clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Twitch changes sexual content guidelines after ‘topless meta’ goes viral

Artists end up benefiting, too

Illustration featuring purple and pink graphic lines and a Twitch logo Illustration: Ariel Davis for Polygon
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Twitch is changing its rules around sexual content after increased attention to the so-called topless meta.

Several streamers went viral in early December for streaming while being perceived as topless: With creative framing (like a low-cut tube top or nipple covers and a properly positioned camera) the streamers maintained the illusion of being naked while live on Twitch. One streamer and OnlyFans model, who goes by Morgpie online, was banned by Twitch after a topless stream — but the ban was for “off-screen [boob] clapping,” not for participating in the “topless meta,” she said.

Like the hot tub meta of 2021 and boobie streamers before that, people are, once again, angry at successful women on the internet. The virality around the incident, as it has been in the past, was ignited by the belief that women use their looks — and sex appeal — to gain an unfair advantage over other streamers. It’s a conversation (that often comes with harassment) women on the internet are familiar with, regardless of what they’re doing online. But when sexual content is involved, it often blows up.

The “topless meta,” a phrase established by the Twitch community for this particular trend, is not as widespread as it might seem, given the oversized response. At the time of writing, several streamers are “topless” on Twitch, but they account for just a fraction of the Just Chatting category. But Twitch was forced to respond this week by clarifying and adjusting its rules for sexual content on the platform. The company is also going further, dropping some restrictions on sexual content, but keeping it (and other labels, like gambling or drugs and alcohol) off the Twitch homepage.

Under the new changes, Twitch will now allow streamers to broadcast content that “‘deliberately highlight[s] breasts, buttocks or pelvic region,’ even when fully clothed,” according to an FAQ published Wednesday. The company admitted its earlier policies made it hard for streamers to know what’s on-policy and what’s against the rules. “In addition, the former Sexually Suggestive Content policy was out of line with industry standards and resulted in female-presenting streamers being disproportionately penalized,” Twitch said.

Likewise, streamers can write on their bodies, something that aligns with Twitch’s body art policies. (Sometimes Twitch viewers pay streamers to write something, like their name, on a streamer’s body.) Strip teases are also now allowed with the sexual content label, as well as “twerking, grinding, and pole dancing.” Streamers can’t stream inside a strip club, however.

Twitch’s new policy change also benefits artists on the platform, as Twitch now allows people to stream drawing with “a focus on fictionalized (drawn, animated, or sculpted) sexual body parts regardless of gender,” like live nude figure drawing. This needs the sexual themes label, however, and art of “fictionalized sexual acts or masturbation” is still not allowed.

The hot tub meta of 2021 had a very similar situation: After complaints from advertisers and certain viewers, Twitch added a new category specifically for these streams: Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches. That’s where swimwear, in appropriate settings, was allowed per the platform’s attire policy. Nudity and content vaguely described as “sexually explicit content” isn’t allowed, but it’s OK to simply exist in a pool wearing a bikini. “Being found to be sexy by others is not against our rules, and Twitch will not take enforcement action against women, or anyone on our service, for their perceived attractiveness,” Twitch said at the time. The company has since updated its policies, like it did this week, to be more explicit on what is and isn’t allowed.

Anything labeled with the sexual content flag will remain off Twitch’s home page, as will anything labeled for gambling, drugs or alcohol, and violent or graphic depictions. (This doesn’t include games that have mature content or profanity, unless it’s got another one of the restricted tags.) Twitch said these streams will still be available in category recommendations off the homepage, and are available all the same when searching for a Twitch stream.

The response to Twitch’s new policy changes appears to be mostly positive among impacted streamers, especially the art community, which is celebrating the ability to create art without the fear of a ban. And although reactions are still raging over the topless meta in corners of the internet, Morgpie, the streamer who was banned, praised Twitch for the handling of its new guidelines, too: “I think this is a great way to handle this, bravo,” she tweeted.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.