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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 Fanlore.org, 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, by way of an early mailing list for publishing erotic anime fanfic, called "The Lemon List".
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.
According to TV Tropes, 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".
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. 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 as the standardized rating system offered by the fanfiction repository Archive of Our Own gained popularity.
The most common tags used in the Citrus Scale are as follows:
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.
For example, The Protectors of the Plot Continuum website provides the following version of the Citrus Scale (shown below)
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.
On January 31st, 2019, Tumblr 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.
In February 2019, the word "lemon" reached trending searches on Tumblr.
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