A Bit of Biblical Nudity Is Too Racy for Facebook

The social media giant censors a book trailer that features images of nude women in famous works of art.

(Photo: YouTube)

Apr 9, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

It’s a radical premise: Bible stories reimagined from the perspective of women. But nothing about After Abel and Other Stories, a new work of fiction from author and scholar Michal Lemberger, seems particularly scandalous. That hasn’t stopped Facebook from banning its promotional book trailer.

The social media platform would not allow Los Angeles–based publishing company Prospect Park Books to buy a sponsored post promoting the book’s video trailer because it contained images of nudity, according to publisher Colleen Dunn Bates.

“You could not have a more seriously literary book, which is why this whole thing is so ridiculous,” Bates says. She and associate publisher Patty O’Sullivan had planned to buy a sponsored ad to promote After Abel & Other Stories on Facebook, as they often do for new books. But this time, the ad was declined.

The nudity in the video apparently violated Facebook’s community standards, even though it was represented in artistic renderings—medieval and Renaissance paintings, drawings, and sculptures of female biblical characters. The explanation O’Sullivan received from Facebook: “Ads are not allowed to promote the sale or use of adult products or services, including toys, videos, publications, live shows or sexual enhancement products.”

She appealed the decision twice, arguing that the video was well within Facebook’s allowance for “photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures,” but the appeal was ultimately declined. Facebook has not responded to a request for comment.

Facebook has faced backlash over its decisions to censor photos of women’s bodies and, in particular, the bodies of women who are pregnant, postpartum, breast-feeding, or menstruating. In response to growing outrage over photos that were taken down, Facebook updated its nudity policy in June to allow images of nursing women. It clarified the policy again last month.

But the battle over the site’s nudity policies rages on. A French court recently agreed to hear a case against Facebook for its decision to take down a user-uploaded image of L’Origine du Monde, the 19th-century Gustave Courbet painting that prominently features a woman’s vagina.

The case of After Abel and Other Stories is “particularly ironic because the book is actually Bible stories, which makes [their censoring] even more absurd,” O’Sullivan says. “The author made the trailer. The last thing in the world that she thought was that there would be anything controversial over these classical works of art.”