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Hot Tub Streams, also referred to as the Hot Tub Meta, are a trend on the livestreaming website Twitch that involves female streamers broadcasting while sitting in a hot tub, pool or other type of bath while wearing a swimsuit. As revealing outfits are not normally allowed on the platform, the tactic offered a loophole that allowed streamers to wear them, therefore attracting viewers interested in sexualized content. The trend became a subject of controversy as people debated whether Twitch should continue allowing the loophole in May 2021.
On April 21st, 2020, Twitch released the latest update of its "Nudity and Attire Policy." The update included situational exceptions for the standard policy, one exception being that wearing swimwear during streams while swimming or at beaches was acceptable. While hot tub streams were held by streamers before 2021, the current trend did not start until December 2020 and remained relatively unnoticed until late March 2021.
Variety Twitch streamer XoAeriel credits herself with popularizing the trend. In an interview with Kotaku, XoAeriel claimed that in December 2020 she started doing Just Chatting streams while sitting in a hot tub in her swimsuit, with her following rapidly growing. XoAeriel's broadcast performance improved from 700 average viewers in early December to 2,500 viewers in February. (follower graph and stream screenshot shown below).
In the following months, the practice gained notable popularity among female streamers. The list of streamers who held at least one hot tub stream in 2021 includes streamers Amouranth, Alinity, spoopykitt, Firedancer, IndieFoxx, AZRA, SeriousGaming and others (stream screenshots shown below).
On March 21st, 2021, Twitch streamer MsBananas tweeted about the hot tub streams, writing, "What in the actual fuck happened to twitch…?! I really wanna know…. 🤢🤮" The tweet (shown below) received over 810 retweets and 10,200 likes in two months and gave start to the viral discussion about the "hot tub meta."
Starting in late March 2021, the "hot tub meta" became a subject of viral discussions, with some users criticizing streamers over producing sexualized content on a platform with a young audience and Twitch over refusing to introduce clear rules on clarifying and enforcing its policies, while others defended the streamers, labelling the controversy misogynistic.
Responses to the "hot tub meta" from Twitch streamers have been mixed. Streamers Asmongold and Pokimane expressed support for the individuals involved in the practice, calling it harmless, while criticizing Twitch for failing to deliver proper moderation. Streamer xQc denounced the meta, describing it as "the most pathetic thing we've seen on Twitch in forever."
In April and May 2021, the controversy remained a popular topic of discussion, particularly on Twitter and in the /r/LivestreamFail subreddit.
Twitch Response, Streamer Bans and Amouranth Demonetization
On April 22nd, 2021, Twitch streamer Imjasmin was banned for one day after a "wardrobe malfunction" during a hot tub livestream. On April 25th, male streamer udysof was banned for one day after mocking the "hot tub meta" by sitting in an inflatable pool in a bra and leaning into the camera.
On April 28th, during Twitch's "Let's Chat" stream, Twitch's Head of Creator Development Marcus ‘djWHEAT’ Graham said that the situation with the hot tub meta was being monitored "closely" (clip shown below).
We understand at Twitch that this has been getting a lot of attention from the community lately and we have been watching closely. Our community and entire policy does allow bathing suits in an appropriate context, and hot tubs do fall under that criteria. However, what has not changed is sexually suggestive and explicit content is not allowed under the guidelines, under the ToS, and Twitch will take action when this is reported to us.
On May 18th, 2021, streamer Amouranth reported that on May 17th Twitch disabled her ability to run ads on her streams without communication any reason for the action. In the thread, Amouranth commented that Twitch's actions set "an alarming precedent" (tweets shown below). The incident was reported on by several news outlets, including BBC.
Twitch adds category "Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches"
On May 21, 2021, Twitch published a blog post in which they announced the creation of a new streaming category called "Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches". This was as a direct response to the hot tub controversy, and intended to allow viewers and advertisers alike to easily exclude hot tub streams from their experience. Twitch states that streamers may only wear swimwear when streaming under this new category.
The blog post was posted on r/LivestreamFails where it gained 38,000 upvotes in less than 12 hours.
The trend has been parodied by a number of streamers, including padodies by streamer Pokimane and other members of her network OfflineTV (shown below, left) and by streamer RTGame (shown below, right).