It’s no secret that we’ve dinged streaming giant Twitch over and over again these past months. Frankly, it was done with good reason, as the Amazon-owned company continues to respond to crisis after crises, conflict after conflict, with pure confusion and callous behavior. While some of those conflicts were Twitch-specific, the company is also dealing with the more common problem of attempting to have a coherent content policy when it comes to what is appropriate to stream and what is not. For instance, Twitch recently found itself in the headlines yet again first by yanking advertising revenue from so-called “hot tub meta” streamers, where streamers live-stream in bathing suits from hot tubs or kiddie pools. Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa was one of the more prominent names impacted by this move, which again came with no warning. As a result of the public backlash over Twitch choosing not to communicate with its own creative community, the platform announced a “hot tub channel” category, as though that solved anything.
But now this has moved on from just a situation where Twitch sucks at communication with streamers, its most important asset. With all of the above having occurred, it seems that the raptors are now going about testing their fencing when it comes to what content is appropriate and what is not. And, if you want to get a sense of just how weird these tests can get, you need only dive into the latest Twitch trend: ear lick meta streams. Perhaps not surprisingly, Amouranth is once again leading this charge.
Perpetual Twitch provocateur Amouranth, along with model indiefoxxlive, have been temporarily taken off the livestreaming service following some delightfully bizarre video clips going viral on social media. While Twitch never comments on bans, the timing coincides with the proliferation of a clip in which Amouranth wears a horse mask. Neighing, the controversial Twitch streamer sometimes takes the entire mic into her mouth to make slurping sounds.
Similarly, if you click on Twitch’s “ASMR” tag at the moment, the most popular streamer is a woman whispering with the occasional wet sound thrown in. The community has taken to calling such shticks “ear lick streams,” as that is basically what these broadcasts sound like.
“Delightfully bizarre” appears to be exactly the right phrase for all of this. ASMR is not specifically meant to have any sexual connotation to it. That being said, it seems quite clear that what Amouranth and the like are doing is in part at least attempting to rope some measure of sexuality into behavior that would otherwise not necessarily have any sexual connotation to it. And, of course, adding a dash of the absolutely absurd just for shits and giggles.
In other words, if you want to argue that there is clear sexual connotation to these specific videos (you can find them in the link above if you’re curious), I won’t argue with you all that much. But — and this is a big caveat — finding precisely where and how any of this violates Twitch’s streaming guidelines on what’s appropriate is very much an exercise in subjectivity.
The general idea predates Twitch, of course, but it’s certainly true that Amouranth is savvy enough to command attention wherever she goes. Whether or not viewers approve of her methods is beyond the point. Twitch’s Community Guidelines have multiple pages dedicated to sexually suggestive content on the site, but the general gist is that it’s not allowed on the platform.
“Evaluations on the sexual suggestiveness of a behavior or activity are independent of user attire and are instead based on the overall surrounding framing and context,” the rules read. “This policy also applies to embedded media, augmented reality, creative broadcasts, and channel content—such as banners, profile images, emotes, and panels—that are focused on provocative images or video.”
But this leaves us still with two issues. The first is yet again how Twitch doles out these punishments and changes without any real communication with streamers or the public. It all just kind of happens and we get to play the game of attempting to interpret what it all means after the fact. The second issue is common among online platforms that do a shit job of having clear content guidelines: nobody actually knows where the lines are and these punishments tend to be doled out asymmetrically.
For example, the above guidelines would appear to prohibit, oh I don’t know, a liveplay of Dungeons and Dragons in which the players creatively act out to one degree or another sexual situations. And, yet, shows like Critical Role which stream on Twitch have had such content in one degree or another on the regular. Is that considered as graphic as a woman in a horse mask engulfing a microphone in her mouth?
Maybe? This feels like less of an obvious answer and more of a discussion open to interpretation. But, since Twitch has the final say for what occurs on its platform, only its opinion actually matters. But that doesn’t change the fact that Twitch’s guidelines are vague and unhelpful, its communication method neutered, and its handing out of punishment arbitrary and capricious.
Good times. Sluuuuuurp!