A petition has been set up asking Facebook to stop censoring burlesque-related adverts.

A petition has been set up asking Facebook to stop censoring burlesque-related adverts.

We all know that Facebook likes to police burlesque imagery and performer profiles, on the grounds that they contain “nudity or other sexually suggestive content”. But for some months now, Facebook have also been intermittently refusing paid adverts pertaining to burlesque or removing ads which have been previously approved.

The advertisers assumed that, just like with performer profiles, this was based on the use of burlesque imagery in the advert, rather than the burlesque itself. However, this week, a San Francisco promoter had their Facebook adverts removed on the grounds that “ads may not promote the sale or use of adult products or services (burlesque entertainment)” and “ads may not promote pornography of any kind, whether artistic or commercial.”  The social network explicitly stated that it was the burlesque content that was the issue; in fact, the images in the adverts showed performers’ faces only, with one being only a logo only with no images of people at all.

However, this “burlesque ban” is not applied by Facebook consistently. While some adverts have been refused or removed, others have been approved without complaint. And while Facebook initially told the San Francisco promoter that it was the “burlesque entertainment” theme which was the issue, subsequent exchanges with staff have claimed that the decision was based on only the imagery used in the advert (giving new meaning to the term “porn face”?).

What the heck is going on? Clearly, there is an issue. Some adverts have been refused or removed, that’s a fact. What isn’t obvious is exactly why. It can’t be because Facebook is trying to protect children from inappropriate content (which we would all support anyway) because adverts can be marked as appropriate only for certain age groups.  Is it the images? Or the burlesque? Or both?  In some ways, this is not the point. The point is that policing a legal activity and imposing advertising restrictions on legitimate businesses is not on, whatever the reason. That’s why a petition was started. If you want to sign the petition, here is where you can find it: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/facebook-reverse-the-ban-on-paid-burlesque-adverts-for-being-pornography

Gaining over 1,300 signatures from across the globe in the first two days, it’s fair to say that the petition has struck a nerve. The reasons people have given for signing suggest that this has tapped into some broader issues, from the impact upon businesses to gender discrimination to slut shaming to freedom of expression:


Burlesque is not porn. It is an art form. It is empowering, witty & inclusive; it is not exploitative.”

 “Men are allowed to wear far less without being censored.”“Censoring art and the right to free expression is wrong.”

“You are discriminating against a legal business with your advertising limits”

“I fear that this, if not challenged will lead us down a dark path where any expression of male or female sexuality/sensuality or creative individuality is oppressed.”


So, what’s going to happen next?

  1. Firstly, the petition will be submitted to the Facebook Ads Team next week.
  2. We will ask for clarity regarding the rules for paid advertisements, and report the response back to the burlesque community.
  3. We will suggest to Facebook alternatives to outright banning, such as stricter age restrictions, and restrictions based on interest or “likes”.
  4. We will highlight to them the broader concerns about censorship, imposing moral judgements and the impact by Facebook on businesses and the wider online world.

Even if Facebook do not respond favourably (which, let’s be honest, they probably won’t do), hopefully we can clarify the mixed messages we are receiving from them about advertising. We might even get a set of tips about how to avoid getting our adverts refused or removed. In addition, the petition and subsequent discussion has already raised awareness about the wider issues here, which is fantastic.

In the meantime, it’s important to stress that promoters should not stop trying to use adverts. As mentioned above; the removal is inconsistent, Facebook can’t police everything, and many adverts have escaped unscathed.

After the petition has been submitted, we will share widely any response we get. If you have any suggestions about what to ask Facebook when we contact them, or you want to share your experiences with posting burlesque adverts, please contact me at glorian.gray@yahoo.co.uk.