Interview with Tiff Finney

Why are you on Instagram? 

It’s a mass of give and take, really. You give what you can and try to post what you think your followers want to see and gain from and in turn we can take so much from others we follow. I get a lot from watching and reading the content of others. This kind of greedy scrolling culture we now have to find posts that we can gain from; whether it’s a product to buy, a political view, a ground breaking artist that you can be inspired by daily or simply a beautiful image that we can ogle over. Whether this is entirely helpful or not is another discussion but we are addicted to this new culture of immediate gratification. 

Instagram is also a great business tool to share workshops, events and links to your work. However, right now, this is quite the flawed format due to the discrimination against many sex and body positive individuals and accounts. 

What do you like to communicate and share with your followers?

I try to share content that my followers can get something from: both in the simplest form and also from a more intricate and politically driven point of view. Anything from a pole video that people can save to try later to my views on gender equality and body positivity. 

Why do you think your followers follow you? 

I’d like to think I’m followed because I have fun with my work but I’m furiously serious about equality and breaking down the stigma attached to a female that positively expresses their body and sexuality. People often say they like me because I “just don’t give a fuck” and I like to think this means that I express, share and dance in a way that’s unapologetically me. I very much *do* give a fuck about promoting body confidence and equality and the only way to do that is to show that is to not give a fuck about the misfired judgement of others. These judgements are often just a reflection of their own insecurity, social conditioning, beliefs and fears. It’s not about you when you’re judged by individuals so you may as well do you.  

Has your engagement and reach gone up or down recently? 

Down. I changed profile gender from female to male recently. However, I am suspicious that Instagram may have cottoned on to us using our visibility equality tactic because in the last week, my engagement has been substantially lower with my male gender account. Either that or I’ve posted some codswallop of late 🙂 

Have you ever been shadowbanned or blocked from posting content? Did you get any indication about why? Or a response from Instagram?

I recently had a viral video removed for being sexually suggestive when it was at over 3 million views and growing. It was a tongue-in-cheek and completely daft & comedic take on the bottle cap challenge where I used my covered chest to remove the bottle cap. I felt so angry and discriminated against because surely *I* should be in charge of deciding if what I post is sexually suggestive or not? It seems that bosses of social media get to decide what my own personal intent is instead of me! I was also not given any platform to appeal. I was simply deleted and silenced. This is worrying because social media is now as real as real life. Not just this little separate bubble. So if social media exclude us from the platform, it also devalues our real life status and value too. And this is neither right nor fair. 

You can’t be a confident, empowered woman without a shadow ban to your name. They are actively creating a minority group of wrongly criminalised and vilified people. There is no response, no reason and no plausible justification from Instagram- just a straight up ghosting. This is completely unacceptable and goes against our basic human rights. 

What do you think reason for the increase in shadow banning and blocking/removal of body-positive and sex positive  content on social media?

A John Berger quote I often repeat whenever I get the opportunity seems to best describe the situation we currently face.

 “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting ‘Vanity’ thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure”. 

The male gaze represents the person painting the picture. We are socially conditioned into aspiring to be desired whilst men get to simply desire. Posting an image or video fulfilling this purposely conditioned role, whether intended or not, results in the woman being condemned and removed. 

We seem to have no credit for actually liking ourselves. We are reduced to “is she going to give hetero men an uncontrollable erection that he cannot be responsible for?” 

Right now, I feel like we are part of an unspoken boner-o-meter: that social media platforms like Instagram see an image of a body & sex positive female and decide if a straight male will have a stir in their pants leading to a lack of control over what they may do with it. So to stop the male that has no moral duty to control his own sexual desires, its far easier to ban and hide us instead. It makes absolutely no difference what the intent of our content is, it only matters if the boner-o-meter goes above a 20 out of 100.

As another note, sex workers who make money from their career are also criminalised for what is a basic and morally sound business. These sex workers are working. They live not for the validation of the male gaze and to be the object of their desire but for valuing their own body enough to earn money from it. And rightly so. When I worked in a strip club, I had the most incredible feeling because after previously experiencing violations of my body from men against my will, I found myself in a place where not only did these men not touch me against my will, they were willing to pay for the privilege of just seeing it. I made an income as a self employed strip club worker and it is something I’m incredibly proud of.  

What do you think the future holds for sex workers, sex positive accounts, artists/creators exploring issues around sexuality on social media?

I’d like to think that the mass victimisation and discrimination against sex workers and non sex workers with body and sex positive accounts will be researched, understood and accepted by social media soon. However, I think we contribute massively to the economy in terms of spending the money we earn to reach the visual 2D shell of the perfect woman that if we post content that promotes true body positivity, we are promoting that we don’t need this social beauty poster to aspire to which is therefore detrimental to the economy. As the Caroline Caldwell quote goes,

 “In a world that profits from your self doubt, loving yourself is a rebellious act”.

Social media platforms are business platforms- not a charity made for its users. If we aren’t deemed to contribute in the way that our demographic is supposed to then we will continue to be silenced. However, both sex worker and non sex worker accounts fronting sex and body positivity have the potential to contribute a lot. Many of us are self employed sex workers, artists, public speakers, activists, performers and/or pole studio owners that are actively trying to pay to promote our businesses on social media. But until we are credited as business owners the same as any other, we will just have to keep fighting to let our voices and worth be heard. 

Are you using other platforms besides Instagram? How do they compare?

 I use Facebook once in a while when I miss engaging with those I know but I rarely post anything anymore. Their music policing resulting in lack of artistry expression, community guidelines and blocking of videos give me no desire to be a part of their platform. I feel like one major social platform (Instagram) that victimises and shames us is more than enough. 

Do you feel like you have to self-censor before sharing content? If so, what does this feel like?

I absolutely do question everything I post now. It’s almost akin to real life censorship where we worry about what we wear incase we supposedly “invite” physical, sexual or verbal abuse. However, like real life, I’d rather be my true unapologetic self and be censored and shamed rather than live solely to not disturb the wheel. 

Do you think all bodies are treated the same on Instagram? 

I think undoubtedly that gender and status makes a difference from evidence of shared stories: that female bodies are shamed and vilified far more than the male body and those of celebrities with a huge following. However, it’s getting to a point where algorithms, bot scanning, secret guidelines and many other factors are affecting many types of bodies and accounts. There is no clarity and therefore no way to make sense of how or why. 

Is there anything you would like to change about Instagram?

I’d like to change the constant shaming of people that promote body and sex positivity. I’d like to be the one decide the intent of my own posts rather than Instagram making that decision for me. I’d like Instagram to also recognise that the careers of body and sex positive sex workers and non sex workers are legitimate careers and therefore to gift us the same business tools and access that other artists and companies are entitled to. I want equality. I want no more than anyone else. The worth of my body is not decided by bias, it is decided by me. I’d like us to be afforded this basic human right. 

If I could ask Instagram one thing it would be to talk to us. Ask us questions, and answer our questions. Allow yourself to hear us.