Rule 34 is an Internet maxim which asserts that Internet pornography exists concerning every conceivable topic. The concept is commonly depicted as fan art of normally non-erotic subjects engaging in sexual behavior.
Pornographers have spoofed events, people, celebrities and politicians, and various mainstream media like images, books, plays, movies and TV shows and series for decades. Usually altering original titles to include sexually oriented metaphors and wordplay. The quality of the spoofing may only be its parody of the original title, or contextually, go as far as the resemblance of the actors to known celebrities, as well parodying themes or plots.
Rule 34 originated from a 2003 webcomic, captioned "Rule #34 There is porn of it. No exceptions.", which was drawn by Peter Morley-Souter to depict his shock at seeing Calvin and Hobbes parody porn. The image of Peter Morley's comic strip was soon forgotten but the caption instantly became popular on the Internet. Since then this phrase has been adapted into different syntactic versions and even used as a verb.
In May 2007, a Rule 34 database was launched on Paheal.net with a searchable archive of Rule 34 images, and similar sites began appearing soon after. On August 20 that year, the webcomic xkcd published a comic titled "Rule 34", which involved hypothetical sexual scenarios including homoerotic spelling bees.
In 2008, users of the imageboard 4chan posted numerous sexually explicit parodies and cartoons illustrating Rule 34. In the special argot of 4chan request forums, "porn" is called rule 34, Pr0nz. One dictionary of neologisms claims that Rule 34 "began appearing on Internet postings in 2008."
As Rule 34 continued spreading on the Internet, traditional media began reporting on it. A 2009 Daily Telegraph article listed Rule 34 as third of the "Top 10" Internet rules and laws. A 2013 CNN story said Rule 34 was "likely the most famous" Internet rule that has become part of mainstream culture. On November 14, 2018, a Twitch streamer celebrated turning eighteen by posting a video to Twitter in which he looked up Rule 34 pictures. The popular video and its responses were covered by The Daily Dot.
According to researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, "Today, Rule 34 thrives as sacred lore on blogs, YouTube videos, Twitter feeds and social networking sites. It's frequently used as a verb, as in 'I Rule 34'ed Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell on the judging table'." They propose the reason the maxim resonated with so many people is because it "certainly seems true" for "anybody who has spent time surfing the Web".
Cory Doctorow concludes, "Rule 34 can be thought of as a kind of indictment of the Web as a cesspit of freaks, geeks, and weirdos, but seen through the lens of cosmopolitanism, bespeaks a certain sophistication—a gourmet approach to life."
Feminist scholar Susanna Paasonen summarizes Rule 34, along with versions of Rules 35 and 36 to mean that no matter how unlikely or unusual the concept, pornography of it is either available online or will be. John Paul Stadler concluded that Rule 34 reflects the codification of paraphilias into social identity structures.
The original rule was rephrased and reiterated as it went viral on the Web. Some common permutations omit the original "No exceptions."
The conundrum of finding an Internet pornographic exception to Rule 34's "No exceptions" led to the Rule 35 corollary. On October 12, 2006, an early "Rules of the Internet" list, posted to the cyberculture wiki Encyclopedia Dramatica, included:
- "Rule 34". Know Your Meme. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- 'On Golden Blonde' at IMDb
- 'The Ozporns' at IMDb
- Ogas, Ogi; Gaddam, Sai (2011). A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships. New York City: Penguin Books. ISBN 9781101514986; Dewey, Caitlin (April 6, 2016). "Is Rule 34 actually true?: An investigation into the Internet's most risqué law". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: Nash Holdings.
- Ogas, Ogi (2013). "A billion wicked thoughts: What the internet reveals about sexual desire". PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e638152013-018. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
- "Rule 34". rule34.paheal.net. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- "Rule 34 - If it exists, there is porn of it. Serving 16,651,901 posts. We have comics, overwatch, pokemon, league of legends, and more!". rule-34.net. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- "Rule 34". xkcd. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- Parmy Olson, We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency, Hachette, 2012, p. 33.
- Charles Clay Doyle, Wolfgang Mieder, and Fred R. Shapiro, eds. The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, Yale University Press, 2012, p. 204.
- Tom Chivers, Internet rules and laws: the top 10, from Godwin to Poe, The Daily Telegraph, October 23, 2009. (subscription required)
- Todd Leopold, Meet the Rules of the Internet, CNN, February 15, 2013.
- "18-Year-Old Twitch Streamer Celebrates Finally Looking At Internet Porn". November 9, 2019. Archived from the original on November 9, 2019. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- Ogi and Gaddam, 2011.
- Cory Doctorow (October 1, 2011). Context. Tachyon Publications. pp. 70–. ISBN 978-1-61696-078-0.
- Paasonen, Susanna (2011). Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography. MIT Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-262-01631-5.
- Stadler, John Paul (October 12, 2018). "The Queer Heart of Porn Studies". Journal of Cinema and Media Studies. 58 (1): 174. doi:10.1353/cj.2018.0079. ISSN 2578-4919.
- Doyle et al., 2012.
- Leopold, 2013.
- The rules of the internet Archived June 16, 2013, at archive.today, 4chan archive, February 15, 2007.
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- Rules of the Internet 1000 Rules