Twitter does allow nudes and pornography, though users have to enable the settings that warn others of sensitive content. But it’s a lot more relaxed than Instagram when it comes to allowing hateful speech.
To alter community members, high numbers of hearts and retweets translate into positive emotions and validation from their peers. They are willing to invest time and effort in their profile updates to garner more attention and likes.
Why do Chinese gay men like porn content on Twitter?
While Twitter is blocked in China, some users access it through VPNs. Jasper is one of them, and he finds the platform exciting. “It’s a world of sexually explicit media,” he said. “I can’t wait to find something to post.”
In China, where social media has a prominent place in popular culture, these queer men are creating and sharing their own content. They have become known as wanghuang, or sex influencers, and they operate in a different way from the traditional pornography industry. They blend pleasure with media production and monetize their erotic practices on Twitter by selling videos, emojis, and other digital products.
As sex influencers, they occupy a privileged position on the internet, as their sexy content transcends national boundaries and evades government censorship. Twitter’s lenient policy toward nudity and pornography facilitates their development as a distinct category of non-normative sex media in China. The emergence of hard-core short sex videos on Twitter reflects a larger trend of platformization that transforms non-normative sex and pornography in dynamic ways across the global internet.
The commodification of attention and validation
Twitter’s sex-positive policy allows users to post nudes and homemade videos of up to two minutes. This sex-positive approach to an increasingly sex-wary internet has drawn the attention of a faction of gay men, who use Twitter to explore kinks like group sex, bareback sex and exhibitionism.
The commodification of attention and validation is also evident in the way these gay men use their alt accounts to share pornography. Louis, for example, started his alt after posting a series of faceless dick photos on Reddit’s subforum for such content and getting a positive response from the community. “That gave me confidence that I had something sexually attractive to offer my partners,” he says.
The popularity of these accounts has not escaped the notice of the company that runs Twitter. In fact, it has become a point of contention at recent congressional hearings on social media sites’ hateful conduct policies. Republican Reps. Robert Garcia and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez worked to condemn anti-LGBTQ bigotry from their colleagues as they grilled former Twitter executives at the House Oversight Committee’s first hearing on Twitter’s content policy changes since Elon Musk took over as CEO last fall.
Twitter’s adaptive algorithm
Twitter’s adaptive algorithm allows for a fluid, dynamic approach to moderation. Tweets that may violate the company’s hate speech policy, for example, are automatically reduced in visibility, a practice that reduces the number of views, retweets, and followers that they receive. This practice, known as “shadow banning,” is not explicitly disclosed to users or the media.
Twitter users also create alt accounts to share homemade porn content, including nude selfies and consensual sex videos. Twitter’s media policy allows these posts to be shared for up to two minutes and 20 seconds, which is more than enough time to show off a bit of flesh and titillate the audience.
Ultimately, the alter community’s pornographic practices reflect the real-life situations of gay men, who struggle to find emotional and sexual satisfaction in a society that stigmatizes their homosexuality. The commodification of attention and validation, as well as the need to attract positive feedback and higher social engagement, fuels the production of serial pornography on Twitter. But the articulations and expressions of sexuality that emerge from these processes are often illusory.
The rise of amateur porn
Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter does not censor pornography. As a result, many people use the platform to post pornographic content. While some of this content is generic straight pornography, others feature nudity and sex. These accounts can be very popular, gaining hundreds of thousands of followers. The most popular account, Xmov, has more than 200k tweets and adds new content daily.
The rise of amateur pornography has become a major part of the changing landscape of gay culture on Twitter. It reflects the way in which sexual minorities commodify their bodies and experiences to meet both immediate personal needs and lasting social issues.
Amateur pornographers weave serial narratives about their sexual experiences on Twitter, complete with subplots of their personal relationships, anonymous hookups, encounters with regular sex partners, and musings about their sexual desires. They also add emotive textual expressions that deepen the affective potentials of their content. This enables them to reach more hearts and retweets, which translates into greater validation and visibility in the alter community.