. Whatever happened to “Think Different”?

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  1. Bit of thread resurrection here, sorry, but after years of being anti-Apple, I’ve recently been forcibly converted after getting an iPad as a gift – and found the locked down system Apple insists on in everything from content to media distribution to be thoroughly awful. There are a few decent streaming apps I’ve found (iPlayer, Netflix and so on) but in terms of buying and actually owning your purchases, Apple are awful.

    Even worse is this top-down morality play – I thought there was something dodgy about the company after Jobs’ infamous “freedom from porn” soundbite a few years back. As long as age restrictions are in place, why should the giant corporation control what consenting adults see? It reminds me of when they banned the iBuzz vibrator toy that worked with iPods (which is weird, since there are loads of other iPod vibrators still on the market, and Apple hasn’t gone after them…). I just don’t get why the company is so afraid of sex.

  2. This isn’t the first time that Apple have been unreasonable. They’ve actually taken out court cases against anyone who uses a lower case ‘i’ before a capital letter and anyone who has used dancing silhouettes on their packaging or advertisements. Case in point – LoveHoney’s iBuzz.

  3. The problem with Apple is that they make such nice gadgets. Unfortunately they are paranoid control freaks and have been for years now.

    When Apple had hammer throwing blonde amazons in their adverts some of us, even then, had a wry little laugh at the irony, unfortunately all the Apple fanbois totally failed to get the joke and it appears they still don’t get it.

  4. This is why I refuse to buy an iPhone. Instead, I have a Windows Mobile phone made by a company which doesn’t try to tell me what I can or cannot install, nor where I have to get it from.

    *Independence from Apple!*

  5. While I dig what you mean here, “Think Different” doesn’t necessarily mean “Think in any ol’ way”, and Apple has, from bottom to top, a very restricted method and philosophy which works for them. Unfortunately, comparisons to Atwood’s works and claims about “worse people” are useless – it’s their private business and this only impacts those who choose to enter this specific walled garden.

  6. Daniel RE: Where this might end. State sanctioned dress codes and society mirroring “A Handmaidens Tale”…? (Okay, so that is a little extreme.)

    What I find funny is that corporations are, at their heart money making entities. People like pictures of pretty ladies. Pretty ladies = money. But, because of puritanical ideas of morality, some companies–in this case Apple–have decided to not touch them with a ten foot pole… there is a double entendre there that I’ll just leave up to you guys. But these purportedly moral companies will engage in mergers and acquisitions that seem in violation of anti-monopoly laws, cheap labor, toxic parts, corporate espionage, buying politicians (thank you Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) and still maintain a facade of morality. It’s about appearances. If you throw out a false front it doesn’t matter what you do behind closed doors. If a company could turn a profit on porn and figure skaters, I’m not sure why they aren’t. Right leaning conservatives always talk about letting people “vote with their dollar.” People will buy what apps they want, and avoid the ones they don’t. Not selling “adult” apps probably falls into a “somebody think of the children” argument; one of my least favorite arguments because its often construed to strip rights and freedoms ala Prop 8.

    Granted, I like Apple products. I just don’t like the false morality and corporate bs going on.

    So endth the rant.

  7. The new prudery is spreading and it’s very sad to see that Apple is willingly obeying.
    If absolutely normal sport suits as ice skating tights and similar ones are considered overtly sexual I wonder where this might end.

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