After a month of talking about girls in hot tubs, the latest controversy to strike at Twitch revolves around ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) streamers, a form of entertainment that has exploded in recent years. Almost overnight sites like Twitter and Reddit were flooded with complaints about "suggestive" content, creating another issue for the purple giant just weeks after their last potential disaster.
For those not fully in the know, ASMR involves various forms of audio stimulation, both sexual and non-sexual, intended to produce a variety of responses from comfort to arousal and a lot in between. Unlike hot tub content, which was a more recent trend, the ASMR category has existed on Twitch for a while but has recently has seen some new names making blatantly sexual ASMR content.
The two streams that drew the most attention were those of Kaitlyn "Amouranth" Siragusa and Jenelle "IndieFoxx" Dagres, both of whom were among the more popular streamer at the height of the hot tub meta. While the purpose of ASMR is at times debatable, it is clear at least that sections of their streams recently have been designed with adult viewers in mind, meaning Twitch is once again forced into a corner, but this time of their own making.
Farting into the microphone
There is a debate to be had about much ASMR content, and Twitch’s declaration that "being found to be sexy is not against our rules" can be applied to some streamers in that category, but some of the more recent content is less borderline. The images below demonstrate the point, and essentially involve a number of acts, from licking a microphone whilst bent over on all fours/wearing lingerie, all the way up to farting into a microphone after a viewer requested it.
It’s worth noting at this point that Amouranth at least has been doing ASMR for some time, even having a dedicated YouTube channel for it, although the majority of her videos appear to have been done in an upright position, sans bird head. Her recent content, as you can see, has her positioned on a bed instead, which may make it easier for viewers to see her entire frame while she performs.
It would be difficult for Twitch to claim that this content is anything other than sexual in nature, just as was the case with some of the hot tub content. Advertisers may also be put off by this sort of content, especially those looking to target younger audiences and not have their work appear on adult streams, creating the same problem twitch had with hot tubs.
The biggest difference for the company, in this case, is that they cannot just easily quarantine the content in a new category due to the existence of ASMR on Twitch as a standalone. That is not to say the ASMR tab has never had sexual content in it before, but it’s fair to say the new additions to the stream are taking things to a level that had previously not been seen before, using Twitch’s reactive nature as their cover.
Twitch's rulebook says:
Content that is considered to be sexually suggestive includes, but is not limited to:
Content or camera focus on breasts, buttocks, or pelvic region, including poses that deliberately highlight these elements
Nudity and Attire
We don’t permit streamers to be fully or partially nude, including exposing genitals or buttocks. We do not permit the visible outline of genitals, even when covered. Broadcasting nude or partially nude minors is always prohibited, regardless of context.
Yes, Twitch does have rules in place to prevent what is perceived as "adult content", but equally, the freedom to experiment has made the platform one of the most innovative and forward-thinking in media. Much of the conversation comes down to whether you view Twitch as a platform for children too, as anyone can easily access this content without needing to sign in or prove their age.
Some will say the streams are not explicit in nature; others will find them to be tantamount to porn. The fact these creators put direct links to their OnlyFans and other such sites designed to host explicitly adult content in turn makes the content much harder to defend as anything other than sexual in nature.
Amouranth, Indiefoxx and the ASMR question
The likes of Amouranth and Indiefoxx are pushing a boundary, but aware of where the existing rules lie and conscious of not breaking them. Fundamentally they are forcing Twitch to take a stance on the issue, and there is a good chance the company will decide to just remove them rather than a change due to the financial implications.
While these are not small streamers, they are not among the biggest earners, and Twitch has already shown with the Dr Disrespect situation that nobody is too big to sack. The easy solution for the company is to require people to prove their age before watching streams, but that would massively reduce the number of watchers on the platform, and hurt their bottom line long-term, meaning that if they are forced to chose it will probably be the talent that take the hit.