Up Front by Emma Hart

96

NSFW

I know I whined about how terrible labelling is not all that long ago, but today I want to take the time to pay tribute to a label I love above all others, one that saves me time and grief on nearly a daily basis. Not Safe For Work, I love you.

I don't have to decide whether an image is porn or erotica or sexually explicit material or designed to arouse or obscene. I don't have to decide if arty shots are safer than realistic shots, or gay shots are safer or less safe than straight shots. I can just call it NSFW and let you guys make your own calls. I might occasionally help out by throwing you the odd modifier – 'mildly' or 'very' NSFW – but for the most part I accept that I can't read your mind and I've really no idea which picture you're going to find more offensive, this one or this one.

Alright, here's the trick. It's like Simon Says. I didn't label either of those NSFW. Try these instead (mildly NSFW). Nevertheless, those first two (to my mind) perfectly SFW pictures were among ones I used to deliberately offend a specific group of people.

Links are even harder to determine the safe-for-workness of. Of the two Up Front sidebar links I felt needed the NSFW tag, one of them currently features no explicit material on its front page, and the other features a completely naked man with an erection. It's okay, I'll wait here while you pop off and find out which is which.

And of course NSFW means you don't have to be up front about your own threshold for dodgy. Blame the work filters. I'd like to look but the boss won't let me. And given the sheer mind-buggery of some of the things work filters block, you can never tell whether you'd be offended or not – until you get home and you can click on things in private. Some of you are itching to get home right now, right?

Different things disturb different people. I, for instance, find this photo disturbing. Bulgy forearm veins, that's got to be obscene. Also, what the hell is with that pose? Invisible Wonder Woman bracelets? I do understand, however, why people might find this picture more disturbing, even though it shows less flesh and is more 'arty'. (Whether it's porn or not, according to some people, depends entirely on whether that standing figure is male or female.)

NSFW covers non-visual stuff as well. This ad for the British series QI is, visually, perfectly sweet and nice. With the audio on, it's one of the most NSFW things you will ever see me link to. Headphones are advised. I wouldn't drink while watching it either. Perhaps we need a new label: Not Safe For Imbibing.

And who is now planning to demonstrate that NSFW might well stand for 'now show friends and workmates'?

The label still has its pitfalls, most obviously people who haven't run across it before, or who think I'm linking to the National Schools Film Week. Then there are people who do know what it means but don't understand it. When I sent that QI link to a friend, she decided that it would be perfectly fine to watch, seeing as she wasn't at work. So she fired it up and watched it – with her seven year old daughter.

Everybody learned a valuable lesson. Rabbits can't vomit.

So here's what you'll get from me: a basic assumption that you're all adults and you can make your own decisions. That you have functioning fingers and eyelids and can choose not to look at something you find disturbing or offensive. That we can all appreciate that different people have different tastes and squick levels, and that while I'll provide warnings if I have a reasonable expectation that a link could be a bit dodgy, I have no interest in catering to unreasonable levels of being offended, and that's okay.

Just trust me, it's okay. Because really, in your heart of hearts, you want to see how NSFW things get when I feel like I have your trust.

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