Flirtmoji

A followup on vulva plagiarism

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  • This is also a great opportunity to reset on something else: These are vulva emojis, not vagina. When we launched two weeks ago, we called them ‘vagina emojis’. But as they created buzz, they also sparked advocacy on behalf of ‘vulvas’. We did some research and learned a thing or two. Now we’re calling them vulvas. This makes some very cool people happy, and that’s dope.
  • Even on it’s most bummer day, this project has taught us, inspired us, and connected us to a thoughtful and compassionate community of sex-positive advocates. That’s, like, incredible. We’re very grateful.

Some pussy problems and a big sorry

Flirtmoji is sorry to say we’re being accused of plagiarizing a few of our new vagina emojis. We’ve made a mistake and owe recognition to another artist. Here’s the story.

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When I first saw this image floating around on twitter with an accusation of plagiarism directed at our new vagina emojis, my first reaction was to immediately recognize the yellow one as being on my Flirtmoji inspiration board. I immediately knew one of the new vagina emojis looked exactly like it. From Twitter, I learned that the vaginas on my inspiration board were from a tremendous project called What Do You Like About Your Vulva and Vagina? and they are by the artist Erin Tobey.

Then, I saw this:

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This image made me feel strange. Sweaty, ashamed, angry, confused.

The pair at the top left and middle left are obvious copies. We’re calling it plagiarism. We called it that as soon as we became aware of this on twitter. In those two emoji, Flirtmoji plagiarized Erin’s beautiful work. We’re tremendously sorry, embarrassed, and humbled by this. Not just to Erin, but to the entire community that have been using our site, loving our art, and believing in our sext-positive mission.

But this copying wasn’t done intentionally, thus my confusion when first accused. I pulled out my sketchbooks and workbooks to investigate how this happened. After investigating, I can tell you it happened quite easily, actually. And, despite the accusations, it happened without any malicious tracing. Here’s how we explained it in an email to Erin:

However, they’re absolutely not traced. I work by looking at my mood board (and apparently at your vaginas) and doodling in my sketchbook. I scanned that sketchbook back in and refined it along with dozens of other half-conceived vaginas. I swapped clits, folds, played endlessly with strokes and colors. There are like, 100 vaginas on one document. In some part of this back and forth process, I lost any concept of attribution or the original source of those particular lines.

I’m attaching the 2 images that were on my ‘Flirtmoji inspiration’ mood board. Looking at it now, the bottom yellow one and the top right one look very, very similar to two of our vagina emojis. I see the resemblance, down to some of the little details in the curves. I’m obviously absolutely uncomfortable with those similarities and understand it looks like malicious theft of art.

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That’s the sloppy work process that led to the unintentional theft of Erin’s wonderful art. We’ve apologized to her privately. We’ll apologize to her here. We’re sorry for this act of plagiarism.

Okay, but how about the other four vaginas being marked as plagiarized?

We certainly understand the inclination to look for further plagiarism, but when we look closely at the art, we just don’t see it. There are similarities … they’re both colorful, interesting vaginas. Some of them do have a similar form. The one at bottom left is like bizarrely, bizarrely similar. But the vaginas we previewed this past Friday are diverse in shape, form, and color. I think maybe if two artists set out to draw purposefully diverse vaginas there must be some overlap. But none of these were copied into my sketchbook and then back onto the page like the other two. None of them were traced.

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We have over 300 other emojis on the site that we are very, very proud of. Many of them, including all of the vaginas discussed above, are free to use. They represent a boatload of thoughtful work and investigation into sex, identity, fetish. From an experience like this, we hope to learn even more and incorporate those lessons into our art, our process, and our identity as a company.

So, to recap, we’re sorry. We were careless and we did something wrong. We’re actually speaking with Erin about all of this today and will find a way to give her attribution and compensation for her contributions to this project. If it’s her preference the vaginas come down, we’ll take them down.

The evolution of pubes.

Over the next few weeks, Flirtmoji will be releasing sneak peeks of our upcoming BODIES pack. Check back each Friday for new emojis featuring penises, vaginas, butts, boobs, and other beautiful naughty bits. As we roll out this art, Flirtmoji artists Katy and Jeremy are pulling back the curtain and revealing their thoughts and sketches as they developed these ideas.

When we first started making Flirtmoji, body hair posed the most significant design challenge. We knew it was important and we wanted to include it, but couldn’t find a way to pull it off within our design style.  We maintain a minimum stroke width across all our art, and this hefty noodle of a line made our early attempts at hair look like thick extruded play-doh tubes. Not good.

So when we launched Flirtmoji most of our genitals were, sadly, hairless. Maybe bald is your thing, but in our spirit of inclusivity and body-positivity, we felt awful at not having any body hair offerings. 

Katy: I believe in body hair. Body hair is honest. It traps moisture and scent. It relays information about our lineage and our ancestral history. It is revealing in the best of ways. To be naked is to be connected with your inner animal.

A few months ago, with time and dedication, Flirtmoji artist Jeremy made some headway into solving the Flirtmoji body hair solution. This is what we came up:

So we kept at it. We kept drawing, thinking, dreaming about pubes…

Jeremy: From the beginning, I was mostly stumped by pubic hair. In our early drawing stages, our style used 1 pixel strokes as outlines. In this style, I was unable to crack the pubic riddle. Check out these hot messes:

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Eventually, we refined our style to use a 2 pixel minimum. I figured this new pube-problem would be twice as hard as the 1-pixel-pube-problem, so I gave up.

The first breakthrough came from drawing this very weird (and ultimately ditched) Flirtmoji. It got me thinking about how sculptors created pubes in marble, which led to me to a google search checking out some of the ancient sculpture master’s treatment of pubic hair. At times pixels feels like a very limiting and challenging medium—but it was inspiring knowing artists have succeeded with mediums as difficult as marble.

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With this new curly pube style in mind, we tweaked our style. A change in stroke size allowed us to more delicately draw the pubes. Now we feel capable of capturing the beauty of a big natural bush atop a thick pussy. Or a swath of fur framing a lovely weiner.

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To test out our new style, we’ve been drawing some hairy glorious pussies. The addition of those delicate tendrils, plus asymmetry and lots of labial variation, makes for a set of super diverse icons.

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We’ve added these give new pussies to the site today—for free! Which one is your favorite?

Love,

Katy & Jeremy

Making summer love!

How do you translate the glorious, seductive wonder of summer love into 21 Flirtmoji? Last month we asked ourselves the same question as we set about creating our latest pack: Hot, Wet Summer!

Most Flirtmoji packs start with a list. For example:

Boob sundae?
Girls on bikes?
Topless girls on bikes?
Beach orgy (how do you draw this?)
Itty bitty yellow polka dot bikini?
Pizza bikini?

To create the list we tap into our favorite memories and our strangest fantasies. We think about films, art, pop culture, dreams, etc. We do a lot of googling, ogling, and asking. We tend to find some of the best stuff in the deepest recesses of our reptile brains. Each idea gets run through the Flirtmoji filter to ensure it’s inclusive and sex positive. The results of this “research” get distilled down into concepts and simple graphic representations and added to the list.

Then we sketch out some of the best ideas:

We mess around in illustrator:

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Once the Flirtmoji are laid out in Illustrator they go back and forth between Jeremy and Katy for refining, editing and culling. In addition to aesthetics, this process involves keeping an eye on the balance of gender, skin tone, and body type.

When we’re satisfied everything is ship shape, we send them out into the world!



What do you think? Does Hot, Wet Summer encapsulate everything you think of when you think of summer love? We’d love to hear from you: [email protected]

XO,

Katy & Jeremy