Atlas a little too family friendly?

Does anyone else find that Atlas Obscura has gone a little too conservative in making sure the site is family-friendly? I do believe the site should be PG-13 so to speak, but I find that the site has gone more restrictive as of late. There’s been a definite change in editorial policy in the last couple of years. a couple of years. I noticed how some of my work has been edited.

    The Coney Island Mermaid Parade, largely inspired by Mardi Gras, is known for topless mermaids. Public baring of breasts is legal in NYC and the parade is known for this. I did not include any real nudity but did include a pic of women wearing pasties like how a burlesque dancer wears. Nothing particularly vulgar. Pics were removed and when the article was shared on social media, people often commented on how odd it was that the pics were so conservative for what is often a wild event.

    This article was so edited and rewritten, I barely recognize this as my own work. The original idea for this was to emphasize how food scholars debated how much Italian sex workers contributed to cuisine. In doing research, I found many culinary sites mention that the seafood ingredients as compared to the scent of a woman and therefore had aphrodisiac effects. Food sites aren’t known to be particularly edgy and the topic was discussed in a mature manner. I used innuendo to playfully mention the theory to avoid being vulgar, but it was removed. The post now reads more like a stale Food Network article with a cliche line about the ingredients having “a one-two punch.”

This is rather silly. I recounted the legend of a dragon that was killed by a knight who kicked him in the anus. My headline, “A stone wall commemorates the legend of a ferocious dragon who literally got his ass kicked by a knight,” was considered obscene and was replaced by a real generic line about a dragon vanquished by a knight. It didn’t catch your attention or was funny as the original line. I had to go back and edit it to replace "ass’ to “butt” in order to reatin the original humor. I thought this was odd considering “Ragged Ass Road” was included on the site before with no complaints.

When I asked editors about this I was told that standards changed since Atlas Obscura was now being used by teachers to educate children. I work as a coordinator at the New York Hall of Science and I have seen Atlas Obscura children’s books sold in the gift shop. I believe that also is a contributing factor to the site’s more conservative outlook lately.

Now I don’t think that Atlas Obscura should be adults only, but I feel that at times editors maybe a little too overzealous. At times it seems Atlas Obscura is more conservative in their content than what you can find in a Disney movie. It could be very restrictive when writing on certain cultural traditions such as Mardi Gras or tribal societies where participants are not fully clothed or in writing about attractions like sex museums or burlesque theaters. Does anyone else ever come across difficulty in writing on a certain topic that before was fine but now is more restricted?


I’ve been asking them to put a black stripe over Florida on the places map for ages. (If you know what I mean) :wink:


I concur. I liked AO because it had tons of morbidly interesting stuff, and didn’t talk down to me. Between the dumbing-down, and the elimination of half the stuff that made Gastro Obscura interesting, I’m starting to regret renewing my membership. If I wanted family-friendly garbage I’d log on to Disney+.


Definitely heading more towards being Airbnb or LonelyPlanet


I did not realize that. They should have a separate site for teachers. I want the odd and unusual not parental approval. Can’t adults control what their kids see? Another site will pick it up and we’ll all switch.


@tyler maybe some places can be either only visible with an account that has adult stuff marked on, or better some places cannot be seen with an account marked PG-13. I fully agree with the above that making a website kid-friendly that hosts all kinds of sexual, morbid and adult themes is not the best direction.


The option to opt-into “Adult-themed” content is a pretty interesting solution. Will definitely mention to our engineering team, though I know they have quite a backlog of projects at the moment.


Yes, sir! I have noticed this too. So very sad.

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AO is great because it prioritizes the unusual. Therefore it makes sense to allow for adult content (whatever that means), but it should be opt-in, not blanket access. AO has become my family’s go-to source, beating out TripAdvisor and Google because it just fits us better. I assume we are not alone. Depending on what content became regular on AO, we would be very concerned that it end up on ISPs’ watch-list for adult content, and therefore inaccessible for some of us. “Opt-in” has it’s own problems… who determines what is adult and what not? Is it self-selected? Don’t know, glad it’s not me.

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Didn’t notice and had no idea; haven’t been on here in a while. Should be interesting to see what happens next…

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I think the word, “adult” is rather loaded. There’s a way to write about culture, history and geography without going pornographic and getting on an internet watch-list. Many of the people who write articles on AO, including myself, come from journalist or educational, backgrounds. We know how to deal with sensitive topics.

Whenever I travel to major cities, I try to visit the local Ripley’s Believe it or Not odditorium. It’s presented as a family friendly attraction, but almost all of them have a human sexuality exhibit. It will have a warning displayed so that parents can avoid bringing their children inside. In fact, more serious art and science museums often have mature content despite often being seen as overall suitable for family visitors.

There’s no need to “opt-in” to see these articles. A simple disclaimer on top of an article should suffice. An other option can be just to make a separate site for children. National Geographic and Ripley’s Believe it or Not often have separate children divisions that don’t interfere with their regular product.


I’ve never heard of ISP watch lists, is that an American thing? How does that even work?

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Sorry, bad terminology on my part. “Filter lists” would have been better wording, like when you configure parental controls. Local ISPs offer the capability to family households. It would be bad if all of AO was filtered due to some of it’s content being adult-only.


Haven’t really noticed that change but for me the Atlas always is and will be a place to indulge my interest in the unusual / bizarre and gothic / morbid so I tend to gravitate to those things specifically so I sort of have an inbuilt reverse filter which disregards those things you’ve mentioned.