Hot tub livestreamers broadcasting in bikinis on Twitch have divided the platform's community

·6 min read
hot tub meta twitch stream
Spoopy Kitt streaming on Twitch Spoopy Kitt/ Twitch
  • Twitch has seen a wave of streaming from hot tubs and pools over the course of 2021.

  • Dubbed "hot tub meta" streams, this wave of women in bikinis has caused an uproar.

  • Critics claim that this content cheapens Twitch, but others are calling the criticism misogynistic.

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This year, livestreaming platform Twitch has seen a wave of women creators who sit in hot tubs or pools while talking to their viewers.

These streams have exploded in popularity over the past five months, regularly pulling in thousands of concurrent viewers who watch creators broadcast in bathing suits.

The trend has been dubbed "hot tub meta," and it has created a divide among Twitch users. The comments sections on the Livestreamfails Reddit page, where users chronicle drama in the streamer community, are full of claims that Twitch is now a "glorified softcore" porn website and that this is "bad for the community."

Critics say the trend creates unrealistic expectations for other female streamers and showcases sexuality on a platform that has a younger audience - users can register for a Twitch account at age 13 - while others say the criticism demonstrates the misogyny on the male-dominated platform. Statista, which tracks consumer data, reported in 2019 that 65% of Twitch users were male, though that figure was down from 81.5% in 2017, according to numbers released by the platform

"I think it's pretty universal that people like seeing pretty ladies in bikinis," Spoopy Kitt, a streamer who has 60,000 followers on Twitch, told Insider.

Related: Porn influencer claims responsibility for altering 'Hollywood' sign

'Hot tub meta' streams help Twitch creators gain viewers

On Twitch, which is known for its video-game streamers, creators earn more sponsorships, brand deals, and money by being more popular. "Hot tub meta" streams can help increase viewership.  

Dictionary.com defines "meta" in the video-gaming world as "using knowledge about the game itself to beat the 'game' of mastering that game." The "meta" is the tool that can be used to gain support and "win the game" of viewership: having more viewers on a stream, pushing you up the channel directory, and earning more paid subscribers. 

Spoopy Kitt, who does not use her real name online to protect against harassment, told Insider that "hot tubs have become the new and effective way streamers are using to 'win the game.'" During her streams, Spoopy Kitt sits in an inflatable pool and talks directly to viewers during streams, sometimes while riding an inflatable lobster. Her streams aren't only water-based: she also hula-hoops, exercises, and does pixel art.

xoaerial hot tub meta twitch stream
XoAeriel on her Twitch stream Twitch/XoAeriel

XOAeriel, a streamer with 200,000 followers who credits herself with starting the trend in December 2020, told Insider that she "really wanted to just sit in some hot water because it was winter." Without a pool, she had to get creative and came up with the idea of buying an inflatable hot tub. But, "there are hardly any new ideas under the sun, just new iterations on the same ideas," she said. 

After starting these hot tub streams last year, her viewership skyrocketed, going from an average of 700 viewers to 2,500 by February, according to Twitch Tracker. "The female body is an appealing factor in capturing an audience," XOAeriel told Insider. 

These streams have grown in popularity this year 

Since Just Chatting launched as a section on Twitch in 2018, streamers have been using the category for anything that involves talking to the camera. It's common to see it as the top category with the most viewers on the platform, beating out established gaming staples like "League of Legends" or "Grand Theft Auto V." Streamers have used the section to experiment with content, sometimes pushing the boundaries of the platform. 

Kaitlyn Siragusa, who goes by Amouranth to her 2.6 million followers on Twitch, was one of the first streamers to take her stream poolside. She said she has seen trends come and go over the nearly five years that she's been streaming, but to her, "hot tub meta" is just a regular aspect of the platform's culture. 

-Amouranth (@Amouranth) April 28, 2021

"I don't think it's particularly unique or new, just people decided to hyper-focus on it now due to a few girls having outsized success," Siragusa told Insider, adding that critics were trying to "prescribe" policy changes for the platform. "People keep succumbing to recency bias as if this recent development has 'forever tarnished' the Twitch brand, or as if at some point in the distant future it's going to be just all hot tub streamers."

These streamers struggle with Twitch's Community Guidelines and often face harassment

Over the past five years, Twitch, which is now owned by Amazon, has tried to evolve past its original image as a website for gamers and video-game content. The platform has introduced sections for other activities like walking outside, painting, cooking, and just chatting with fans.

The company then imposed new rules and regulations to account for the new content and avoid advertisers fleeing the platform due to questionable content: In 2017, YouTube experienced an "apocalypse," when advertisers cut ties after ads were placed on sexual or violent content, which prompted Google to implement new policy changes.

Twitch has a set of Community Guidelines that all streamers need to abide by in order to avoid bans and suspensions on the platform. Swimwear is allowed, as long as it "completely covers the genitals and those who present as women must also cover their nipples." Pool streams are also fair game, but "content or camera focus on breasts, buttocks, or pelvic region" can lead to a ban. 

Skimming the thin line between sexually suggestive and sexual content, hot tub streams push the boundaries of what some think Twitch should be.

Top content creators on the platform, like Asmongold and Félix Lengyel, who is known as XQC online, have been critical of the movement, labeling it a "loophole" of the platform's Terms of Service.

-Zack (@Asmongold) March 29, 2021

-xQc (@xQc) April 19, 2021

XOAeriel says the platform's rules are "enforced with some ambiguity" and she has "seen people get banned for seemingly small infractions that are open to interpretation and seen people blatantly break rules without punishment."

Defenders of the movement have said that this grey area allows bad-faith actors to disguise misogyny as care to invalidate the work of these streamers.

League of Legends streamer Indiana Black, known as Froskurinn, said in a tweet that "anger" over the trend "is being taken out on the streamers and is one step above thinly veiled misogyny."

-Froskurinn (@Froskurinn) April 30, 2021

Marcus "DJWheat" Graham, Twitch's director of creator development, discussed "hot tub meta" and the conversation swirling around it during an April 28 stream.

"We understand that this has been getting a lot of attention from the community, and we are watching closely," Graham said. "Our nudity and attire policy does allow bathing suits in an appropriate context and hot tubs do fall under that criteria. However, what has not changed is that sexually suggestive and explicit content is not allowed under the guidelines, under the ToS, and Twitch will take action when that is reported to us."

Read the original article on Insider