The Internet is a vast space, akin to something like the ocean. There will always be some unexplored corner of the internet, nobody has seen before. You are bound to keep finding new and more bizarre stuff as you keep digging deeper. Among all the informative and educational content available to people online, movies and tv shows and various entertainment possibilities when you dig deeper you may uncover more bizarre things.
There’s lots of content not visible at first until you dig deep through forums and subreddits which will lead you down a less visible path. You may uncover something called Rule 34. But what exactly is this mysterious place, and what’s all the hype around it?
What exactly is Rule 34?
Rules 34 comes with a simple statement, which is more applicable today than ever – “If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.” This is what Rule 34 in its entirety implies. It means that whatever you can think of someone has probably made an explicit version of it. The bizarre thing about this rule is that it doesn’t always imply strictly to humans. It applies to everything from any kind of living being including animals, to cartoon characters and every possible fictional being.
Where did Rule 34 originate?
Rule 34 originated with a person called Peter Morley-Souter who back in 2004 posted a comic book on the Zoom-Out website. Surprising to everyone, the comic depicted an explicit scene with characters from the comic book Calvin and Hobbes. After the exposure of this indecent content, it didn’t take long for it to become one of the ground rules of the internet, as depicted in 4chan’s Rules Of The Internet. As soon as the initial comic was launched and affirmed as an unofficial rule it didn’t take long for people to start posting various images to prove Rule 34 to be correct.
Who are the users of Rule 34?
Pretty much everyone. The internet is a vast ocean, and there are millions upon millions of images which have been tied to the Rule 34 philosophy. Even if you haven’t stumbled on the Rule 34 website on purpose, you have probably been exposed to some image that directly plays into the philosophy of Rule 34.
Rule 34 has also been turned into a game which is played by a group of people. People have thought of ways to gamify the rule. People in a group of friends take turns to think of something that can be sexualized or imagined explicitly. Then the other people in the group will start searching for that idea online with safe mode turned off in the search engine and see what they can come up with.
Almost everything that you can think of has been posted online explicitly. People find weird ways of coming up with things to do with explicit imagery and Rule 34 is the core philosophy of that thought process.
How did it become so popular?
Even though it originated in the early 2000s, it didn’t become widely popular until somewhere around 2007. In May 2007, someone created a Rule 34 database which would show up random explicit images labelled under the Rule 34 keyword. The initial database was just the spark in the fire. Soon after many websites with Rule 34 as their core theme started to spring up further spreading and affirming the myth of Rule 34.
The 4chan imageboard was one of the driving engines of the popularization of Rule 34, where users used every chance to reinforce the idea of Rule 34. At the beginning of 2008, 4chan users started posting different explicit images on the imageboard to affirm the identity of Rule 34. Soon after 4chan exploded with the idea of Rule 34, traditional media started to report on it.
In 2009, a Daily Telegraph article stated that Rule 34 has already been established as the “10 Internet Rules and Laws”. Then in the year 2013, a CNN story even further popularized Rule 34 by making a report on it, claiming that it was one of the most prominent internet rules, that has directly become part of mainstream internet culture. Twitch streamers started to openly discuss the idea of Rule 34, which led to an explosion of popularity of the idea. The Daily Dot – an internet news site created a report on a Twitch streamer, who celebrated his 18th birthday by looking at Rule 34 images online.
Explicit fan fiction has since been integrated into literally everything even politics. Political figures from the 2016 US elections and the obstruction of the Suez Canal in 2021 are just some of the more bizarre, eroticized events in recent years. Even Brexit was eroticized if you can imagine that. Rule 34 doesn’t kid around; everything has been eroticized.
Is it over for Rule 34?
A Harvard scientist, Ogi Ogas conducted a study on Rule 34 and says that we are nearing the end of Rule 34. “It’s out there if you want to find it. But it’s not easy anymore”. He analyzed more than 55 million pornography searches and the years 2009-2010 may have been the last golden age for the Rule 34 philosophy. He found out that while users may search for a certain explicit thing online, what they encounter in the search results is a completely different story.
Mainstream explicit websites have normalized the adult industry and have been enforcing certain tags that are not as explicit as what Rule 34 wants to depict. Even though it’s still here, explicit imagery is just not as explicit as it used to be in the 2010s.
Exposing children to explicit imagery especially one involving animals and cartoon characters may have a lasting impact on a child’s brain. Children cannot yet process adult imagery and exposing them too early carries significant developmental risks. One of the biggest risks is that children may find their favourite cartoon characters ruined by such fan fiction which may cause significant distress to the young mind.