Advertisers can’t just say “vagina” on Twitter, as a publisher learned the hard way this week in attempting to promote The Vagina Bible, a medical book on vaginal health by gynecologist Jen Gunter. The publisher told VICE it was prevented from promoting a tweet linking an interview with Dr. Gunter on “vaginal health” and another with the language, “the definitive book for understanding your vaginal health!” Another promoted tweet about the book, stating “It's time to separate the myth from the medicine with everyone's favorite OBGYN!” was also removed.
Twitter prohibits promotional tweets about “adult sexual products and services,” but in a statement to VICE, a Twitter spokesperson wrote that “references to sexual organs” are permitted, and some of Kensington Books’ promoted content was confusingly nonetheless rejected due to “a combination of human error and violations, including the use of profanity and adult products.” The spokesperson added that other tweets had been "reinstated," including, as of last night, one of the tweets referencing vaginal health and the title of the book, and were eligible for paid promotion.
It remains unclear how a book about vaginal health runs afoul of Twitter’s “inappropriate content” ad categories, a broad, vague classification of prohibited material “that is likely to be seen as” vulgar or distasteful, among other categories, or “adult sexual content,” which primarily covers porn, sex work, sex toys, and penis enlargement. Gunter is not alone in having her vagina talk policed on social media platforms. Last week, Kourtney Kardashian’s vaginal “health” brand Poosh was widely mocked for a tweet packed with cutesy euphemisms for the word “vagina”, including “hoo-ha” and “down there” (the tweet was later deleted).
The irony of censoring tweets about Gunter’s book is that the book seeks to dispel myths that stem directly from the Goop-y vaginal mythmaking that capitalizes on a lack of frank conversation about vaginas. Due to the heights of confusion we’ve reached about vaginal health, Gunter literally has to explain to readers not to put garlic in their vaginas, which are apt to be described in marketing content with weird, sexualized terms like “pretty little triangles” as opposed to “vaginas” that bleed, get infected, and give birth.
Twitter’s misdirected policies only culturally discourage us further from saying the word, which doesn’t help anyone learn to understand vaginas themselves as anything other than taboo, sexualized, shameful...hoo-has.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Whitney Kimball on Twitter.