Wikipedia:WikiProject Sexology and sexuality/WIP-image-guidelines

The problemEdit

This area, more than any other, seems to have problems with people objecting to images in articles. Since the articles are sexuality based, many of the images are sexuality based. The problems we have seen so far, seem to be:

  1. Someone who calls any image related to sexuality "pornography". An example would be a picture on the semen article that shows semen on a brown background. Others include images where there is nudity, or close-ups of body parts, such as penis and breast.
  2. Someone who is trolling, and is trying to elicit a response by posting an image intended towards that purpose. An example is the discussion regarding User:Publicgirluk Wikipedia:Publicgirluk_photo_debate on the Pearl necklace (sexuality) article. Also see MediaWiki:Bad image list
  3. Vanity images where a Wikipedia user submits his own image.
  4. Someone submits a photo, and it is not apparent for sure if the photo is of the person submitting it, or their girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend) without her permission or knowledge. User:Publicgirluk was also discussed in this context. The discussed images do not exist any longer.

Existing Wikipedia guidelines, standards, comments, failed policiesEdit

The "Graphic and potentially disturbing images" is a discussion Wikipedia wide about the same thing we are discussing here. The result was 22 suggested proposals, with the "Alternative Policy by Shane King" supported by 33 people, and opposed by five people predominating. It was "Do nothing now, as there's not really a problem now. Revisit this if it ever becomes a widespread problem that can't adequately be handled on a case by case basis on individual article talk pages as it is now. Policy should only ever be developed on an as needed basis, as excessive policy is both wasteful and harmful. Shane King 00:54, Dec 3, 2004 (UTC)"

So, I don't think we are going to solve a problem here that has been tried in the recent past. But, we can come develop a guideline on how to deal with images in sexology and sexuality articles, and apply them ourselves, and not try to apply that Wikipedia wide. Even if people do not agree with us, if we have a guideline it will help with many cases, and with people who fit the categories mentioned above. A consensus of many of us will set better than several of us individually.


A bitmap or vector graphics object. This includes photographs and any sort of artwork.
Line drawing
A simple piece of art in which the artist uses only lines and curves to represent their subject. There is generally no color or shading.
Historical artwork
Art that has been established in the world community – something which could be found in a museum.
Enactment photograph
A photograph in which the subject or subjects appear to be performing a sexual act, but are actually just demonstrating the posture. For instance, the missionary position can be demonstrated without actual penetration, or even with clothed models. See also

Proposed guideline for images and video (still open for changes --> Discussion)Edit

Wikipedia is not censoredEdit

Wikipedia does not censor images based on sexual content, unless they meet the standard of "obscene" for the definition of pornography under Florida law. See "Wikipedia is not censored"

The background or default behind Wikipedia as an encyclopedia is that it should document reality. Reality is uncensored. We want to do that in as non-offensive a manner as possible, but accuracy is most important. We don't/shouldn't/can't limit content based on the lowest common denominator of age, religious values, culture, etc. In some places even having pictures of women would be considered to be offensive, obscene, and/or immoral. For some people, even having an article on sex education is over the line, and not appropriate. Wikipedia has no religious affiliation, and so do not cater to religious dogma. Objections to an image based on religious views have no standing. (see Censorship by religion) points of the article. The english Wikipedia servers are in the state of Florida in the United States, and so are bound by U.S. federal law, as well as Florida state law. Federal law defines some sexual images as illegal (see Obscenity as defined by the Miller test).

Applicable LawEdit

Duty to comply with US lawsEdit

United States Federal law criminalizes obscene material in a variety of ways specified in Title 18, Chapter 71 of the United States Code. To comply with the US law, whoever produces sexually explicity material for publishing on wikipedia must maitain an 18 U.S.C. Section 2257 Disclosure Statement[dead link].[1] This Record Keeping Requirement Compliance Statement[dead link] requires that the uploader comply with 18 U.S.C. Section 2257 by creating and maintaining "individually identifiable records pertaining to every performer portrayed in such a visual depiction."

Duty to maintain recordsEdit

Every wikipedian that uploads explicit material "shall maintain the records required by this section at his business premises, or at such other place as the [US] Attorney General may by regulation prescribe and shall make such records available to the [US] Attorney General for inspection at all reasonable times." Uploaders must provide a method of contact or else the image may be deleted. A good exemple to follow includes posting a similar text into the image description :

"All records required to be kept by federal law [and Wipedia's Explicit Image Policy] are in the possession of Carol Santiago and available for inspection between 2pm and 6pm EST time, Mon - Fri at:
Carol Santiago
311 Lincoln Road Suite 210
Miami Beach, FL 33139"[2]
Uploader to provide all documentsEdit

Uploaders that do not regularly maintain their Wikipedian user account should follow the above example. Explicit material that is not guaranteed or that can not be verified to have such a record of statement from the original uploaders will be deleted. Furthermore, if the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. finds it necessary, they may require the uploaders to privately provide the records pertaining to 18 U.S.C. Section 2257 Disclosure Statement.

  • The penalty for failling to release such documents to an appointed agent of the Wikipedia Foundation will result in a permanent ban from Wikipedia and the deletion of the material.

For Florida definitions of "obscene" (see Chapter 847 - Obscenity)

Miller testEdit

Both the U.S. Federal and Florida state law are limited in their scope by the free speech rights found in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The United States Supreme Court has found, in general, that images may not be legally prohibited unless they constitute obscenity under the "Miller Test" or meet slightly less stringent requirements for "child pornography", in the case of images depicting children. Therefore unless a sexual image depicts children, it is not illegal under Wikipedia's applicable law, unless it meets all three of the criteria below:

  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions [1] specifically defined by applicable criminal law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

In the context of this discussion, the second prong will doubtless be met. Therefore the question will arise whether the image appeals to the prurient interest. It is currently unclear under U.S. law how "contemporary community standards" are defined as to Internet materials, and given the variation of the human sexual response, it would be unwise to rely on that prong, except in obvious cases. Therefore, we need to make sure that every picture is directly applicable to the article to try and retain serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value (the scope of "the work" being Wikipedia as a whole, the article, or the image itself, again, being a possible matter for later legal dispute).

Photographs or video of sexual acts should be hidden behind linksEdit

This guideline is under debate.

Rationale goes here.

When possible, avoid images that are likely to offendEdit

Images relating to some topics cannot be informative without also running the risk of being offensive to some. However, when deciding between two equally informative images, the one which is least likely to offend (or is likely to offend the least) should be used.

There is no way to interpret this other than subjectively. The law does not offer much help. The FCC uses the term "patently offensive" as a test for when things should be labeled "indecent", but there are no clear rules for what this means. (See FCC Dismisses 36 Indecency Complaints as Not 'Patently Offensive'). Neither Piss Christ, in which a crucifix supporting the body of Jesus Christ is submerged in a glass of the artist's urine, nor Robert Mapplethorpe's self portrait in which he is dressed in leather chaps and cowboy boots, with a bullwhip stuck in his anus ("Self Portait") have been judged "indecent", yet a brief glimpse of Janet Jackson's breast was.

Thus we must handle such decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Artwork is preferred over photographsEdit

This guideline is under debate.

Artwork can include engravings, paintings, line drawings, etc.. For instance, see the lead image in masturbation. These should be preferred over photographs, except when a photograph clearly illustrates the point(s) of the article better than any available artwork. This isn't because there is anything wrong with photographs. Artwork and illustrations just have a lower probablility of offending. Do not use artwork over photographs to the detriment of the article. Clearly in some cases a photograph is much more valuable in describing the subject.

Guidelines for photographsEdit

Avoid photographs that make the people easily identifiableEdit

In sexology and sexuality articles, it is not likely to be about a person, but about some aspect of sexuality, and the article should focus on that aspect, not on a person. (see Private photos of identifiable models)

However, also avoid using images which have been awkwardly cropped or edited to remove faces or identifying features. This distracts the reader from the subject.

All photographs and videos should be labeled honestlyEdit

Enactment photographs, as defined above, should not be captioned as though they are depicting actual sexual acts.

No vanity imagesEdit

"Wikipedia:Vanity guidelines" advises against uploading pictures of yourself. In sex-related articles the consensus has become much stronger.

Images of Wikipedia editors or their friends are not OK for sexual or other intimate illustrations.

In addition editors who do produce their own illustrations (eg. photos of sex toys or line illustrations) must seek and accept the consensus of other editors on a page.

Process for choosing imagesEdit

Use only the image that best illustrates the pointEdit

While there may be several images available on a given topic, multiple images of the same thing don't usually add to the quality of the article. (See, for instance, version of the tribadism article.) Exceptions to this would be something like "Breast - Size and Shape" (a section which has been deleted from breast). If someone introduces a new image that already is represented, we should move it to the talk page, and discuss which, or how many images are appropriate, and go with consensus.

Additional images should add additional informationEdit

Some articles have an abundance of images, more than really is needed to make the point. Public nudity might be one of these, where Naturism seems about right. Anytime a new image is proposed to be added, or is added without discussion, we can put it on the talk page, and begin a discussion about adding it. The main focus should be whether the new proposed image adds quality to the article, and is a better choice than alternatives to illustrate the given point.

Existing images shouldn't be replaced without a consensusEdit

Of course random people are going to throw images in articles all of the time. But if we have a guideline that we can apply, we can forestall people throwing their own vanity image, or favorite image over the one we have established for the lead image for an article. When they do that, we can move their image to the talk page, give a quote of our guideline, and a link to it, and begin a discussion as to whether this image is a better image than the one previously decided on.

All images should be from Wikimedia CommonsEdit

Wikimedia Commons is a database of media files. Rationale goes here.


  1. ^ "US Code Collection". Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  2. ^ "18 U.S.C. Section 2257 Disclosure Statement". Retrieved 2007-03-24.