For women streaming on Twitch, being questionably banned for “suggestive” clothing or behavior is an increasingly visible problem. Some feel that Twitch’s policies over sexual content unfairly target women, especially women whose bodies are curvier. Twitch streamer ExohydraX, who received an indefinite ban from the platform last week over her attire, is now among that number. In a conversation with Kotaku, she discussed what she feels are inconsistently applied policies when it comes to what women are allowed to wear.
ExoHydraX started playing Call of Duty on YouTube five years ago, and in the past year, she started streaming on that platform as well. She told Kotaku over email that she had decided to try out Twitch by doing streams in the more casual “Just Chatting” subsection. Like a lot of streamers in that category, she talks to her followers and does dances while wearing form-fitting clothing. That all came to a screeching halt late last week when her channel was indefinitely banned from Twitch.
In a YouTube stream about her ban, ExoHydraX said that she had been temporarily banned twice before, once for drinking on stream and once for her cleavage. This third ban came on the heels of a stream in which ExoHydraX said she was being targeted by racist trolls who were hurling slurs at her for being a French person of North African descent.
“I think it became clear that people were mass reporting me and trolling me in the last stream because I had dozens of French people spamming extremely hateful stuff as well as racist things at me,” she told Kotaku over email. (Twitch did not immediately respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.) ExoHydraX said that the presence of people saying racist things in her Twitch chat caused her to become frustrated and angry, which in turn invited more trolls. As she has a smaller channel with just around 4,600 followers, she doesn’t have a dedicated mod team to help her police her chat. Her most successful stream—notably, the one where she was brigaded—peaked at around 750 viewers. A few days later, she woke up to an email from Twitch saying that her channel was banned indefinitely because it contained “sexually suggestive content”. She believes her small channel only got banned because she was brigaded by people who then mass-reported her.
“To think that someone could be so fucking mean and they could get away with it, that fucking kills me,” she said in her YouTube video about the ban. “These people were saying terrible shit, and they mass-reported me… I don’t want to fucking cry but, it’s not even me getting banned, it’s not even just that, it’s that these were the people who reported me and I feel like they won.” After saying this, ExoHydraX left the room for a moment to collect herself before returning to the stream to discuss her ban further.
ExoHydraX told Kotaku that she has appealed her ban and is willing to “rebrand” herself and cover up more. She’s hopeful about her channel being reinstated but also said that given the volume of people on Twitch and the limited staff, it might take a while. She pointed to the streamer Velvet_7, who also danced on Twitch while wearing clothing that showed her cleavage, as an example of a streamer who was banned and then regained her channel. What bothers ExoHydraX is not only that this ban came as a result of targeted harassment, but also that she finds Twitch’s policies on sexually suggestive content to be unclear.
“They say that they want streamers to wear outfits to be mall friendly, in which case I am comfortable wearing cleavage and a romper at the mall,” she said over email. “But then I get banned for wearing cleavage and a romper, so…how does this work?”
ExoHydraX is a curvy woman, and is therefore subject to unfair standards and stereotypes. Clothing that might read as non-sexual on a woman who is less curvy is perceived differently when it’s on her.
“I also think it does depend on who’s wearing [the clothes.] Two girls with two completely different bodies but with the same shirt would get treated completely different,” she said. “I think Twitch needs to come out with new guidelines in terms of dress codes. What is acceptable and on whom is it acceptable? It’s a difficult discussion, but it is necessary for smaller streamers.”
As a busty woman who is quite aware that clothing looks different on my body than it does on women with smaller breasts, situations like these are frustrating. Barring a breast reduction, there’s nothing I can do to make my body look “appropriate” according to these types of standards. It’s not a new issue, either. When I was a teenager, school dress codes and even my parents would prevent me from wearing clothing that I saw my peers wearing all the time, because when I wore it, it was suddenly perceived as obscene. I’m not talking about tube tops or halter tops; I’m talking about button-up shirts, fitted T-shirts, and even some sleeveless shirts that were off-limits to me because they read as more sexual on my body. Even as an adult, I wear almost exclusively men’s T-shirts to deemphasize my bust.
Again, ExoHydraX said that she is very willing to cover up to get back on Twitch if they do decide to reinstate her channel. During her YouTube stream, she goes through some recent clothing she bought, humorously pointing out which pieces would probably get her banned on Twitch again and discussing the way that she’d cover up her cleavage if she returned to the platform. According to her, Twitch is where the action is, and without having access to the platform, her streaming career is dead in the water.
In a stream archive, ExoHydraX read this question from a viewer: “Why are you trying to go back on Twitch with all that BS?” by saying the following: “Because Twitch is a great platform, apart from this. It’s pretty much where everyone is at. If everyone was at Mixer, I would go to Mixer.”