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.
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:
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.
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.
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.