Citrus Scale

Citrus Scale

Part of a series on Tumblr Adult Content Ban. [View Related Entries]

Updated Feb 10, 2019 at 02:23AM EST by Y F.

Added Feb 06, 2019 at 10:18AM EST by Philipp.

PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.

This submission is currently being researched & evaluated!

You can help confirm this entry by contributing facts, media, and other evidence of notability and mutation.


Citrus Scale refers to the code system meant to inconspicuously designate explicit sexual content via tagging it with names of various citrus fruit. Originating from anime communities in the 2000s, the system was used by Tumblr users in early 2019 following the Tumblr Porn Ban.


According to fanworks encyclopedia[1], the use of the word "lemon" as a slang term for explicit sexual content supposedly stems from the 1980s hentai manga and anime series Cream Lemon[2], by way of an early mailing list for publishing erotic anime fanfic, called "The Lemon List".[4]

Explicit sex stories in general, especially in anime fan fiction, are known as lemon, a term which comes from a Japanese slang term meaning "sexy" that itself derives from an early pornographic cartoon series called Cream Lemon.[3]

According to TV Tropes[4], the term was originally specific to the anime fanfiction community as a euphemism for porn and smut, spreading to other fandoms by the early-middle 2000s. As the usage of the word in the new sense became more widespread, other citrus fruit names also started seeing use as terms to describe sexual content of varying explicitness, leading to the creation of the so-called "Citrus Scale".

On June 17th, 2005, Urban Dictionary[5] user piper-san added a definition for lemon as "a fanfiction rated NC-17 for graphic sexual situations".


While the exact origin and spread of Citrus Scale are unknown, in 2000s the system was adopted by various fanfiction communities, including anime, Harry Potter and Twilight fandoms[1]. With Tumblr launch in early 2007, the tags saw some use on the website before the Citrus Scale fell out of widespread use approximately by the end of 2000s[6] as the standardized rating system offered by the fanfiction repository Archive of Our Own[7] gained popularity.

Common Tags

The most common tags used in the Citrus Scale are as follows:

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Citrus

Interpretations of fruit names vary between websites and communities, with lemon usually meaning "explicit sexual content" and lime meaning "softcore erotica and sexual themes". Depending on the community, other tags may signify both more and less hardcore content.

Some people believe that it has only to be penetrative to be a Lemon, some believe that it has to be explicitly penetrative, while others believe that if it goes into enough arousing detail, even reaching second base can be a Lemon. Somebody venturing into sex scenes for the first time may see a fic as a lemon, while a more experienced reader may consider it a Lime.[4]

For example, The Protectors of the Plot Continuum[8] website provides the following version of the Citrus Scale (shown below)

Citrus Citrus is used to describe the most mild interactions on the scale, such as a romantic hug or a kiss on the cheek. Orange Orange is used for kissing, hugs, and some more touching beyond that that begins to have a hint of sexuality. Lime Lime goes further into the sexual, with heavy making out and possibly some light groping. Some might not have these, but rather qualify as a lime for hinting at lemon-scale action. Lemon Lemons have actual sex. Grapefruit Occasionally, a fifth fruit (well, fourth, since citrus itself isn't actually a single fruit) is added. It is generally said to be the X------ or truly bizarre lemons, but it is not widely used. At any rate, it might be discouraged from inclusion in the Citrus Scale for PPC use, as it might cause flashbacks of "Celebrian" in unwitting agents.

2019 Tumblr Comeback

After the December 2018 Tumblr Porn Ban, which made all posts containing NSFW-marked content de facto unavailable, starting late January 2019, numerous Tumblr users have reported sightings of the Citrus Scale tags on the website[9][10][11].

Zel @toffee_arts ppl in tumblr are tagging nsfw as lemon again and im suddenly back in 2009 Soul Fire Photography @SoulfirePhotos #Teamuld Started seeing the term 'lemon' show up again on Tumblr. We've come full circle and I can't stop laughing @istehlurvz
@ kh3 @oikvw oh my god now that the nsf//w tag is gone on tumblr people have reverted back to using the citrus scale welcome to 2012 Improvise. Adapt. Overcome

On January 31st, 2019, Tumblr[12] user xchrononautx wrote "we're back on the citrus scale" and suggested a list of interpretations for tags "lemon", "lime" and "orange". The post gained over 154,000 likes and reblogs in one week.

NSFW will be tagged as #lemon sorta NSFW is #Lime Weird fet s---/ extreme NSFW is #orange reblog to spread awareness that we're back on the citrus scale #LEMON #LIME #TUMBLRBAN #TUMBLR BAN POSTED ON JAN 31ST 19 WITH 154.117 NOTES

In February 2019, the word "lemon" reached trending searches on Tumblr.


Several news outlets covered the return of the Citrus Scale tags on Tumblr, including The Daily Dot[6] and PiunikaWeb blog[13].

Various Examples

Search Interest

External References

[1] Fanlore – Lemon

[2] Wikipedia – Cream Lemon

[3] FanFiction – Fanfiction Terms For Idiots

[4] TV Tropes – Lemon

[5] Urban Dictionary – Lemon

[6] Daily Dot – Tumblr users are tagging their porn with the β€˜citrus scale’

[7] Archive of Our Own – Symbols we use on the Archive

[8] PPC Wiki – Citrus Scale

[9] Twitter – @toffee_arts's Tweet

[10] Twitter – @SoulfirePhotos

[11] Twitter – @oikvw's Tweet

[12] Tumblr – xchrononautx's Post

[13] PiunikaWeb – Tumblr users rally behind Citrus Scale to circumvent NSFW/adult content ban – will it work?

Recent Videos

There are no videos currently available.

Recent Images 8 total

Top Comments


Only a matter of time before Tumblr's algorythm gets updated to also pick these up and ban them on the spot, and then we will have people angry about their harmless photos of actual citrus fruits banned for no reason.


+ Add a Comment

Comments (18)

Display Comments

Add a Comment

Howdy! You must login or signup first!