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Etsy Cracks Down: Sex Toys and Adult Products Banned from Marketplace

Published: JULY 8, 2024 | Updated: JULY 8, 2024
What does Etsy's ban on sex toys and products mean for retailers and creators?

Starting July 29, online retailer Etsy will ban the sale of most sex toys, content depicting sex acts, and other "mature" products. The new policies include prohibitions on adult toys designed to be inserted into the body, pornography (including vintage adult magazines and films), using human models to display items if body parts like genitalia or female nipples are visible, advertising sexual services such as custom photographs and videos depicting nudity, and some non-photographic art with explicit nudity in a sexual context. However, non-insertable adult toys and sexual accessories, such as BDSM wear, will still be allowed if they adhere to Etsy's updated guidelines on mature content.


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Etsy is just the latest company to implement sex-negative policies

Etsy's bans on sex toys and other adult content has sparked significant debate, with critics arguing that it further stigmatizes sex in an increasingly restrictive online environment. Some speculate that the policy shift is due to pressure from payment processors, particularly MasterCard, which has a known aversion to adult content, as well as from app stores. Additionally, recent legislation in some states requiring age verification for adult content may have influenced Etsy's decision.

Critics argue that if investor concerns solely drove the issue, it would have been more profitable for Etsy to implement basic content filtering for adult listings, separating them from general listings, rather than losing the adult market entirely. This policy change is expected to result in significant revenue loss, which isn't usually what investors and shareholders want to see.

The real impact of Etsy's bans on sex toys and adult products

While Etsy's investors and shareholders will likely fare just fine once these policies take effect, the change is expected to have a catastrophic impact on small and niche sex toy businesses.


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Take Fantasticocks, for example. They specialize in handmade fantasy adult toys, offering a range of designs from trans-inclusive toys and packers to silicone grinding pads for non-penetrative sex, as well as their fantastical ovipositors.

"As a small business owner, Etsy's decision to ban our types of designs with only a 30-day notice will severely impact our business's sales and revenue, leading to layoffs and destroying something that we have spent the past six years building, effectively overnight," said Preston Stevenson and Laura Norden, co-owners of Fantasticocks. "They in no way allowed for enough time for businesses even to attempt to pivot or create a backup plan, and there aren't many avenues that will have the same reach and large audience as Etsy provided. We hope to make it through the storm, but the future is very uncertain at the moment."

Fantasticocks' situation highlights the challenges of maintaining visibility and viability in a restrictive digital marketplace. Etsy provided a rare, inclusive marketplace where small retailers could thrive, and this will no longer be the case for retailers and creators in the sex industry.


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Taylor Moore, an adult influencer and co-founder of TEASY Agency, a platform dedicated to empowering adult content creators and retailers, Moore also spoke out about Etsy's policy changes: "For small businesses, it's like being uprooted overnight. We're forced to seed new grounds, hoping to find fertile soil elsewhere."

At Teasy Agency, they relied on Etsy as both a sales platform and a way to engage with customers who value discretion and diversity. With the ban, they are cut off from a significant portion of their community, underscoring their limited space in mainstream e-commerce.

Moore emphasized, "This ban isn't just about products; it's about silencing the unique voices that power the vibrant market of adult content and paraphernalia."


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Teasy Agency has accelerated its transition to other platforms and enhanced its website. Still, none offer Etsy's organic traffic and built-in trust. The emotional and logistical toll of rebuilding a customer base and increasing marketing expenses is enormous.

Moore remarked, "Navigating this ban feels like rebuilding a house in a storm."

Etsy policies highlight pervasive censorship of adult content online

The deeply concerning issue of online censorship of adult products and content extends far beyond Etsy. Carol Queen, PhD, Good Vibes Staff Sexologist and Curator of the Antique Vibrator Museum, is enraged by how culture-war-ified differences of opinion and belief turn into policy decisions.


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"I haven't even gotten used to it from the Supreme Court yet... And now Etsy?" she exclaimed.

Queen wants every person who enjoys charming DIY sex stickers, naked-person candles, and Magic Wand vibe earrings to consider this: "Even before the Supreme Court (or some supreme leader) takes away all our options regarding sex, relationship configuration, personal identity, group affiliation, whether our credit cards work on certain websites, and what kind of earrings we are allowed to wear — oh, and whether we can communicate about any of this stuff — the private sector is doing a whole lot of the heavy lifting already. And this has been going on for years."

She reminds people, "Remember when all your sexy juvenilia and first sexy selfies vanished from Tumblr? Remember your sex worker friends freaking out about their Patreon accounts and their bank accounts? Remember when Facebook wouldn't let us call burlesque and drag performers by their performance names and cut off access to posts about breasts — cancer, feeding, and all the 'wholesome' breast-i-verse as well as the 'ooh that breast makes me feel a feeling-i-verse?' ...It's outrageous, and if anyone is not yet wondering if the terms 'pursuit of happiness' and 'it's a free country' mean something way different up the food chain, it's time to start thinking about this a little harder 'cos they're coming for your bunny tail butt plugs."


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"We believe the only way to combat this societal shift is to speak out and speak loud," said Stevenson and Norden.

Read Etsy's full Adult Nudity and Sexual Content policy here.

For more information about the laws and legislation driving online censorship of adult products and content in the United States, check out the Free Speech Coalition, a nonprofit, non-partisan trade association for the adult industry.

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Ryn Pfeuffer

Ryn Pfeuffer is a versatile print and digital writer specializing in sex, lifestyle, and relationship topics. She got her start in the mid-90s at the Philadelphia Weekly, managing a 10-page section of the newspaper and more than 500 lonely hearts.Her professional stock skyrocketed when she started writing a saucy (and pre-Carrie-Bradshaw-era) dating advice column called “Ask Me Anything.” She appeared regularly on local radio stations and late-night TV as an expert on everything from grooming...

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