Are Photos of Breastfeeding Obscene?

Yes, according to Facebook’s obscenity clause. Recently, the world’s largest social network, as well as the comedy website Funny or Die, have come under fire for taking down photos or videos of moms nursing their babies, citing the “obscenity” clauses in their terms of service as justification.

Some background from The New York Times:

In recent weeks social networks like Facebook have come under fire for deleting pictures that show children breast-feeding and for closing accounts of the mothers who posted the photos. In some of these cases the mothers were told they had violated the site’s terms of service by publishing sexual or obscene material. A separate online campaign has urged the children’s television series “Sesame Street” to show more images of breast-feeding.

Funny or Die, which is directed at an 18-and-over audience, often posts R-rated movie trailers and other bawdy content. But it does not appear to have a strict no-nudity policy: bare breasts can be seen in blooper videos on the site, and in the short “Jon Benjamin’s Ultimate Trick Shot Video” the camera frequently lingers on the genitals of a naked man.

Does this make sense to anyone?

I, for one, don’t understand why Funny or Die permits close-ups of a naked penis but not a bare breast from which a child is eating. And Facebook is closing the accounts of moms who post breastfeeding photos…really? Some people might argue in support of the ban saying they don’t want to see someone else breastfeeding, but I say don’t look, or, if you’re really bothered by it, de-friend the person. I cringe every time one of my Facebook friends posts a photo of their baby’s genitalia–for starters, I think it’s a crazy violation of the baby’s privacy–so I just don’t look at those photos. If that parent is comfortable with sharing that kind of photo with their social network, who am I to stop them or say it isn’t right?

What do you think? Are breastfeeding photos obscene? Is Facebook and Funny or Die right to ban them? If so, are there other photos that should be banned on the same principle?

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  1. by Amy Dunham

    On January 26, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    In this day and age, I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would see feeding a child as obscene. I just cannot understand why this keeps coming up.

  2. by Keysha

    On January 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world! Do people think bottles have been around forever?? What if breastfeeding moms’ went around flagging pictures of babies’ being bottle fed as rude or offensive! Why is it that some parents can post pictures of their children being fed but the parents who decide to feed their children the way nature intended are treated like they are obscene? The rule should be the same for all eating children! If my child’s picture of her eating cheerio’s is allowed then the picture of her nursing should be allowed also! There is NOTHING sexual about breastfeeding!

  3. by Angel

    On January 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I am a mother of 3 and have breastfed and currently still am breastfeeding my youngest (15 months). I am shocked that FB would not only take down pictures but delete accounts of mothers sharing these pictures. Breastfeeding is not only natural but in no way shape or form obscene! Want to talk about obscene maybe FB should take a closer look at some of the profiles with girls barely clothed with all of their business hanging out for the world to see. That really is obscene and some profiles border on the line of soft porn! I personally do not post pictures of that nature on FB or pictures of my children in the bath b/c their are too many sickos out in the world but if a mother chooses to share that moment of bonding with her friends in family on FB there is nothing Obscene or controversy about it! It is nature and a fact of life! People need to become educated about breastfeeding and stop looking at it as a taboo subject!

  4. by Rachelle

    On January 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Its considered obscene by people in society because that’s the way they perceive it, breasts in our country are considered mostly for pleasurable and sexual connotations, in other countries women nurse they’re babies freely without a second look from onlookers. Here even with a privacy drape (which I use) it’s like people try hard to imagine what’s going on underneath…..get over people god gave us the boob for means of functionality which was not just for people to gock at but to nourish the next generation…maybe if more woman nursed here, this wouldn’t be such a big deal…..just my take

  5. by carrie

    On January 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    facebook’s policy does offer protection to breastfeeding mothers that don’t want their breastfeeding pictures posted, since anyone can post and tag photos of you on facebook. my grandmother did not breastfeed her children, so she was amazed when my aunt did with her first son. my grandma found it so fascinating that she would whip out the camera at each feeding. when you are trying to feed a newborn, the last thing you’ve got energy for is fending off an overzealous photographer! this was all pre-facebook, but i can just see my memaw posting those pictures on facebook, with or without my aunt’s permission, if she’d been given the opportunity.

    facebook should be allowed to set their own policies on this matter. it is a free site that they allow you to use. i am sure there are plenty of venues that allow you to post breastfeeding pics if you desire to share them.

    i breastfed both of my daughters, so i completely support feeding your children the way that works best for you. however, i think a lot of things that fall in the “completely natural” category should not be broadcast for all to see.

  6. by Shawna

    On January 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Carrie, I couldn’t agree more with your point that “a lot of things that fall in the ‘completely natural’ category should not be broadcast for all to see”.

    I breastfed my son, and kept myself covered if I ever needed to feed him in public. In today’s day and age, as this was pointed out earlier by Rachelle, breasts are an icon of sexuality in this country. To expose it in public, whether breastfeeding or not, is indecent exposure in America.

    This is how our culture operates, no matter how hard we try to fight and convince the world breastfeeding is a natural, God-intended right for mothers and shouldn’t be censored. As a courtesy to those around me, I cover up. I don’t mind doing so, and I care about the comfort of those around me more than I care about “making a statement.” I’m not breastfeeding because I have the “right” to do so in public – I’m doing it because my child is hungry.

    As far as Facebook, I think the site has the right to forbid pictures of bare breasts in any capacity, but I think breastfeeding pictures shouldn’t be cause for closing someone’s account unless they are a repeat offender AFTER several warnings to cease. As Carrie pointed out, it is a FREE site for us to use.

    Just my $.02 :)

  7. by Becky

    On January 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Okay, I think the whole thing is riduculous, but REALLY Funny or Die? Penis is okay, breast is okay, but put a baby on that breast and it’s obscene? What the eff? That’s just STUPID.

  8. by Jessica

    On January 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    This is completely absurd! I wonder if some large religious conglomerate has some money behind FB and is steering them.
    When I breastfed my children, I didn’t cover up. Look away if you don’t like it.

  9. by Marianne

    On January 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Re: Shawna
    “This is how our culture operates, no matter how hard we try to fight and convince the world breastfeeding is a natural, God-intended right for mothers and shouldn’t be censored.”

    Actually, I think public breastfeeding is an easier feat than this. Culture is fluid; it adapts to changing ideas and circumstances. In less than 100 years, our (Canadian and American) culture has changed in very major ways, like allowing all people regardless of race to go to school and to vote, allowing women to vote, be elected to office, and receive equal pay for equal work, effectively banning child labour in factories, and even beginning to recognize same-sex unions. Compared to these huge cultural changes, persuading more people to accept public breast feeding is a pretty small change. I think it’s about public education, and probably more gentle persuasion, rather than in-your-face public acts of defiance, but I don’t think that persuading most North Americans that breastfeeding is not a sexual act will be that difficult.

    As for convincing the rest of the world, we don’t have to. Most of the rest of the world already views breastfeeding as a non-sexual, normal maternal behaviour. Travel around Europe, Central and South America, and Africa (I’m not sure about Asia) and you’ll see local women openly breastfeeding in public markets everywhere. Americans, Canadians, and Australians are the weirdo pervs of the world who think there is something kinky about it. Strangely, most of these cultures believe in more modesty for their women (skirts must cover your knees, no cleavage showing unless you’re breastfeeding, no skin-tight clothing), and definitely don’t permit casual sex unless you’re a prostitute. They seem to think we’re strange for letting young women wear revealing clothing, get drunk, and have casual sex, and then act all weirded out at the sight of mothers feeding their babies in public.

    Just thought I’d offer another perspective.

    Cheers!

  10. by Rachel

    On January 26, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    No, absolutely not, photos of mothers’ breastfeeding there children are not obscene. Breast feeding is actually still part of the birthing cycle. I think it is absurd that facebook and funny or die have banned these photos, it is not like u see the moms’ nipple bc the baby is nursing on it. It is ridiculous that funny or die is banning these photos too bc they have some very innappropriate material on their website, and the fact the facebook is closing the accounts of the moms who had these photos is wrong. i have seen pictures of barely dressed women showimg the same amount of breast but in a sexual way, not in a natural way like a mom nursing their baby would be. I for one totally disagree with this. as for what the writer of this article said that they cringe seeing their friends childrens genitalia on pics on facebook, now that is completely wrong!!!! Do these people not realize sick perverts will look at this as child pornography.

  11. by Nikki Garner

    On January 26, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Absolutely no right to close accounts that have a woman breast feeding her baby. That is plain ridiculous. I think it’s offensive that girls can show everything under the sun on Facebook and other sites but a woman can’t feed her child naturally? It’s completely absurd.

  12. by Archana

    On January 27, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Obscene is not the word that you can use for something as wonderful as breastfeeding. Seriously whoever it is, grow up!