Sexualization, the Body, and Twitch.tv

For those of you who don’t know, twitch.tv is a website where people go to stream and watch others stream various video games. You can browse games, see who’s streaming, chat with them and others, and if you like the streamer enough, you can follow them (free) or subscribe to them ($4.99 a month). I became interested in Twitch a few months ago. I began watching female streamers with the idea that maybe some day I’d start my own stream. When I finally decided to suck it up and join the community of female streamers on Twitch, I was terrified.

This fear was similar to one described in class about going to conventions. The mere possibility that I could be the subject of sexual harassment, objectification, or worse almost made me not want to do what I loved: play video games and entertain people.

In browsing the various channels of female streamers, you’ll notice that the chat is the most obnoxious thing you’ve ever read. It mainly consists of young boys typing “boobs” or “show boobs” over and over again. Now this may not seem like the most crude thing out there, but think of what it really means.

While many male streamers enjoy the luxury of knowing that people come to see them play the game and ask questions, females get no such thing. Most often, people who come to view their channel are only there to stare at a girl’s chest. The couldn’t care less about what game she was playing, what her level of talent was, or her personality.

It was this fact that almost stopped me from beginning my own stream. However, I am glad that I didn’t let it do that. I’ve noticed that if you conduct yourself in a certain way on twitch, you are a lot less likely to be harassed.

Of course of received many of the objectifying comments, but surprisingly, as a whole, people have been respectful. People said that my stream was different because I was interactive, happy, and always smiling. Very few people felt the need to point out the fact that I had boobs.

Twitch reminded me of the way in which our bodies move in relation to games. Its different when not only are you thinking about how your body must move to play the game, but when streaming, I also have to take into account what I am presenting to people. My webcam is set up so that while I stream, one can see from the top of my head to the middle of my torso.

My body moves differently in various situations of the game. The game I stream most often is Blizzard’s MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. When I’m killing minions and not in a very serious moment of the game, I am not thinking about what my body needs to do in relation to the game, but rather how I am being seen on the stream. During these moments, I sit up, tip my chin up towards the camera and freely converse with the people in chat. I’m often smiling, laughing, or even dancing during these moments.

The second the game gets serious, my body changes immediately. I slouch closer to my keyboard, lean in towards the screen, and angle my face down from the webcam. I was told that when I do this I “look like someone who would go for a knife in an argument just to prove [their] point.” This was interesting so I asked them to elaborate. I was told that because of the way my webcam is and the way when I get serious more of my forehead is showing I look like the way filmmakers most often depict the villain. To prove his point, the guy sent me a picture of the Joker, and let me tell you, it was spot on.

I think its interesting to think that we have to conduct our bodies certain ways in certain gaming situations. When things are easy, I don’t have to care as much. I stop thinking about how I need to sit in order to play the game best and my mind is occupied with how to sit in order to look the best for the stream. Which also means wondering if my shirt is too low cut or if I’m leaning too far forward so I don’t receive any unnecessary comments. But all that disappears the second I need to focus. I start to ignore the chat and almost forget that anyone is even watching me. After a serious moment, I always have to check the stream replay to make sure I didn’t look a certain way so that I can be prepared if the comments come.

I’m not really sure if the two points I made in this post tie together very well. However, it is important to acknowledge that it is the fear of being subjected to harassment while streaming that makes me think more about how I conduct my body while playing for viewers.

0 thoughts on “Sexualization, the Body, and Twitch.tv

  1. Although I never got to experience the judgement people face when they live stream, I experienced some of it during my brief phase of COD online. Prior to COD, I only really played online games on my computer (and usually as a male character!).

    My first experience using a mic was really interesting. Mostly, I received a lot of friend requests. However, every once in a while there was the crude commenter or the guy who felt like I needed advice (even in those rare games where my kill death ratio was in the double digits!) or the preteens who would just rant about having a girl on their team.

    Though my experience was with voice and yours was with voice and body, I would argue that I had a similar experience. Where you adjusted posture, I adjusted pitch. When someone judged your gamer face, someone judged my gamer slang.

    P.S. I think it did tie together well.
    P.S.S. Props to you for starting a stream. That’s freaking awesome!

    1. I would completely agree that our experiences were quite similar. It’s strange to see the wide range of reactions there are when people realize that their teammate is female. I get a lot of the “I’m a big, strong man, let me help you since you’re a helpless girl,” comments. On the other hand, I get a lot of comments that since I’m a girl, and a girl gamer, that I have some sort of power over my male viewers. Someone was on my stream just the other day discussing women’s role as being in the kitchen, making sandwiches. To which many guys replied “Let’s be honest, we’d all jump to make her a sandwich if she asked.” And then there’s of course the unsolicited remarks about the sexually explicit things guys are doing when watching a girl stream. (Ahh, to be a fearless boy protected by the anonymity the computer screen provides!)

      There’s also this very interesting phenomenon I’ve seen on twitch and I’m curious if it is present in other gaming communities. On twitch, guys call girls grill. Something I’ve never quite understand. I’ve received a variety of quite humorous responses like “both are hot” or “both are used for preparing my meals.” One of the most true answers I’ve received “Girls don’t exist on the internet and it’s what we use to refer to girls who think they’re good at video games.” The key part to that last comment is “think.” No matter how good a girl is at a particular game, there are still people referring to her as a “grill.” It seems to speak to your last comment that guys are always grumbling about having a girl on their team or finding it necessary to give advice, no matter how well you do.

      Also, thanks! Streaming, though intimidating, is quite fun!

  2. Art3mis I really enjoyed knowing about your experiences being a streamer on twitch during this semester and that’s why I chose this post as one of my favorites! I don’t think I could ever do the same for reasons of shyness and fear of being harassed and I admire you so much for not letting those things stop you!! I hope that as long as you enjoy streaming you continue to do so even if people around you don’t want to understand it (as you mentioned on your most recent post). Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  3. I have also chosen this post as one of my favorites. Every post you made, Art3mis, was valuable to this blog in helping people understand the difficult situations women go through every day. Every time I read something negative that had happened to you, I knew that there was something that had to change in the world of video games around us. I believe that your experiences may have opened a lot of people’s eyes, and I do hope you continue streaming. I’ll try to support you any way I can!

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