By this point, you’ve probably had a camera phone for close to two decades and have almost certainly taken steamy photos of yourself, either to share or keep for your own confidence-building. Sure, you’ve probably got lots of experience in this department, but there’s always room for improvement, so if you want to know how to elevate your nudes to the next level, read on before you open that front-facing camera again.
Know why you’re snapping the pic
Like anything else, the reasons someone might want to take a nude—or two, or 200—are varied. Maybe you’re talking to a new potential partner, reminding an established partner how lucky they are, advertising yourself on a camming site, or just looking to appreciate your own body.
“Our clients seek out boudoir photography for a number of reasons,” said Ayla Quellhorst, who owns a boudoir photography studio in Tacoma, WA, that works with about 200 women per year. “As a gift for a significant other, to find themselves after a major life event, to celebrate accomplishments or, most importantly, to do something for themselves.”
Katelyn Guild, who operates her own studio in Raleigh, NC, agreed, adding that clients come to her body-inclusive company seeking spicy shots “for a million different reasons,” but often “to normalize their bodies to themselves in the hope that they start to feel valid and worthy of the love that they deserve.”
Of course, it’s OK if you’re taking pictures to send to someone else, too. Don’t feel pressured to turn every self-photoshoot into a big, empowering celebration if you’re really just hoping to accomplish some good old sexting. Just remember to only do what you want to do, as no one has the right to make you take or send a photo you don’t want to send.
Prep yourself to feel good naked
Wear something you feel attractive in, whether it’s lingerie or nothing at all. Don’t try out a brand-new look if it’s not something you’re comfortable with. Stick with your usual presentation and even consider taking your pics when you’re dolled up for an impending event. Shave or don’t shave. Go full glam or bare-faced. This is your party and don’t you forget it.
“We give clients so much information before a shoot. It’s 15 emails worth of prep information. But physically, stretch. We do a lot of bending and toe pointing,” said Quellhorst, who added that a full shoot is like a workout in itself. “There are no straight lines in boudoir.”
Look in the mirror and test out some poses. Have fun! While rehearsing, don’t worry about getting every body part in the shot. A picture that accentuates just one bit of your physique can be less distracting and more natural. Quellhorst’s go-to posing tips are these:
Think of curves: Don’t keep your legs straight, be sure to arch your back, and “push those boobs to the sky” (if you happen to have a pair).
Give your hands something to do, like “put one in your hair and grab a boob with the other” or “hug yourself to bring the girls closer together.”
Frame your booty with your hands.
“Also, push your chin forward (like a turtle) in images” for a more flattering neckline.
Consider, too, giving yourself “grace,” as Guild put it: “The first thing I encourage clients to do before they even pick up their camera is to curate their social media feeds. Unfollow accounts that make you feel crappy in your body, and [instead] flood your feed with beautiful bodies of all sizes. This will help them start to recognize that their body is sexy, worthy, and valid of dope images.”
The more you accept and love your body, the better you’ll look, to both yourself and anyone lucky enough to receive your pics.
Make sure to set the scene
“The simpler the better for environment,” advised Guild, who recommended plain white sheets and decluttering, along with being selective about which household items, if any, are visible. A sexy selfie doesn’t have to always be the same full-monty-in-the-mirror picture. Read a book. Sip a drink. Using a lingerie costume? Select some theme-appropriate props. Be playful and creative in your space.
As for lighting, Quellhorst recommends not even bothering to take your photos at night and avoid using your home’s harsh lights. Instead, she said, try to work in the daytime and get natural sunlight from your windows.
If you have a tripod for your phone, use it, and set it up high for the most flattering angle.
All that said, she added, “don’t overthink it.”
Get down to business
Don’t forget that not only are you the star of the show here, but in most cases, you’re the producer and director, too. Be kind to yourself and have some patience. Go slowly. No one has to know that one perfect shot took you 15 minutes to achieve.
Quellhorst noted, “When taking your own nudes at home, remember that you can always delete an image. I take 300-400 images of a client in a traditional shoot, yet we only show 75-100 of those images. Even a professional takes multiple shots to get it right, so don’t give up on yourself if the first image isn’t perfect. Look at it closely and figure out what you don’t like. Are you not arching your back enough and it’s creating rolls in areas you don’t want? Take it again with a better arch.”
Guild offered up a pretty expert tip here: “Set your phone to record and take screenshots from the recording. This allows you to have the freedom to move around and be yourself without the restriction of running back and forth with a timer. The best way to do that is to use the back camera on your phone and pause the recording before you take the screenshot.”
Bonus option: Press ‘send’ with confidence
Once you’ve amassed some great shots, you can keep them for yourself or share the wealth—provided the other party is interested and consents.
Jimmy, a 28-year-old in San Diego, explained that as a bisexual man in the dating scene, he’s received all manner of nudes from all manner of people, so he has a few observations. Women, he said, tend to put a lot of thought into what they share, and typically send previously-shot photos they’ve taken time to curate, edit, and even filter. Men, on the other hand, take their photos in the heat of the texting action, in his experience, “which is sometimes disconcerting” if they seem too eager to move from pic-swapping to real-life meetups.
Women, he added, typically try to show off their whole body in one mirror selfie while men will just zoom right in on the goods. Both strategies have their pros and cons, though Jimmy admitted, “I’m actually a little more old school and prefer no nudes, but if I had to pick, then a frontal mirror pic, no face necessary.”
He cited “privacy” as a key issue. We don’t need to remind you, but there is no guarantee any photo you send to someone will remain private. Crop your face and hide your identifying tattoos if that’s a concern for you.
Emily, a 23-year-old woman in Canada, agreed that nudes aren’t necessary for her when she’s sexting with a man, though she does appreciate those real-time snaps Jimmy described because they help her gauge whether her virtual partner is still turned on as they go, “not just faking it.”
That affirmation, she said, is sexy, so don’t feel nervous about putting yourself out there if your partner is into it. What matters more than lighting, poses, props, or costumes is how confident and content with the photos you are. To that end, we’ll leave you with a final piece of advice from Guild: “Just have fun and enjoy the experience.”
Twitter launched a new emoji early Thursday that will appear anytime a user tweets the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance. The so-called Milk Tea Alliance refers to the pro-democracy movement in Asia that has been organized, at least in part, through actions online.
“To celebrate the first anniversary of the #MilkTeaAlliance we designed an emoji featuring 3 different types of milk tea colors from regions where the Alliance first formed online,” the social media company tweeted from its account dedicated to public policy.
The Milk Tea Alliance includes Hong Kong, where activists are fighting for the preservation of some autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party; Myanmar, where a military coup in February ousted the democratically elected government; Taiwan, a country whose sovereignty comes under constant threat from Beijing; and Thailand, where the monarchy is further restricting civil rights.
“We have seen more than 11 million Tweets featuring the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag over the past year. Conversations peaked when it first appeared in April 2020, and again in February 2021 when the coup took place in Myanmar,” Twitter continued.
Security forces in Myanmar have killed over 600 civilians since the military coup earlier this year, including 11 people on Wednesday alone, according to the latest reports. At least 40 children have been killed by the junta, based on reporting by the New York Times, with one child as young as 10 slain by the brutal regime.
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In its announcement, Twitter also pointed to other emojis developed to support social change, including emojis for the hashtags #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Halfway through its tweet thread about the new emoji, Twitter more explicitly called for internet access to be maintained in places experiencing civil unrest and brutal government crackdowns.
“During times of civil unrests or violent crackdowns, it is more important than ever for the public to have access to the #OpenInternet for real-time updates, credible information, and essential services. #KeepitOn,” Twitter tweeted.
One of the first things the military regime did after taking control of Myanmar in February was shut off Facebook in the country. And social media access has been highly disrupted ever since.
“Twitter recognizes that the #OpenInternet is increasingly under threat around the world. We strongly believe that having access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential right and remain a staunch defender and advocate of free expression and condemn #InternetShutdowns,” Twitter continued.
Director Cullen Hoback believes he’s unmasked Q, the unknown individual or individuals behind the sprawling, pro-Donald Trump QAnon conspiracy theory that asserts the Democratic Party and Hollywood are ruled by an Illuminati-style cabal of cannibalistic pedophiles. For years, Q pretended to be a high-ranking government official with firsthand knowledge of the Satanic threat, posting anonymously on a series of fringe boards beginning with troll hive 4chan and later white supremacist haven 8chan (now itself relaunched as 8kun). Countless right-wingers and gullible rubes took the bait, and QAnon surged in popularity on Facebook and wormed its way into the ideology of the Republican Party. QAnon peaked, at least for now, in riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6, which sought to overturn the 2020 election results but only succeeded in causing five deaths.
It hasn’t exactly been a secret that Hoback’s preferred suspect is Ron Watkins, the son of creepy 8chan owner Jim Watkins and the site’s longtime administrator (several months ago he claimed he was resigning, though it may have only been a ploy to build his credibility as he pivoted to promoting pro-Trump election hoaxes). Six episodes of following the Watkinses around and interviewing practically everyone in their orbit in, Hoback thinks he’s tricked Ron into admitting Q is what he was “doing anonymously before.”
Both Watkinses obviously view themselves as master psychological manipulators, though they’re nothing of the sort. Whether it’s due to some feckless attempt to spread a cloud of ink over everything going on at 8chan or sheer incompetence, the two couldn’t keep their stories straight for the duration of the series.
The older Watkins spends much of the documentary denying he’s a “political” guy. But he ran a conspiracy news site called The Goldwater and barely even pretends to care that 8chan’s white supremacist /pol/ board, a festering wound on the internet, was tied to at least three mass shootings in 2019 by white supremacists who killed at least 75 people and wounded 66 others. By the end of the series, he’s in attendance at and cheering on the riots at the Capitol.
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Amid vaguely menacing Hoback and his documentary crew with a mochi hammer and trying to pressure the documentarians into visiting prostitutes as a sort of vetting exercise, the younger Watkins is alternately suspiciously familiar with various facets of Q world and in total denial that he knows anything about the conspiracy theory at all. The show also makes clear that as the site’s administrator, Watkins would have had total access to the Q account and technical data that could help unveil the poster’s identity—and his behavior is well beyond suspicious.
The theory doesn’t require Watkins taht started QAnon; at an early point in the QAnon saga, the writing style of Q’s posts changed dramatically, suggesting that the account changed hands. Whether that was because of some behind-the-scenes deal or the result of a hostile takeover is a mystery that may never be solved. But it’s clear that Watkins had the means to easily seize control of the account associated with the posts, and Hoback details a large number of instances in which the seemingly new Q’s posts mirror or reference Watkin’s actions in supremely obvious fashion. At one point, the administrator leads Hoback on a wild goose chase to unveil former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as Q, a dubious theory that relied on possibly forged IP address logs pointing to Bannon’s address in Orange County, California, and a monastery in Italy where he tried to set up an alt-right training camp.
“In order to throw off anyone who came sniffing around, wouldn’t it be smart to create a fake digital forensics trail, one that leads to someone from Trump’s inner circle?” Hoback asks in the documentary.
But it’s not until near the end that Watkins makes one seemingly major confession and slips up on another one. First, Watkins claims that he was personally driving much of the activity on /pol/, thus tying him even more directly to the terroristic massacres tied to its community. Second, Watkins all but outright states he controlled the Q account for years before immediately backtracking.
“I’ve spent the last, what, almost 10 years doing this kind of research anonymously,” Watkins told Hoback. “Now I’m doing it publicly, that’s the only difference…. don’t think for a second that half the threads on /pol/ (the political page of 8Chan) weren’t like, me digging.”
“… So thinking back on it, like it was basically three years of intelligence training teaching normies how to do intelligence work,” he continued. “It’s basically what I was doing anonymously before.”
Watkins paused, smiled, and added, “But never as Q.” Both he and Hoback broke into laughter, which Hoback appears to believe was a shared moment of recognition that his subject had finally fucked up, big time.
It’s certainly an overt admission that the Watkinses were much more involved behind the scenes with the toxic culture of 8chan than they’d otherwise like to let on—something that would have already been obvious to anyone paying attention to the site’s history. An ironclad admission that Watkins is Q it is not, especially given how much of Q: Into the Storm fixates on painting him and his father as weirdo narcissists who spend most of their time lying for attention (not particularly well, but still). It seems unlikely the public will get a more detailed confession out of Watkins or any other suspect soon, given the movement is now facing the scrutiny of the feds.
According to the Washington Post, the Watkinses doubled down on the Bannon theory in a recent livestream, but also argued it could be Hoback himself. Other researchers have noted that QAnon involved a sweeping set of political actors including Trump admin officials and allies, GOP politicians, conspiracy activists, and grifters in it for the merchandising opportunities, making it far larger than any one person.
“Even if it was only Ron Watkins, the movement has grown far beyond one person or alias,” SITE Intelligence Group director Rita Katz told the Post. “It is now a global societal virus that has become a vessel for everything from [anti-vaccine] misinformation and coronavirus conspiracy theories to political agendas. … Everything Jim or Ron Watkins say should be taken with skepticism—even if that statement comes in the form of a bizarre ‘slip-up.’”
Whoever was last in control of the Q account, they’re not posting. The account went dark in December, around the same time Watkins supposedly resigned as admin of 8kun, leaving its adherents high and dry and in search of new causes. As Hoback noted, some of them are moving on to new, more fertile pastures like rallying against so-called “cancel culture,” a relatively recent Republican obsession. Many others have simply continued on out of blind devotion, busying themselves with projects like defending Trump-allied Rep. Matt Gaetz from allegations of sex trafficking or switching their focus to racism. Two, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebert, are in Congress.
Thoren Bradley can be found in dozens of TikTok videos chopping wood in his backyard in rural Northern California, surrounded by evergreen woods with a swimming pool of sky overhead. The 29-year-old is colorfully tattooed with a well-groomed beard and gym-honed physique that frequently inspires viewers to leave lustful comments, such as “just here for the hard wood.” Often, he’s wearing black Carhartt overalls and a clinging white tee, but sometimes he forgoes the shirt.
He’ll raise his axe over the top of his head and bring it down on a cross-section of tree that splits in one fell swoop. It’s typically set to a cinematic soundtrack—in one, country singer Chris Stapleton croons, “You’re as sweet as strawberry wine.” He might saunter shirtless into his cozy homestead to lounge with a pair of scruffy dogs next to his wood fireplace. In his charming kitchen, he dices bell pepper and fries up eggs, before doing the dishes, shirtless. Bradley paints doors, replaces lights, and lays wood flooring, which he then mops himself.
These homesteadingvideoshave earned Bradley nearly 2 million followers. Several of his wood-chopping clips have tipped 1 million views—a recent one boasts 3.4 million.
Bradley’s videos are remarkably popular, but he’s just one of countless men on TikTok producing content that falls within the romance-to-thirst-trap spectrum. These creators aren’t just offering straightforward eye candy, many specialize in titillating their audiences emotionally. They dabble in the erotic and the romantic, often explicitly targeting an audience of straight women. As short and PG-13 as these clips are, they are rich in fantasy, escapism, and aspiration. Men lip-sync scenes from The Notebook, act out moments of love at first sight, and offer up the point-of-view experience of a handsome man in a suit bringing a bouquet of roses to the door. Many flirt with raunchier fare, snapping their belts at the camera, mouthing lines from Netflix’s infamously terrible 365 DNI, and, occasionally, humping the bed like a boy band member at the turn of the millennia.
It’s a hectic virtual collage of Hollywood archetypes, sexy Tumblr GIFs, Fifty Shades of Grey, and that 2007 joke book Porn for Women, which pictured men vacuuming and cooking dinner. Some of these creators intersperse POV eye-gazing clips, where they seem to stare right into the viewer’s eyes, with relationship advice or daily livestreams where they commiserate with women about their treatment by men.
This TikTok genre could be seen as yet another artifact in the never-ending debates around “female desire” and “what women want.” In many ways, though, the videos are more telling of their creators. Grappling with the tenuousness of modern masculinity, the men who film them are working around enduring demands of toughness, stoicism, and aggression, alongside unsteadily shifting expectations of beauty, sensitivity, and domesticity, traits typically associated with women. This may seem like a positive evolution of gendered possibility, and yet Bradley is routinely met with commenters’ injunctions around what it means to be a “real man.”
Of course, traditional masculinity is defined in dichotomous opposition to traditional femininity. Judging from viewer responses, any hint of commingling is just as liable to be celebrated as shot down as unmanly.
There is an inherent tension even just in stepping in front of the camera—tension that surfaces within creators and in the sometimes punishing responses to their content. As the art critic John Berger famously said, “Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” But these men are asking for women to look at them, and they are to various degrees stepping into the passive object role. In performing a masculine fantasy, especially while centering themselves in the frame, there is the ever-present and highly subjective threat of a misstep. It’s a tightrope walk of heart-eyes and laugh-cry emojis, popularity and diminishment, connection and alienation.
As Bradley puts it, “I’ve been living on this line my whole life of what masculinity even fucking means in the first place.”
I was probably watching a baby cow running in a field or a woman sneaking into the shower with her husband while wearing a Halloween mask when I first stumbled into the realm of POV eye-gazing clips. Suddenly, there was this tousle-haired 2o-something man staring into my eyes, raising his eyebrows subtly, like he was trying to tell me something. He looked away coyly, then he looked back, as the corner of his mouth trembled into a shy half-smile. It reminded me of my pubescent early-internet downloads of movie trailers: I would isolate small scenes of romantic intrigue—double-takes of attraction, lust at first sight—and rewind and rewind and rewind. These weren’t big moments of rapture, but rather the everyday, relatable spark of attraction.
There is a subset of these POV experiences created by teen boys for teen girls, but my feed was soon taken over by videos produced by men for women.
Jacob Rott, a 21-year-old university student in Germany, specializes in videos simulating these prosaic experiences of flirtation. In one, he pretends to spot a cute new virtual classmate on Zoom while singing the lyrics, “I can’t stop myself from looking and noticing you, noticing me.” His videos have captions like, “Pov: fell in love with a stranger” and “pov: you’re my girlfriend.” Similar creators film themselves checking out or lusting after the viewer, sometimes confessing love. Often it’s lip-synced to a scene from a movie or TV show—a popular one being a moment of unreciprocated longing on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. “I try to make videos with content people can identify with,” he says. “That’s the key to getting interaction.”
It’s important, says Rott, to create scenarios that are “based in reality” but also have an element of fantasy—say, running into your crush and having them get flustered, too. Rott says that the majority of his fans are between the ages of 18 and 24. But it isn’t just early 20-somethings watching these kinds of videos.
Other creators, including James Joseph, a 33-year-old actor and model in Hollywood, find themselves with a fanbase of married women in their 30s and 40s. During quarantine, Joseph had to start filming most of his acting auditions himself at home. “Since I’m already in front of my lights with my camera on a tripod, why not just make some TikTok videos?” he said of the thought process that led him to start an account a couple months ago.
Soon, he says, “I fell into the niche of having a large female following and figuring out what they wanted,” which led to what he calls “cute little scenes.” Joseph often dresses up in a sharp suit—in a couple he brings roses to the viewer, as if on a first date. In one, he simply walks in the front door to a Michael Bublé song, and tells the viewer, stunned, “Wow, you look amazing.” He lip syncs to Ryan Gosling saying in The Notebook, “Tell me what you want and I’ll be that for you.”
Many of the TikTok scenarios on offer adhere to traditional heterosexual scripts quite literally, as in the case of lip-syncing Hollywood films. Given that, it is unsurprising that the popular standouts of this genre reflect a fundamental bias: Judging by the videos algorithmically served up to me, it is overwhelmingly white. For all the talk of TikTok democratizing entertainment, my feed mirrors fixed notions of just who gets to be a leading man.
Not all of Joseph’s content obviously draws on his acting: One of his most popular videos, with 5.7 million views, shows him simply switching, through the magic of editing, out of a t-shirt and sweats into a sharp tuxedo. “They love, love outfit changes,” he says. “They just like a well-dressed man.”These outfit changes, though, tap into romantic types that are highly familiar to Joseph, who has auditioned for Hallmark films and appeared on the covers of romance novels.
He speculates that the appeal for viewers is the fantasy of having a relationship with a thoughtful, well-dressed man. But, much as he is acting on TikTok, he isn’t falsely portraying a romantic illusion, he says. “It is genuine,” explains Joseph. “Opening doors and things like that, chivalry, those are the things I believe in, and that, in my life, have been welcomed with open arms. Not a lot of men do that, and I like to keep it alive.” Keeping it alive has gained him nearly half a million followers, roughly 90 percent of them women, he says.
That said, one of the most popular themes in this realm taps into more dominant and aggressive visions of masculinity. “My audience likes the character that I portray—being confident, looking at the camera, licking my teeth, smiling,” says Dean, who has filmed videos with themes of kink.Anything relating to 50 Shades of Grey does well, he says. In one popular video, he lip-syncs these lines read from a poem, “I will destroy you in the most beautiful way possible. And, when I leave, you will finally understand why storms are named after people.” In another he mouths, “Have you ever looked at someone… and fucked the shit out of them in your head?” One of Dean’s signature moves is slowly running his tongue over his teeth. “It tends to be quite a turn-on for some people,” he says. “Maybe it looks suggestive, it looks sexy?”
Recently, Dean posted a video with a younger friend and fellow TikToker, while pretending to be father and son. All they did was stand next to each other and look into the camera smiling to a soundtrack of a woman singing, “Let me show you what you’re missing: paradise.” Meanwhile, text on-screen read, “Father & Son Duo.” Viewers loved it. “I’m so glad I’m at the age where I can gladly and comfortably say I would love to be RAILED by both of them,” wrote one woman. Another said: “I’m not sure if I wanna be a step mom or daughter in law.”
Somewhat contrary to the faux father-son eye-winking and lip-syncs about destruction, Dean also hosts twice-daily livestreams where he chats with his mostly women fans about the challenges of life, including mistreatment by men. “A lot of men out there, the way they treat women, it’s disgusting,” he says.
This recalls the 2019 documentary Jawline, which follows the 16-year-old up-and-coming influencer Austyn Tester as he livestreams with his teen girl fans, talking to each as if she were his girlfriend. At a culminating meet-and-greet, his fans are portrayed as “uniformly depressed,” as the New Yorker’s Doreen St. Félix put it. “Some admit to cutting themselves. They say that, at school, they’re bullied,” wrote St. Félix. “But Tester doesn’t treat them like the other boys do. He loves them, through the screen.” While Dean’s fanbase is comprised of adult women, there is a similar dynamic at play: many are seeking out the kindness, consideration, and attention that they have not found in real life, specifically with men.
Dean went through a devastating divorce, he’s been through therapy, and he’s gotten in touch with his feelings, he tells me. In one TikTok clip, he tears up while taking his cat to the vet. Some of Dean’s fans consume just his raunchy content, some watch just the tender stuff, and a few overlap with both. “I think it’s refreshing for women to see that I can be sexy, I can be suggestive, but at the same time, they can have a conversation with me about emotions,” says Dean, who also posts motivational clips. “You can have the greatest, filthiest, naughtiest sex of your life, but you still want the man to open the door for you and buy you some flowers and come in and kiss you on the forehead.”
The axe-wielding Bradley accompanies his most popular wood-chopping fare with occasional tidbits of advice on relationships and self-esteem. “Clinging to somebody’s redeeming qualities just to stay in a relationship is kind of like buying a house because you really like the Persian rug that was in the den… the whole thing has to make sense for you to stay,” he says in one. In another video, he tells the camera, “When that person that was underperforming finally left your life, it got better, but lingering on that disappointment and anger is keeping you from feeling what better actually is.”
Taken together, this wide-ranging genre reveals women’s fantasies of being wooed and worshiped, wanted and taken, heard and understood.
It’s notable for a man to center himself in the camera’s frame in this way: they are surveying and cultivating themselves, frequently for women. Of course, a version of this is on display on countless dating profiles: the intentional construction of a desirable self alongside a flash of abdominals. But these TikTokers are presenting themselves as, not just worthy of a hypothetical right swipe, but as the worthy object of a woman’s entertainment, fantasies, or aspirations. Many accounts fall somewhere between Hallmark movie and pornographic OnlyFans.
While these creators highlight their own beauty, whether it’s a pair of intense blue eyes or a six-pack, they typically rely on storyline. Some dabble in broader viral trends of unrepentant horniness, like the silhouettechallenge, which saw people stripping down with a signature filter. I would be remiss to not mention the pussy-eating challenge, which sees men flicking their tongue to an impressively fast beat as a cunnilingual boast. The most consistent frisson, though, is one of context: the boy from class who can’t stop looking at you, or the man in the woods scrambling up eggs for a breakfast by the fire.
Researchers studying self-reported responses to heterosexual pornography, or “visual sexual stimuli,” have found that “both men and women project themselves into the scenario,” but that “men may be more likely to objectify the actors within the stimuli.” Reviewing related research, the same study speculated that women may pay more attention to context and non-sexual details, like clothing or background, “allowing for the creation of a social scenario.” Of course, if this is true, a host of social and cultural factors are undoubtedly at play, including gendered notions of men as sexual spectators. The question is never just what women want, as though that emerges in a vacuum, but what they are taught to want and what they feel safe wanting.
Dean has an OnlyFans where he posts nude photos, but his audience there is almost all men. In contrast, his TikTok fanbase is overwhelmingly women. “I think women want a more personal interaction,” he said.
Inevitably, a man offering himself for a woman’s consumption in this way threatens popular notions of masculinity. Many of these TikTokers toy with the “men act and women appear” maxim, tweaking the levels. The wildly popular Bradley often captures himself voyeuristically, his gaze ignoring the camera in favor of the wood-chopping or floor-sweeping task at hand. This seems a frequent requirement of the genre: Men act and appear. Still, Bradley says women will leave comments like, “This would be a lot manlier if you didn’t turn it into a TikTok.” His videos are sometimes met with explicit gender policing: Bradley shaves his legs to appear in fitness photoshoots, and it garners disparaging responses from some commenters, while others find it sexy.
It’s typically women who deliver criticism in his comments. “You’re finding these weird polar opposites of perspective of what a man should be or is,” he said. Some proclaim his muscular, wood-chopping image an example of “toxic masculinity,” while he says others, not infrequently, remark things like, “That’s not a manly man. Men don’t have abs. Men aren’t tan.” Being the subject of such public masculine parsing can be challenging. “If I was somebody who was any more insecure, if you caught me at around 19 or 20 years old, I would be really struggling right now,” he says. “It’s an everyday struggle for me to even figure out what being a man means.”
These men are rewarded with views and follows for traditionally masculine traits, from muscular physiques to chivalrous overtures, alongside displays of emotional intelligence and domestic responsibility. That alone is experienced by some as a careful, uncertain balance. “The world that I grew up in, masculinity was all about going to work, getting your hands dirty, you get a 9-to-5 job right when you graduate high school. Your aspirations are low, make the paycheck come home,” said Bradley, who got his master’s degree in exercise physiology and works as a strength and conditioning coach at a university. “You’re a man if you don’t complain. It’s a big part of the DNA of who I am.” At the same time, he says, “I do my dishes, I wash my clothes, and do stuff the stereotypical man isn’t exactly proud of doing.”
It’s an even trickier balance when a man is asking to be looked at. “He wants attention, he wants likes, there’s obviously something off about him,” says Bradley of the criticism he fields in comments threads.
In a recent video of Joseph in a suit, several commenters seized on the fact of him wearing loafers without socks. “GET A PAIR OF SOCKS ON!!!,” wrote one woman. “asking for a redo *with socks,*” commented another. Then he filmed a new version of the clip. “With socks,” he wrote, followed by a socks emoji and a sweating smiling face. Another popular TikToker posted a video of himself rubbing, seemingly naked, against his bed. While several woman responded with heart-eye emojis and the like, many others did the equivalent of pointing and laughing. One woman tagged several friends to write, “this ruined my day so I’m ruining yours.”
These critiques, which range from the superficially sartorial to the deeply gendered, seem an extension of the everyday experiences of women, who typically occupy the passive role, but they also specifically engage uneasily with tensions around masculinity andobjectification.
Sometimes, they take on the sexually aggressive nature of catcalling. A 2013 study on behavior at “male strip shows” suggested that women are often emboldened to “act wild, assertive, and free to perform their gender differently than they do on a day-to-day basis.” It’s what scholars call “gender role transcendence.” The researchers write, “When women experience gender role transcendence they behave in ways that mimic male stereotypes, and act contrary to how they would in the presence of their husbands, partners, or boyfriends.” It’s transcendence of an assigned role, but not of the script.
Women’s raunchy TikTok commentary is common enough to have spawned its own genre: The creator behind the popular account @savagemomlife, which boasts 1.8 million followers, specializes in highlighting women’s outrageously thirsty comments. Often she’s summoned with at-mentions multiple times in the threads on videos that fall within the thirst-trap-to-romance spectrum. In one such video of a man seemingly ready to make love to his duvet cover, a sampling of viewer comments: “Pretty sure I just felt my tubes untie,” “I don’t usually chase anyone but for you I’d put my crocs in sports mode,” “I unexpectedly started to ovulate after seeing this 1000 TIMES,” and “boy u gotta stop my kitten is sore!!!!!” Joseph says of commenters, “Oh my god, they really go in. They’ll say things like, ‘I’m pregnant now after watching your videos.’ I try not to respond to any of those comments.”
Unlike the other TikTokers, Bradley’s audience is nearly evenly split between men and women, but it’s the latter who are often most visible in his comments threads, making remarks like “I need a ventilator” and “You are getting all the housewives in trouble.” A popular remark: “theRe is Absolutely nothIng speciaL about this CoMmEnt” (i.e. RAIL ME). Married women in particular are his most vocal demographic, he says. A common trope is women remarking that their husbands are wondering why they’re hearing the same snippet of audio over and over again as they play his videos on loop. Jokes about infidelity are common.
Reading through these comments is to witness women raunchily pushing up against the boredom and disappointments of domesticity.
As much as the men I spoke with said they didn’t feel objectified by fans’ attention, several did express feelings of alienation. “Sometimes I think they’re too good,” says the 21-year-old Rott of the positive messages he gets from women fans on TikTok. “At the beginning, it was a very good feeling.” Now, though, he says, “It doesn’t make me happy like it did at the beginning. It makes you kind of cold, emotionally. It’s hard to keep up the emotion.” Recently, he’s been getting as many as 15 fan messages an hour.
“I know they just want my outward appearance,” he said. “They don’t know anything more about me. I didn’t tell them about me or my ambitions or my opinions.” Fans will even send him marriage proposals. “It’s not me,” he says of the image they’re lusting after. Similarly, Joseph says, “I like it when people are like, ‘Oh, you’re so creative’—that I like more than just, ‘You’re hunky’ or whatever,” he says. “They realize that I’m creative. I like those.”
Bradley is a realist about what draws in his viewers. “I don’t think a lot of people give a shit about what I have to say it’s just, ‘Take your shirt off and show us what you look like,’” he said. “The videos where I give people my opinion or share some of my expertise are never going to do as well as the videos where I’m shirt off, doing stuff outside. It is what it is.” He adds, “It’s assumed that I’m really fucking stupid most of the time.” His hope, though, is to use the shirtless wood-chopping videos to pull in a smaller percentage of viewers who are receptive to his messages around healthy relationships and self-acceptance.
“I keep sneaking it in, hoping that it will grab a few people,” he says. “I have to increase my platform to reach more ears, change more lives, and the best way for me to do so is with a bigger billboard. There might be something sinister about me taking advantage of the system, but that’s gonna be the way I get my voice out there.”
A blue car pulls up to a stop sign. Against all odds, it briefly, miraculously comes to a halt. Twitch chat goes ballistic. Numerous people spam “I was here” as pogchamp emotes flood in. This is Stopsigncam, a Twitch channel that suddenly has over 125,000 followers even though it’s just a camera trained on a single neighborhood intersection in Salem, Massachusetts.
Ideally, every car would stop at the sign, but that would ruin the fun. Stopsigncam’s stream title says it all: “98.73% of vehicles don’t stop.” That’s almost certainly an estimate, but if you watch the stream, it really is incredible how few drivers stop—or even pretend like they’re maybe going to do a halfhearted roll-through stop. Most drivers just pass right on by, despite how precariously close they come to getting into wrecks with other drivers. It’s an entirely unnecessary game of chicken that makes for weirdly riveting viewing, especially with chat yelling out every stop and non-stop its collective Eye of Sauron sees, doling out nicknames to cars, making memes, and establishing an ever-expanding lexicon of terms like “rollers” and “zoomers.” It’s like watching a gigantic esports event, only it’s cars passing by some rando’s front yard.
With the channel suddenly exploding in popularity, the Stopsigncam stream has also grown more eventful. Earlier this week, somebody got out of their car and did a backflip for the camera. Other people showed up one night and had a lightsaber duel. In just the past few hours today, a viewer walked up to the sign, identified himself in chat, and removed a sticker from the sign, which had previously been applied by some miscreant who sought to deface its purity (or do some advertising). Not long after, two other obvious stream snipers held up unreadable signs of their own while standing next to the stop sign. Some have speculated that the police now use the stream as a means of monitoring the stop.
The stream has a strange sort of intrinsic appeal, but that alone did not propel it to such absurd heights. According to longtime fans, it’s been running since at least last year, but it averaged single-digit viewer numbers, when it had any viewers at all. Then, over the weekend, a couple things happened: The stream got some play on Twitch drama hive turned kingmaker r/Livestreamfail, and probably most importantly, a big name, 100 Thieves intern JhbTeam, promoted the stream to his audience. First he tweeted about it, but it wasn’t until he created a TikTok on Monday that things got out of hand.
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“At first, I thought it’d just be a little fun joke between me and my audience on Twitter for only [one] night, because I deleted my tweet hours later,” Jhb told Kotaku in a DM. “When people actually stayed and watched it throughout the night, it made me want to create the TikTok to see if I could make it bigger. I went to bed that night when it had 400 viewers, and woke up to 4,000 viewers as well as my TikTok having 800k views in only a few hours. I’m very happy with the result of the TikTok because it was my ultimate goal to make it popular, and it became more popular than I imagined.”
The TikTok, which implores “bored” viewers to check out the stream and gives a rapid-fire summary of its appeal, now has over 2 million views. Ever since it caught on, Stopsigncam has had a consistent audience of 1,000-3,000 concurrent viewers 24 hours a day. So, for those keeping score, this all came about because a streamer made a tweet and TikTok about somebody else’s Twitch stream. Oh, and he recounted all of this in a YouTube video, as well.
The owner of the channel ended up giving Jhb moderation privileges, which he occasionally exercises to keep the chat he personally turned into an avalanche of screams from getting too rowdy, despite how busy he is working for a major gaming organization: “Since I was the first person in the stream and I was a verified user, the owner put trust into me and gave me moderation privileges,” Jhb said. “I’ll usually have the stream open on the side and if I see an inappropriate message or anything that could link to the location, I’ll ban that user.” (Kotaku reached out to Stopsigncam’s owner, who declined to answer questions for the time being, as well as a couple moderators, who did not reply in time for publication.)
“First personin the stream” might be a stretch, given that others claim to have been watching Stopsigncam for a little while now. One, a writer and financial analyst named Daniel Connolly, says he found the stream last year in Twitch’s travel and outdoors category. “I often leave location cams on as background while I work,” he told Kotaku in a DM. “I really started watching this stream during the winter, during a snowstorm.”
As a (relatively) longtime viewer, Connolly said he’s “happy” for Stopsigncam’s owner, but the growth spurt hasn’t impacted his viewing habits, since it’s all just background for him. Others, however, worry that in its transition from obscure curiosity to sensational stream sniper target, Stopsigncam has already lost something essential. One of those people is a viewer who goes by the handle Ilikecorndogs. Buoyed by his love of chat’s reactions to last-second stops and stunts like the aforementioned lightsaber duel, he created a subreddit for the Stopsigncam stream earlier this week. Now, though, he’s on the verge of being done with it.
“Honestly, after two days of knowing about [Stopsigncam], I’ve already grown out of it,” he told Kotaku in a DM. “I might hop into a stream here or there, but I feel like it grew too much out of a quirky stream in the corners of Twitch I was told about one night.”
Watching so many people show up during today’s stream clearly aware of the camera, it’s not hard to see where he’s coming from. Some Twitch sensations stick around and evolve into institutions. Others are just bizarre little moments. Before you know it, they’re over, because they were never meant to be anything else.
There are also more practical concerns: It has not been difficult for locals to figure out where Stopsigncam’s stop sign cam is positioned. What happens if somebody doxxes its owner? PC builder and streamer Robert “OD_Technology” O’Donnell, who says he was one of a few people who were involved in the lightsaber fights, doesn’t think it will come to that, but he acknowledges that it’s possible.
“We were able to find [the house] because we hang out in the bars [in] the area, but we won’t tell specifically where it is,” he told Kotaku in a DM. “I put up a Facebook post asking where or who it was, but I took it down immediately after thinking about it because we want it to be fun and not a risk… I really hope [the stream lasts] because the guy deserves it, but if locals ruin it, it will be on them and not him.”
He’s optimistic about the stream’s chances, though: “I think it will last a long time,” he said.
The whole moment has remained remarkably wholesome so far, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay that way, with thousands of people tuning in to watch the daily lives of hundreds of unknowing others. Despite watching for longer than most, Connolly thinks Stopsigncam feels temporary—like a brief roll-through rather than what the unmissable red sign tells everybody to do.
“I assumed people would have moved on by now,” he said. “I suppose it’ll last as long as the chat stays active and friendly. It feels like an ephemeral moment in a tiny, weird corner of the internet.”
Dethroned 24-year-old influencer David Dobrik, who started out in the boozy man cave of YouTube and migrated to a more family-friendly neighborhood of D’Amelios, has now exited the photo-sharing app Dispo, which launched just three weeks ago.
Dispo, which Dobrik co-founded as “David’s Disposable,” has said that he’s left so as not to “distract from the company’s growth.” This follows a string of accusations of abuse against Dobrik and his “Vlog Squad,” including alleged sexual assault by one former member, and a subsequent sponsor exodus.
Dobrik, a 24-year-old Teen Choice Award winner, is known for stunts and shenanigans with a rotating cast of reality TV-style bros, which has reportedly earned him a $9.5 million mansion with a Hawaiian punch fountain and, once, a namesake Chipotle burrito.
In addition to cutting ties with his own company after less than a month, Dobrik’s corporate partners, including EA Sports, DoorDash, and HelloFresh, also gave him the boot over the weekend.
Other influencers have pointed out a history of bullying, misogyny, and racism in earlier Vlog Squad videos. One woman, speaking to Business Insider, alleged sexual assault by former Vlog Squad member Dominykas Zeglaitis for the purposes of a 2018 video. The woman, who says she was a sophomore at the time, claims that Zeglaitis supplied her alcohol.
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In the video, which has since been set to private on YouTube, the line between reality and spoof is vanishingly thin. “My buddy’s girl’s over to have a fivesome, so hopefully we’ll have a fivesome tonight,” Zeglaitis tells the camera. As a large group of girls enters, one says, “I have to let you guys know, I don’t really know any of you.” One can be seen led into a bedroom, while the group gathers outside the door to listen. At the end of the video, Dobrik tells the camera: “Dom just had a threesome, and I think we’re all…[laughs]…going to jail.” According to Business Insider, Dobrik removed the video at the request of the alleged victim but not before it had been viewed over 5 million times.
Last summer, former Vlog Squad member and influencer Seth Francois compiled a series of clips in which Dobrik’s crew treat racism as a joke—for example, using blackface and watermelon as punchlines. Dobrik remained silent after the video’s release. Francois later told the influencer-focused YouTube podcast, H3, that he’d been forced to perform non-consensual contact with an older comedian in a now-deleted 2017 video titled “HE THOUGHT HE WAS KISSING HER!! (SUPER CRINGEY).”
Also on the H3 podcast, former Vlog Squad member Nik Keswani also said that he felt that Dobrik exploited his rare form of dwarfism for comedy. He said Dobrik agreed when asked to stop, but Keswani added, “I knew that by saying that, I wasn’t going to be in the content anymore.”
After months of brushing off or ignoring calls for accountability, Dobrik issued a video last week titled “Let’s Talk,” less apology than an entreaty for followers not to abandon him. “Consent is something that’s super super important to me,” he says, in front of a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award, adding that he always makes sure he has “approval” from people in his videos and that there are times “when a person can change their mind.” Referring to the “Seth situation,” a series of racist remarks and pranks, Dobrik says, “I missed the mark with that one.” He adds that he’s grown. “I don’t agree with some of the videos I’ve posted,” he says.
“David has chosen to step down from the board and leave the company to not distract from the company’s growth,” Dispo told Gizmodo via email. “Dispo’s team, product, and most importantly- our community- stand for building a diverse, inclusive, and empowering world.” Earlier this month, CNBC described “buzzy” Dispo as “the invite-only picture sharing app everyone’s talking about.” The idea is to replicate the disposable camera by removing editing functions and delaying “developing” time so that users can’t see photos until the following morning. Last year, the app received $4 million from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who praised Dobrik as a “motivated visionary.”
Venture capital firm Six Seven Six, which led the seed round of investment for Dispo, said in a statement published on Twitter, “The recent allegations against David Dobrik are extremely troubling and are directly at odds with Seven Seven Six’s core values.” The firm said it is “in full support” of Dispo’s “decision to part ways with David.”
Soon after Business Insider published assault allegations against Zeglaitis, the venture capital firm Spark Capital announced that it was cutting off Dispo. HelloFresh, Dollar Shave Club, and EA Sports followed. Dobrik stepped down from the board before bowing out entirely.
So you’re in the market for a ring light a year into the pandemic? It’s ok, totally not judging you. But since you’re here, let me tell you about this TaoTronics 12″ Selfie Ring Light. Only $60 with the promo code KINJACL025 and a clipped coupon, you’ll get a 12″ LED ring light, a 17-78″ expandable tripod stand, phone holder, a Bluetooth remote to wirelessly start recording video or shoot photos from your phone, as well as three color modes ranging from cool to warm in order to receive the proper lighting for your skin tone.
The included phone clamps can support vertical or horizontal shooting and is compatible with Apple or Android. Not only that but if you haven’t abandoned your DSLR, you can use the tripod for traditional photography. Sounds like a great deal all around. Make sure to credit me when your TikTok goes viral!
This deal was originally published by Ignacia Fulcher on 02/23/2021 and updated on 3/23/21.
Clubhouse, the invite-only audio chat app that has enamored the tech industry elite, is on the lookout for influencers. Because what social media app can be without influencers?
In a town hall on Sunday, the company announced that it was creating “Clubhouse Creator First,” its first creator accelerator program. The program aims to support and equip 20 creators with the resources they need to host good conversations, build their audiences, and monetize, per Clubhouse. The deadline to submit applications is March 31.
While that’s all fine and dandy—heaven knows I love following cat influencers on Instagram and TikTok, and yes that’s a thing—Clubhouse should probably consider making its influencers easy to find. (It should also focus on tightening its security, but that’s a different story).
As pointed out by Wired, it’s not exactly easy to get an idea of what someone is like just by looking at their Clubhouse profile (although a brave user did try and came up with this list). In contrast to Instagram and TikTok, you can’t just scroll through someone’s previous Clubhouse chats, see how many conversations a user has participated in, or how many people liked listening to them. No, you have to wait for the user to enter a room, listen to what they say, and then decide if you want to follow them.
I mean, no offense to Clubhouse, but I don’t know if I have the patience for that. Who knows, maybe it’s me who’s missing out. (Disclosure: I’m not on Clubhouse).
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Besides announcing its accelerator program, Clubhouse also shared a few product updates. Users will now be able to share a link to their profiles or clubs and invite new users to the platform via their phone number.
This means that Clubhouse will no longer need to access ask users for access to their phone contacts in order to let them send invites. Users can reach out to the company to ask it to delete previously uploaded contacts, the Verge reported, and a tool to delete previously uploaded contacts is in the works. In addition, Clubhouse will remember the language of the rooms users tend to join and filter the others.
Clubhouse allows users to set up audio chat rooms, and is popular among Silicon Valley types (and a few far-righttrolls who have taken advantage of its loose approach to moderation and hang out there with a clique of culture-war venture capitalists.) It was briefly available in China, but after users dared to bring up topics anathema to the Chinese government, including concentration camps for Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, relations with Taiwan, and crackdowns on the independence of Hong Kong, state censors banned the app in early February.
Many people in China nonetheless remain able to access the app using virtual private networks that allow them to bypass government firewalls, according to Bloomberg, though there remains concern Clubhouse’s infrastructure operators in China could still hand over user data.
According to Reuters, at least a dozen apps cloning Clubhouse’s functionality have launched in China since, though generally with the expectation that they will employ more stringent moderation techniques to ensure users don’t buck the party line. There’s already an established market for similar apps in China like Zhiya, a music and video gaming-centric app popular with young people and that employs moderators to listen in on every conversation. ByteDance’s plans are in the early stages, sources told Reuters.
According to the South China Morning Post, ByteDance is also moving aggressively into the mobile gaming space dominated by rival firm Tencent Holdings.
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Marco Lai Jinnan, the founder of China-based audio chat app Lizhi, told the SCMP any effort to replicate Clubhouse’s freewheeling environment by a Chinese firm is likely doomed to fail. Any prospective developers would need to make massive concessions to state speech regulators, he said. A firm named Inke built and launched a Clubhouse clone called Duihuaba in little over a week, enlisting chic celebrities like venture capitalists and fashion critics to promote it, but was quickly retracted with little explanation to the media other than that it was incomplete.
“It will be very difficult to create a Clubhouse-like app in China. The form of Clubhouse will most likely be altered in China,” Marco Lai told the SCMP. “The regulatory environments are different, content safety requirements are also quite different. So it’s hard to just replicate its existing form.”
ByteDance isn’t the only company eyeing up Clubhouse and seeing a juicy font of potentially ripoff-able ideas. Twitter, which is rapidly rolling out new features, is rolling out an audio room tool called Spaces. Facebook is also reportedly building its own bastard version of the app.
The hacktivist collective Distributed Denial of Secrets—which recently came under fire for leaking one of the largest repositories of law enforcement documents ever recorded—is back with another high profile data-dump. This time, the group claims to have gotten its hands on a whopping 70-gigabyte dataset from Gab, the far-right social network that became one of the last online havens willing to host far-right personalities following Parler’s recent deplatforming.
According to a blog post from DDOSecrets, the dataset doesn’t only contain tens of millions of public posts from the site, it also includes private posts, user profiles, and in some instances, what appear to be plaintext passwords. Whether or not one of those accounts belonged to former president Donald Trump or was merely using his name is unclear, and made more so by conflictingstatements by Gab’s CEO.
Per WIRED, which first covered the news, DDoSecrets was approached by a third-party hacktivist that siphoned the data from one of Gab’s backend in an attempt to expose the ranks of goons, bigots, and extreme nationalists currently teeming on the platform. The way this third party was able to siphon off this data, according to DDoSecrets cofounder Emma Best, was using what’s known as an SQL injection vulnerability—a relatively common bug that allows hackers (or hacktivists) pry into a site’s databases.
Best explained that the group won’t be releasing this data publicly because of the sensitive information it contains—i.e. private chats, passwords, etc. Instead, the group has been sharing data with parties that have a “proven track record of doing research in the public interest,” including journalists and social scientists with a focus on the far-right.
If you’re wondering how Gab reacted to this news, the answer is: pretty badly. After being contacted by WIRED on Friday in advance of the database’s publication, CEO Andrew Torba put up a statement on Gab’s corporate blog not only refuting the hack, but implying that the hacker and journalist were colluding in an effort to “smear our business and hurt you, our users.” (For what it’s worth, DDoSecret has called these accusations “entirely false,” adding that “the Wired reporter has had no contact with the DDoSecrets source.”)