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Rule 34 is an internet meme stating that for every topic or interest on the planet, there is pornographic content involving it. Rule 34 is a comment on the vast range of adult content available online, including content that is taboo or offbeat.
The meme considers traditional porn and modern online pornographic content including hentai, fan fiction, and slash fiction. Rule 34 is a noun, but it can also form a verb. If someone "Rule 34s" something or someone, they create porn about them.
Some people attribute the Rule 34 meme to webcomic artist Peter Morley-Souter. In 2003, he created a work showing his shock at a Calvin and Hobbes themed pornography. This work had the caption “Rule #34: There is porn of it. No exceptions.” Many modern sources citing the rule now omit the “No exceptions” portion. Morley-Souter stated he heard the term in an IRC chatroom.
In May 2007, a searchable online Rule 34 database, featuring Rule 34 images, launched on Paheal.net. This spawned several similar databases celebrating Rule 34.
That same year, popular webcomic xkcd released the comic “Rule 34.” It referenced the rule and unlikely sexual scenarios, including porn set on storm-chasing vans and porn involving homoerotic spelling bees.
In 2008, 4chan users began posting explicit porn parodies and comics demonstrating Rule 34. People requesting specific Rule 34 porn on the website coined a new term for their requested porn, rule 34, Pr0nz.
By 2009, Rule 34 had entered mainstream culture. The Daily Telegraph ranked Rule 34 number three on its list of top 10 internet rules. In 2011, the concept inspired Charles Stross’s acclaimed science fiction novel, also called “Rule 34.” By 2013, CNN called Rule 34 “likely the most famous” internet rule.
Rule 34 is usually expressed through fan art. These drawings and computer-generated artworks usually feature non-provocative subjects engaged in sexual acts. There are also explicit Rule 34 stories and videos.
Explicit cartoon images depicting children’s characters, pornographic works featuring fictional TV characters, and non-sexual images with sexual undercurrents, such as phallic carrots, are common fodder of Rule 34.
Rule 34 has spawned a drinking game. To play, groups of adults suggest strange ideas for porn, then search the internet to prove they fit Rule 34. When the group finds the relevant porn and Rule 34 proven, participants drink.
While some people enjoy playing with the concept of Rule 34, others feel confronted by it. Rule 34 is often referenced when people encounter porn or pornographic images they find disturbing or extreme.
Rule 34 persists because it seems true for anyone who spends time online. Seemingly innocent searches often uncover pornographic content. As human sexuality is diverse and the range of fetishes and sexual interests so broad, there also seems to be sexual content designed to appeal to almost everyone. Rule 34 is both an indictment of the weirdness of the world wide web, and also a celebration of the diversity of human sexuality.
While rule 34 is the most well-known online porn-related rule, a subsequent rule, called rule 35, has gained prominence. According to “Rules of the Internet,” published in 2006, rule 35 states “If no porn is found at the moment, it will be made.” In other words, if no porn currently exists about a topic, interest, or scenario, it is just a matter of time before it will.
Another similar rule, known as rule 63, states that every character has an opposite gender version. This rule manifests in a similar fashion to rule 34, with fan art depicting male- and female-gendered versions of the characters engaging in sexual acts.
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