Rule 34 is an Internet meme which claims that Internet pornography exists concerning every possible topic. The concept is commonly depicted as fan art of normally non-erotic subjects engaging in sexual behavior and/or activity. It can also include writings, animations, images, GIFs and any other form of media to which the internet provides opportunities for proliferation and redistribution.
The phrase "Rule 34" was coined from an August 13, 2003, webcomic captioned, "Rule #34 There is porn of it. No exceptions." The comic was drawn by TangoStari (Peter Morley-Souter) to depict his shock at seeing Calvin and Hobbes parody porn. Although the comic faded into obscurity, the caption instantly became popular on the Internet. Since then, the phrase has been adapted into different syntactic versions and has even been used as a verb. A list of "rules of the Internet," created on the website 4chan, includes Rule 34 within a list of similar tongue-in-cheek maxims, such as Rule 63.
In 2008, users on 4chan posted numerous sexually explicit parodies and cartoons illustrating Rule 34; in 4chan slang, pornography may be referred to as "rule 34" or "pr0nz". The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs claims that Rule 34 "began appearing on Internet postings in 2008."
As Rule 34 continued spreading throughout the Internet, some traditional media began reporting on it. A 2009 Daily Telegraph article listed Rule 34 as the 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 nicknamed "Drypiss" celebrated his 18th birthday by posting a video to Twitter in which he looked up Rule 34 pictures; afterwards, the video and its responses were covered by The Daily Dot.
Fan fiction has eroticized numerous political figures from the 2016 United States presidential election and the 2021 Suez Canal obstruction by the container ship Ever Given. Short low-cost books called "Tinglers" have depicted anthropomorphized dinosaurs and airplanes in sexual acts. A pseudonymous author, Chuck Tingle, published dystopian erotica on Brexit, featuring sex with a giant one-pound coin from the future, a few hours after the referendum passed.[non sequitur]
According to researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, the maxim resonated with so many people because of its apparent truth to anyone who has browsed the Internet. Ogas said that following the 2009–2010 study, the consolidation of the porn industry onto large market share video aggregators has reduced the visibility of the niche market videos. The sites favor mainstream content directly by steering users towards it and indirectly by disadvantaging small producers who cannot afford strong anti-piracy measures, bringing into doubt the ability of the rule being able to keep up with market.
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."
The original rule was rephrased and reiterated as it went viral on the Web. Some common permutations omit the original "No exceptions."
- "Rule 34: There is porn of it."
- "Rule 34: If it exists, there is porn of it."
- "Rule 34: If it exists, or can be imagined, there is Internet porn of it."
- "Rule 34: If you can imagine it, it exists as Internet porn."
- “Rule 34(r): If it exists, there is a subreddit devoted to it.”
- "Rule 35: If there is no porn, it will be made."
- "Rule 36: There will always be more fucked up shit than what you just saw."
- "Rule 63: For every given male character, there is a female version of that character and vice versa."
- Cartoon pornography – Cartoon characters in sexual situations
- Clop – A slang term for pornography based on the animated children's television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- List of Internet phenomena
- Not safe for work, also known as NSFW – Internet slang term
- Overwatch and pornography – A notable case of pornography inspired by the video game Overwatch
- Pokémon and pornography – Another notable case of pornography inspired by the Pokémon media franchise
- Pornographic parody film – Subgenre of pornographic films
- Rule 34 – A novel by Charles Stross referencing this rule
- Rule 34 – A film by Julia Murat referencing this rule
- Yiff – Slang term used in the furry fandom
- 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. Archived from the original on May 29, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2018.
- Ogas, Ogi; Gaddam, Sai (2011). A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships. New York City: Penguin Books. ISBN 9781101514986. Archived from the original on March 22, 2023. Retrieved December 22, 2015
- Ogas, Ogi (2013). "A billion wicked thoughts: What the internet reveals about sexual desire". PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e638152013-018. Archived from the original on March 22, 2023. Retrieved December 26, 2020.
- Leopold, Todd (February 15, 2013). "Meet the Rules of the Internet". CNN. Archived from the original on June 8, 2021. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
- Olson, Parmy (June 5, 2012). We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency. Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-21353-0. Archived from the original on March 22, 2023. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
- Doyle, Charles Clay; Mieder, Wolfgang; Shapiro, Fred Richard (December 31, 2017). The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. Yale University Press. doi:10.12987/9780300183351. ISBN 978-0-300-18335-1. JSTOR j.ctt1nq6jk. OCLC 794004254.
- Chivers, Tom (October 23, 2009). "Internet rules and laws: the top 10, from Godwin to Poe". telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on May 19, 2017. Retrieved August 7, 2022.
- Valens, Ana (November 9, 2019). "18-Year-Old Twitch Streamer Celebrates Finally Looking At Internet Porn". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on November 9, 2019. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
- Lavin, Talia (July 21, 2016), "The Political Erotica of 2016", The New Yorker, archived from the original on December 3, 2021, retrieved January 18, 2021
- Ball, Siobhan (March 29, 2021), "Yes, there's already erotic fanfic about the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal: Rule 34 is alive and well", The Daily Dot, archived from the original on January 18, 2022, retrieved January 18, 2021
- Hay, Mark (June 27, 2016), "Oh, Good, Now There Is Brexit Erotica", Vice, archived from the original on January 18, 2022, retrieved January 18, 2021
- Cory Doctorow (October 1, 2011). Context. Tachyon Publications. pp. 70–. ISBN 978-1-61696-078-0.
- 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. S2CID 194935601. Archived from the original on June 21, 2022. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
- Paasonen, Susanna (2011). Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography. MIT Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-262-01631-5. Archived from the original on March 22, 2023. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
- "Rule 63 Meaning & Origin | Slang by Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com. Archived from the original on May 6, 2022. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
- The dictionary definition of Rule 34 at Wiktionary