Technically, anything at all could be considered fetish-related; still, eBay UK sellers Teresa Millward and Helen Brearley were shocked when a shirt they had listed, featuring Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer wearing a rainbow scarf, was removed for some of the keywords they had used being considered “adult content.”
What was considered so objectionable? The use of the words “gay and lesbian interest.”
In an email sent from eBay’s Trust and Safety Team, signed by representative Steve Jude, the couple was told, “I reviewed your listings and could see that you mentioned ‘gay interest’ in the title of your listing. […] There has been a trend of adult or fetish themed used clothing items being listed on the site; these items are not a positive reflection on eBay or our member community. As such we remove any items we feel include inappropriate or adult related content.”
Hoping there had been some kind of mistake, they wrote to eBay; the email they received in response from eBay Customer Support said, “I have spoken with Trust and Safety and they have confirmed that you are not allowed to list such items as Gay and Lesbian interest.”
Millward and Brearley, who have been together since 2003, started their business, Pretty Pink Pearl, in 2007, where they sell clothing and other merchandise with LGBT customers in mind. They also have a shop on eBay, Sinner Saint Store, where they have made over six hundred sales—and this is the first time they’ve run into any kind of serious problem.
Millward told 429Magazine, “eBay is an avenue we sell through all the time and we have lots of loyal customers. We were hurt because we felt that eBay were assuming that gay people are only interested in fetish wear when it comes to clothing which is crazy! We make a living from selling gay interest clothing and none of it is fetish! It was like the term gay was a dirty word, not the products.”
Though the couple protested, eBay refused to budge—until the story ran in several other media outlets, at which point a spokesperson for eBay suddenly responded, “eBay is a marketplace for everyone and we would never want to discriminate against any customer. […] We welcome listings using ‘gay’ as a factual item description, for example ‘gay literature’ or an item with a gay character.
“We don’t allow use of the term ‘gay’ as a marketing term to imply a sexual aspect to an item, and this listing was mistakenly identified as such by our system. We will contact the seller to put it right.”