What is Explicit Content? What is Considered “Explicit”?

by Chris Von Wilpert, BBusMan • Last updated November 14, 2023

Expert Verified by Leandro Langeani, BBA

What is explicit content?

Ever stumbled upon a video, image, or text that made you blush and quickly check if anyone was watching? Congratulations! You've just encountered explicit content. 

Explicit content is the cheeky cousin of your everyday media — it's bold, unapologetic, and doesn't shy away from showing or describing things that are usually kept behind closed doors (or browser tabs). 

Whether it's an R-rated movie scene with steamy romance or a song lyric filled with innuendos that make you giggle, explicit content knows how to grab attention and leave an impression. 

So next time you come across something too hot for prime-time TV or not safe for work browsing, remember: it's all explicit content!

Explicit content fast facts

  • Sexually explicit material includes media like films, games, and books that depict graphic sexual acts or nudity for mature audiences.

  • Studies link exposure to sexually explicit content with increased acceptance of casual sex and potential mental health risks.

  • Parental controls and content rating systems help filter explicit material to protect minors online.

  • Explicit doesn't always mean inappropriate. Context and intended audience matter.

  • Turning off explicit content involves using platform-specific or device-level parental controls, but no system is foolproof.

What counts as sexually explicit material?

Sexually explicit material, also known as adult content or sexual content, typically refers to any media that portrays graphic depictions of sexual acts or nudity. This type of content is often intended for mature audiences and can be found in various forms such as films, video games, publications, and online platforms. According to a study by the American Psychological Association (APA), exposure to sexually explicit material has been linked with increased acceptance of casual sex and objectification of women.

The prevalence of sexually explicit material has grown significantly with the rise in internet usage over the past few decades. A 2016 report from ABC News stated that approximately 30% of all data transferred across the internet was pornographic content. Additionally, MTV News reported that teenagers are exposed to an average of 14 hours per week on social media platforms where they may encounter inappropriate materials.

To combat this issue and protect minors from potentially harmful exposure, many streaming platforms have implemented parental controls which allow parents to filter out explicit materials based on their child's age ratings or preferences. Content rating systems like those used for film classification help provide guidance on what might be considered suitable viewing for different age groups. Meanwhile schools are increasingly adopting policies around filtering online access within classrooms for children while providing critical anti-bullying lessons addressing issues related to mental abuse arising from sharing inappropriate contents among peers.

A person's face obscured by a hand with a note, evoking the concept of censoring explicit content or the choice to opt-out from viewing it. Photograph: Anete Lusina via Pexels.

What is an example of sexually explicit content?

Sexually explicit content can take various forms, and one such example is the adult film industry. Adult films often depict graphic sexual acts between consenting adults, with nudity and explicit language being common elements. According to a 2018 report by Pornhub Insights, their website received over 33.5 billion visits that year alone – highlighting the vast reach of this type of content.

Another instance where sexually explicit material may be encountered is in certain video games containing mature themes or scenes depicting sexual activities or nudity. The Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series has been a subject of controversy for its inclusion of sex scenes and prostitution within gameplay. As reported by ABC News in 2004, GTA: San Andreas was temporarily pulled from shelves due to an accessible hidden mini-game called "Hot Coffee" which featured characters engaging in sexual acts.

Moreover, literature can also contain sexually explicit content. E.L James' Fifty Shades trilogy serves as an example with its erotic romance theme involving BDSM practices that gained widespread attention upon release — selling over 125 million copies worldwide according to Forbes (2016). These books were later adapted into movies featuring R-rated depictions of intimate encounters between the main characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

What is considered an explicit picture?

An explicit picture refers to an image that contains nudity, sexual acts, or other adult content. These images are generally intended for mature audiences and can be found across various media platforms.

One example where explicit pictures may appear is in advertisements promoting adult products or services. Some companies use provocative imagery featuring scantily clad models or suggestive poses to capture attention and drive sales. However, this type of advertising has faced backlash due to concerns over objectification and potential negative impacts on body image.

Another area where explicit pictures might surface is within private messaging apps as part of sexting — the exchange of sexually suggestive messages containing photos between consenting individuals. While sexting among adults is legal in most jurisdictions, it becomes a criminal offense when involving minors under age-consent laws. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Drexel University in 2015, more than half (54%) of college students reported engaging in sexting during high school.

To protect users from unwanted exposure to explicit material online and ensure responsible sharing practices among their user base, many social media platforms have implemented strict guidelines prohibiting such content while also providing tools like reporting features for users who encounter inappropriate materials.

Why is sexually explicit content bad?

Sexually explicit content can be harmful for various reasons, one of which is its potential impact on mental health. Studies have shown that frequent exposure to explicit material may lead to increased anxiety, depression, and even addiction. A 2016 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found a correlation between pornography consumption and lower gray matter volume in the brain's reward center.

Another concern with sexually explicit content is its influence on relationships and intimacy. It can create unrealistic expectations about sex or body image, leading individuals to feel dissatisfied with their partners or themselves. According to a 2014 study from the University of Denver, couples who frequently consumed adult materials reported lower relationship satisfaction compared to those who rarely engaged with such content.

Lastly, there's the issue of age-appropriate access — children stumbling upon explicit material online before they're emotionally ready for it could face negative consequences like confusion or trauma. A study conducted by the UK's Middlesex University in 2016 found that nearly half of children aged 11-16 had been exposed to pornographic images online. To mitigate these risks associated with sexually explicit content, online platforms implement strict guidelines prohibiting such materials while also providing parental controls.

Viewer Discretion: A content warning label often preceding explicit material in media broadcasts. Photograph: Tomchen1989 via Wikimedia Commons.

Does explicit mean inappropriate?

Explicit content doesn't always equate to being inappropriate, as it largely depends on the context and audience. Explicit material can include anything from graphic violence in a war film to sexual scenes in an adult novel. While these instances may be suitable for mature audiences, they might not be appropriate for younger viewers or readers.

In some cases, explicit content serves an artistic or educational purpose that contributes significantly to the overall message of a work. For example, films like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Schindler's List" contain graphic depictions of violence but are widely praised for their historical accuracy and emotional impact. Similarly, sex education materials often use explicit imagery to teach important concepts about human anatomy and reproduction.

However, there is no denying that explicit content can have negative effects when consumed by unintended audiences or without proper context. To strike a balance between creative expression and protecting vulnerable individuals from potentially harmful material, many platforms employ age restrictions or parental controls while also encouraging creators to provide clear warnings about any explicit elements within their works.

How do I turn off explicit content?

Turning off explicit content varies depending on the platform or device you're using. For streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, there are built-in parental controls or settings that allow users to filter out explicit material. In most cases, you can access these options through your account settings or preferences menu.

For smartphones and tablets running Android or iOS operating systems, there are also native parental control features available. On Android devices with Google's Family Link app installed, parents can manage their child's online experience by blocking inappropriate apps and websites. Similarly, for iPhones and iPads running iOS 12 or later versions of the software include Screen Time management tools that enable restrictions on specific types of content.

It is important to remember that no filtering system is perfect, and some explicit content may still slip through despite enabling these protective measures. To further minimize exposure to such materials in a household setting especially with children around, it's crucial for parents to maintain open communication about internet usage habits while regularly monitoring browsing history as well as discussing appropriate online behavior together as a family.

Why can’t I see explicit content?

There could be several reasons why you're unable to view explicit content on a particular platform or device. One possibility is that parental controls or content filters have been enabled, either by yourself or someone else managing the account. These settings are designed to block access to potentially inappropriate material, especially for younger users.

Another reason might be regional restrictions imposed by governments and regulatory bodies. Some countries enforce strict guidelines regarding explicit content distribution and consumption, which can lead platforms like YouTube and Netflix to censor certain materials based on your location. For instance, China's Great Firewall heavily restricts online content deemed unsuitable by the government.

Lastly, it's worth considering whether there might be an issue with the specific piece of content you're trying to access — such as being removed due to copyright infringement claims or violating community guidelines set forth by individual platforms. In these cases, it's not necessarily about your personal settings but rather external factors preventing its availability altogether.

In any case, if you believe that explicit material should be accessible in your situation (and assuming it’s legal in your jurisdiction), double-checking account settings for potential restrictions would be a good starting point. Otherwise reaching out directly to customer support teams may help resolve any issues.

How do I turn on the explicit content filter in Chrome?

Google Chrome doesn't have a built-in explicit content filter, but you can still protect yourself and your family from inappropriate material by using third-party extensions or setting up parental controls on the device. Extensions like Blocksi Web Filter and MetaCert's Internet Security are available in the Chrome Web Store, offering customizable filtering options to block explicit content across various categories.

Another approach is to use Google's SafeSearch feature that filters out adult content from search results. To enable this, go to google.com/preferences while signed into your Google account. Check the box next to "Turn on SafeSearch" and click "Save." Keep in mind that this only applies when searching through Google; it won't prevent access if someone directly visits an explicit website.

For a more comprehensive solution, consider setting up parental controls at the device level instead of just within Chrome itself. For Windows users, Microsoft Family Safety offers robust monitoring features including web filtering capabilities. Similarly, macOS has Screen Time management tools for restricting specific types of content on Apple devices. By combining these approaches with open communication about internet usage habits among family members you can create a safer online environment.

The prominent play button symbolizes the gateway to media, where explicit content often requires a deliberate action to view. Photograph: Content Mavericks.

What is considered sexually explicit on TikTok?

TikTok, a popular social media platform, has strict guidelines regarding sexually explicit content. According to their Community Guidelines, TikTok prohibits any material that is sexually explicit or suggestive in nature. This includes but is not limited to:

  1. Nudity: Any form of nudity or partial nudity involving private body parts such as genitals and female breasts (excluding breastfeeding) are considered inappropriate on the platform.
  2. Sexual acts: Content depicting real-life sexual activities or simulations thereof, including intercourse and oral sex, are strictly prohibited.
  3. Suggestive content: TikTok also disallows any materials featuring provocative gestures like touching oneself inappropriately or mimicking sexual acts even if no actual nudity is involved.
  4. Explicit language: The use of strong language with a sexual connotation falls under this category as well.
  5. Adult-themed products/services promotion: Advertising adult toys/products/services within videos posted on the platform is forbidden too.

How do I change the explicit settings on my iPhone?

To change explicit content settings on your iPhone, you'll need to use the built-in Screen Time feature. This tool allows you to manage and restrict access to specific types of content, including explicit materials. 

First, open the Settings app on your iPhone and scroll down until you find "Screen Time." Tap it and then select "Content & Privacy Restrictions." If prompted, enter your Screen Time passcode or create one if necessary. Once inside the Content & Privacy Restrictions menu, toggle it on at the top.

Next step is customizing restrictions based on what type of content you want blocked or limited. For instance: under "Allowed Store Content," tap "Music Podcasts & News" where options like Clean/Explicit can be selected. You can similarly adjust settings for Movies TV Shows Books Apps Siri Web Search, etc as desired — this way ensuring that only age-appropriate material remains accessible while using the device.


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