(Updated) The Double Standard Behind Apple’s SAGA #12 Ban
[Disclaimer: In case you couldn’t tell from the title, there will be explicit images in this post. If things like that offend you, you must live a thoroughly boring life, but also, you should avoid this article.]
This is a part of a statement from Saga creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples via Ms. Staples’ Tumblr:
“Unfortunately, because of two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex, Apple is banning tomorrow’s SAGA #12 from being sold through any iOS apps.”
Apple, of course, has the right to make this decision, but fuck them for making it.
Update: Apparently, Apple didn’t make this decision. It was made for them by Comixology, who released the following statement:
In the last 24 hours there has been a lot of chatter about Apple banning Saga #12 from our Comics App on the Apple App Store due to depictions of gay sex. This is simply not true, and we’d like to clarify.
As a partner of Apple, we have an obligation to respect its policies for apps and the books offered in apps. Based on our understanding of those policies, we believed that Saga #12 could not be made available in our app, and so we did not release it today.
We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance.
Given this, it should be clear that Apple did not reject Saga #12.
After hearing from Apple this morning, we can say that our interpretation of its policies was mistaken. You’ll be glad to know that Saga #12 will be available on our App Store app soon.
We apologize to Saga creator Brian K. Vaughan and Image Comics for any confusion this may have caused.
This is a tweet sent out yesterday by Comixology in the midst of this situation.
All of this seems like a massive case of poor corporate communication, with Comixology misreading Apple’s standards, though the amount of incorrect information circling the sale of one of the more buzzworthy books on the market is more than a little surprising.
Comixology says that sexuality had nothing to do with this decision. Brian K. Vaughan says he doesn’t think sexuality is at the heart of this either and he has apologized for singling out Apple in his initial statements after being led to believe that they had an issue with the content of Saga #12.
I too apologize for my coverage, though the facts — as they were presented at the time — led me to believe, similarly, that Apple was the responsible party.
Everyone has egg on their face, but I do believe that there is still a general double standard in comics, and that issue does not go away. It’s still newsworthy when gay characters marry in comics, it’s still scandalous when two men kiss or become physically intimate in a comic. This doesn’t line-up with any definition of equality that I am familiar with.
Below are images from the book in question — Saga #12 — and other books that have gone through with no trouble. You decide if a community double standard exists, but I’d like to amend all questions posed in this article, as they no longer apply to Apple (who is, apparently, blameless in all of this) but to Comixology and the comic community on the whole.
Here is one of the images in question. It is, in my opinion, an image that is of the “blink and you miss it” variety. Actually, I did miss both of the supposedly offensive images when I first read Saga #12.
As a thoroughly un-scientific experiment, I showed the above image to my wife, informing her that “Apple banned Saga for this image”. She then stared at the screen for about 30 seconds before demanding that I tell her what she was looking for. “You really have to have someone point it out.” she said to me.
It always amuses me how things that would never, ever gain as much public awareness get a spotlight shined on them by outrage or damage control for something that isn’t necessarily damaging. “Doing more harm than good” is an adage that comes to mind.
Here is the second image, which is even easier to miss.
Now, Saga is not a book for kids. Every issue is rated for an audience that is over the age of 17, and as Brian K. Vaughan said in his Tumblr statement: “[Saga] has featured what I would consider much more graphic imagery in the past”
That imagery has never featured oral sex between two men before, and therein lies the controversy.
Obviously, Apple is siding with the puritanical for reasons commercial. They’re foolishly gambling that the voices of those who are offended by gay sex will be louder than the voices of customers who are offended by a form of censorship and a double standard.
Apple Comixology acted similarly with Joe Casey’s new comic, Sex, which featured an explicit girl on girl oral sex “scene” but they had no problem with another Casey comic, Butcher Baker #1, which showed images of girl on girl oral sex as well as an orgy.
The instances of straight sex in comics — even Marvel and DC comics — are too innumerable to list and there is virtually no controversy surrounding those events.
As The Mary Sue rightly points out,
Apple Comixology also didn’t see an issue with the image below, which comes from an orgy scene in Saga #4.
Here’s another image from Saga #4, not as large, but it depicts insertion, female to male oral sex, and a few other things. This book is available for download on your IOS device. It’s quite a good issue, I highly recommend it.
So, with all of that said and shown, I suppose my question is: why was this small instance of male on male oral sex singled out by someone at Comixology who thought it was against Apple’s content policy while there is a history of mixed reactions to girl on girl oral sex and heterosexual sex in comics?
As for Team Saga, they deserve credit for sticking to their guns and offering this comment on why they have no interest in bending a knee
“Fiona and I could always edit the images in question, but everything we put into the book is there to advance our story, not (just) to shock or titillate, so we’re not changing shit.”
Hark, yet another reason to be a proud Saga reader.