Twitch.tv has quickly become the premier destination for all things gaming, with everything from your average live stream to crowd-controlled Pokémon playthroughs. But all of that great work is overshadowed by a big problem… Make that two big problems.
One trip through the site’s IRL section can take you through the entire spectrum of what is being called “sexual streamers” - a growing category of content where young women wearing revealing clothing while they game. While some just play games, many others go ahead and entice fans to donate money via Twitch’s micro-currency - bits - or subscribe to the channel by either dancing/exercising suggestively. Doing jumping jacks without a bra on, for example.
Let’s put this into perspective - something that I feel was missing from the BBC report. While it doesn’t take much of a search through the IRL section to find these sexually suggestive women, it is not all that. The majority of this category is men and women just expressing themselves through their craft of choice - playing guitar, cooking & eating food, singing, etc.
But even though these “booby streamers” are in the minority on Twitch, the number of them has grown over the past couple of years and they are widely talked about as “what to expect on the channel.”
One streamer called it a “crisis of culture where we don’t actually know… What is the site supposed to be used for?” While Steven Bonnell may have been rather dramatic in this - calling out Twitch on becoming a camgirl hangout - he does have a nugget of a point.
Booby streamers make up a small percentage of Twitch in its totality, but they are certainly the loudest talking points, causing the biggest controversies through many activities from voicing tone-deaf opinions on depression to masturbating just below the frame. Examples in the fanmade Twitch Rewind below (goes without saying - NSFW).
Something needs to change… But I’m most certainly not condemning these camgirl-esque practices. Ladies, get your money. If men are stupid enough to pay to watch you, and you’re comfortable in your own skin to do so, then more fool them.
This is not a judgement of what these streamers do, as I’m sure some women do enjoy this way to make money while boosting their self-confidence. Social media users are already way too obsessed with policing women’s behaviour online, so that level of misogyny isn’t the answer. And without a shadow of a doubt, if it was the other way round, guys would also do the same thing.
However, allowing men to treat you as lowly sex dolls is really not helping the equality cause. Partaking in this level of self-exploitation on such a public stage, just for the sake of getting items on an Amazon Wishlist, and the rapid increase in women doing this is changing the fabric of Twitch.
The company needs to decide what is deemed to be in adherence to the community guidelines and what’s considered “inappropriate behaviour.” They have two clearly labeled articles in their guidelines - “Pornography and Other Sexually Explicit Conduct” and “Inappropriate Broadcaster Behaviour and Attire.” Nothing being done currently hits the first of those two, but these streamers definitely fall into a grey area of the second. Clarity needs to be provided and active regulation needs to be in place.
If this is what Twitch wants, then steer into the skid - change the rule (to the detriment of an entire gender) and reorganise the business around them. But if this is what they don’t want, this needs to be sorted quickly.
I mean it’s an issue that has even caught the attention of the BBC... Take action now or lose your influence over the creators.
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I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.