Twitch Streamer Explains Why Painting Her Body On Camera Isn't Sexual

Photo: Sophia “Djarii” White

The equation underlying Sophia “Djarii” White’s Twitch stream is really pretty simple. She loves video games, art, and makeup, so she combines those things to express herself, resulting in intricate paintings where her body is the canvas. White’s talent is immediately clear, and yet, she has courted no small amount of controversy for simply doing her thing. Some viewers insist her art is nothing more than a Trojan horse for illicit nudity on Twitch.

White, who studied art in two different universities in England and Scotland before becoming a Twitch streamer, did not see any of this coming when she first got started. She was content to largely stream video games until Twitch opened the floodgates for “IRL” channels back in 2016, at which point she decided to try face-painting, themed around characters from games like World of Warcraft. It was a natural progression—makeup, she told Kotaku at TwitchCon earlier this month, has always been a core part of her identity.

“I was a very awkward-looking kid,” White said. “I found myself with a bunch of friends who listened to heavy metal and wore big, black makeup and really out-there clothing. That just made me feel like the best version of myself. Ever since then, I’ve been trying crazy makeup.”

After making it to the finals of a major makeup competition but ultimately failing to win, White decided she wanted to up her game, resulting in her more elaborate works on Twitch. These sometimes involve painting not just her face, but large portions of her body. White said the process is not entirely dissimilar from painting on canvas, except she’s looking in a mirror, so everything is reversed. This makes things like calligraphy a nightmare, she said, but mostly, it’s about training your eyes. Well, that and having the mental fortitude to power through painting sessions that sometimes last as long as 15 hours.

Photo: Sophia “Djarii” White

Even for White, whose bread and butter is putting paint on surfaces as naturally as regular people put butter on bread, this can take a toll. “It can be very exhausting mentally,” she said. “Makeup and any art is an intimate and personal thing that it’s sometimes hard to share with the world. There are so many judgements and critiques, and sometimes you can’t take Jimmy in chat over there telling you that your painting style just isn’t really up to his taste.”

These days, Twitch is about far more than just games. There is, however, still a perception among portions of the Twitch community that anyone who steps outside the realm of pure video game streaming is leeching off the hard-won success of gamers. This goes double for any woman found to be committing the Twitch crimes of a) existing and b) having a body.

Over the years, multiple controversies have erupted around this, including debates over so-called “titty streamers” showing skin, battles over whether or not women are using sex appeal to steal viewers from men, suspensions for relatively modest cosplay, and outrage at breastfeeding on stream.

Body painting was an early target for these sorts of tirades because it represented one of the first instances in which Twitch explicitly allowed a degree of nudity, typically from women. It remains a popular target for angry users to call out as proof of their conspiracy theory that Twitch has become an infernal amplification engine for women’s deceptive wiles.

White, as one of Twitch’s most popular body painters, receives more of this abuse than most. Given that there is nothing intrinsically sexual about her work, she’s disheartened by this response, but not exactly surprised.

“They think it’s really sexual because they think a woman’s body is inherently sexual—which it is not,” she said. “Context is a very, very important thing. I would say that body painting leaves as much to your imagination as a tight T-shirt does. Most people who tune in don’t necessarily notice that it’s a paint for a while, because their brains don’t even recognise it.”

White’s goal is to set an example that viewers and haters alike can learn from, so that things will be better on Twitch not just for her, but for the whole community of streamers who specialise in makeup and body painting.

“I prefer just to educate people on what is and isn’t sexual and why context is very important in this matter,” she said. “And also that being sexual is not a bad thing at all. If you don’t like that part of Twitch, then just don’t watch those channels.”

“Not all body painting includes the entire body, nor is it only on a woman,” White said. “There are male body painters as well, and you don’t see the same comments flying toward those guys.” White will sometimes just do face painting, or paint down to her shoulders, or further down her torso. “All of them are the same as far as sexuality goes, which is non-existent in any way, shape, or form,” she said. “There are ways to get sexuality across that are much easier than spending 15 hours to paint yourself to look like something that isn’t really sexual at all.”

These days, her audience includes many converted sceptics. “Often, I hear ‘I wasn’t a fan of this whole body painting thing, but I’ve really opened my eyes to it,” she said.

Beyond the art of body painting, a woman’s choice of makeup (or to not wear any) can often raise the hackles of Twitch’s primarily male audience.

Just look at the overblown outraged and derisive response to top streamer Imane “Pokimane” Anys’ decision to go without makeup at the start of a stream last year. After many users mocked Anys’ makeup-less appearance and pointed to this as an example of women using makeup to deceive men, other women streamers also went without makeup in a show of solidarity.

In her time as a makeup-focused streamer, White has found that people often view makeup as some kind of trick. She wishes people could just be “kinder,” and said that she thinks Anys is “beautiful” with or without makeup. But also, she believes, that’s not really what last year’s big makeup blowup was really about. Some viewers freaked out because they realised that what Anys did in that moment wasn’t for them.

“It’s not a trick. It’s not for anyone else,” White said. “It’s not for any dude who I’m trying to impress, you know? People need to remember that we do things for ourselves—not for the men who think, ‘Ah, I’m being tricked.’”

Photo: Sophia “Djarii” White

White loves what she does, and finds new angles from which to approach it. This year, she put together a look inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting, which involved painting with latex so as to recreate the painting’s almost raised-off-the-canvas textured effect, something White had “never seen before” in body painting. It’s now one of the works of which she is most proud, she said.

But, she said, there’s still nothing quite like doing body paintings of video game characters that have “significance” to her. “I do a lot of World of Warcraft ones because that game has been a big, big part of my life for the past 11 years,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words. It’s just so badass. When you’ve painted yourself as Sylvanas Windrunner, The Banshee Queen, and you just look so amazing, it’s like, wow. It just feels great.”

“I just love that people will look at me and be like, ‘Wow, your makeup is really spectacular!’ That makes me feel so proud and so happy,” she said. “That’s just how I love the world to see me.”


Comments

    Twitch desperately needs to clear up its policies on what is and isn't acceptable with regards to how streamers can present themselves. The current rules are inconsistently applied, enabling internet shitbirds to take down streamers for arbitrary idiotic reasons.

      Indeed there are a lot of streamers that abuse this system. in this case this particular streamer actually seems to have talent at painting, rather than just an awareness of being above average in looks and taking advantage of it.

      That said I'm not sure what her starting point is, which could be an issue. I mean if it's just pasties without a base paint first then really what's the problem with many other near topless streamers?

      Responses to these types of articles are always the same:

      Person aged 10 - 40 (give or take) without kids: "This is ridiculous! Stop censoring this beautiful woman! It's arrrrttt!"

      Person aged 25 - 50 with kids: "I mean... I personally like it. But I'd rather my kids didn't watch it yet"

      Streaming providers will try to walk the line. Both markets are important.
      In the meantime, we'll all continue to raaaaaage.

      They do. There's a reason people are going Mixer Exclusive, outside of the money. Hell, the massive 'backlash' that the sloops were going on about after Ninja moved over to mixer was lulzy. Mixer CLEARLY defines there rules for appropriate ages and the like, and they all complain cos they would not be able to dress as they do on Twitch. I think that shows how slutty some streamers get.

      In the case of body painting tho, it's a bit wired. We have someone who is an artist, who is panting a canvas that happens to be a human body. The issue what's being painted and some people can't cope with it. I think it depends on what's being painted too, as in what it looks like after.

      Personally, though, I don't have a problem with body panting. The Bodypaint show on Nextflix is really cool to watch, especially when there doing the camo challenges.

    If you're showing your boobs on stream with or without body paint, then yes I'd say that's where it crosses the line.

    While I agree there is inequality in society in general in the sense that it's acceptable for men to be seen without a shirt but not women, the fact is she's still showing boobs on stream which is against TOS (or at least is supposed to be), regardless of whether she thinks it's sexual or not.

      I am pretty sure she has her boobs fully covered by cloth when she is painting her body though. Not like she is doing it nude or anything. I personally do not see the sexual nonsense behind it, but that's my opinion. (By the way I am a super sexual human for the record lol).

      Well.. considering human females evolved permanently enlarged breasts for the purposes of attracted a mate, which is further evidenced by the fact that no other female mammal has permanently enlarged breasts, then yeah.. it's sexual, regardless of what the "woke" crowd say.

      There is literally no other reason for permanently enlarged breasts...

      In saying that, I'm all for #freethenipple

        What about holding more milk? Hormones that have been apart of a daily diet? These are a few reasons other then "women evolved to grow larger breasts to attract the opposite sex".

          There is no correlation between larger breasts and milk production, larger breasts size is due too more fatty tissue.

          Second post didn't want to edit and go into moderation.
          Larger breasts were a sign that a female was ready to procreate as humans can reproduce all year around a physical indicator evolved so a potential mate would view the larger breasts as a sign the female was able too sustain an infant.

          This was evolution (for whatever reason) removing indicators such as smell and "going into heat" as a means too determin if a sexual partner was able to become pregnant.

          Maybe it was becuase we slowly lost our sense of smell to what it is today becuase of our species becoming smarter and no longer needing to track prey by scent we slowly lost the ability to pick up on those indicators (they might still be there we just can't detect it)

          Usually in primates engorged breasts are a sign of a nursing mother, so it's a "turn off" as she is most likely unable to reproduce, since we evolved to not only reproduce all year around and also lost the ability to indicate that we were "ready" other secondary sex characteristics also evolved.

          It's worth noting that this is a theory about larger breasts and why the only species on this planet developed them is us, maybe we were too dumb to pick up on the signs like our unevolved ancestors and too smart too no longer need them.

          This was all ten's of thousands of years ago when we were discovering fire and bonking females on the head as a type of "foreplay".

        A few things to remember here. We aren't just animals anymore. Those days are long gone. Evolution is a series of genetic mutations over an unfathomable amount of generations, not something we intentionally did. We didn't evolve thumbs for a specific purpose and we certainly wouldn't say they're defined by their original use. Nothing had a purpose a purpose was simply found for mutations that occurred.
        When you talk about women's evolution you're generally talking about rape. It's not so much all the women deciding to grow big ol' boobies as big ol' boobies to attract partners as women with big boobs were more prone to be impregnated with children that survived until they reached breeding age. Even then it has more to do with raising healthy infants than sexual partners. If you go that path you've got to consider pretty much everything that would attract a males gaze as purely sexual and that gets crazy fast.

        Evolution never supports any form of cultural bias. It can help trace back and explain cultural bias but it's never a case of 'we evolved this way, so as modern humans we have no control over how we act'. It's not some clinical way of looking at humanity and justifying our faults.

          Wow.... There is so much in that that has literally zero to do with what I said.

          But you're right, women didn't decide to grow permanently enlarged breasts to attract mates, it just happened to be that those that had "larger" breasts generally did better at finding a mate, therefore those genes were passed on.

          I mean, did a male peacock "decide" to grow a beautiful and large tail display? No, but those who had the better tails were more successful at finding a partner and reproducing.

          The fact that women with very little breast tissue can successfully raise a healthy child throws out any notion that women need "large breasts" to do such.

          Unfortunately, female breasts are designed/were evolved to be sexual, that's just basic evolutionary science.

          Has zero to do with the "male gaze" or "cultural bias"

            Wait. Let's back up a second. If you're not saying that evolution supports the idea that women's breasts are inherently sexual what are you saying? Why are evolutionary paths relevant? Best case scenario all your assumptions about evolution are correct... and we're still left asking why ancient female breast evolution has anything to do with how breasts are treated in modern society.

              Then we are saying the exact same thing, and you went on a long winded explanation to say "I agree" *shrug*

          We aren't just animals anymore Those days are long gone.

          Insert pic of Thor saying "Is it Though" here.

        You do realise men can grow enlarged breast tissue too, right? That its not uncommon?

        Also that many women have smaller breast tissue?

        Also your spiel about attraction is a stupid assumption with no scientific backing.

          When men grow *actual* breast tissue, it's usually due to abnormal levels of estrogen.

          That's called genetics... You know, there are male peacocks that don't have such a large and colourful tail... there are many instances in the wild of such things, in fact, the only place you won't really find such things is where eugenics is involved.

          It's actually backed by evolutionary science. Look it up yourself. It all began when our ancestors started to develop the ability to walk upright on two legs. Go read about it yourself

      The (short) video embedded in the article describes her pre-stream preparation: pasties to cover the nipples followed by coats of liquid latex paint to give a smooth opaque appearance. It's potentially showing less boob skin than some low cut tops.

    Not sure if this article would have had the same tone if Nathan hadn't of written it, good job.

    The article is well handled gets the point across without acting morally superior or attacking entire groups of people becuase of a vocal minority that are total shit birds.

    Okay I have to admit I clicked on this thinking “Oh this’ll be good, how exactly is it not sexual?”
    But reading it... yeah, I do see her point now and kind of feel bad for thinking that. What she is painting isn’t sexual in nature at all and I don’t see Michaelangelo’s David or Dr Manhattan in Watchmen as sexual despite their dicks being in full view so I probably shouldn’t see this as sexual either.

    Personally I don't have an issue with it if they have a way of age-gating it. It's not like she's doing sexual acts on camera or whatnot. Body art is done by many and she's clearly talented. If it crossed a line and became a sexualised show, then sure, get her the hell out of there, but while it's just going for an almost cosplayesque approach, meh. Live and let live.

      Problem with age gating is that it is pretty easy to get around that, although it does cover Twitch's behind, at the same time though it would open a Pandora's box of other adult related content. So it is a tricky one to try and get right.

      Twitch does have a very basic age-gating system. Basically you can set a preference to say that your stream contains mature content, and it will pop-up a message before loading the video that you just have to click an agree button to clear.

      Obviously it's not really super-effective but I guess it's the minimum required by Twitch's legal team.

        Yeah well it’s bullshit. Seperate adults from children using a robust system. Clicking ‘I agree’ is the laziest bullshit ever.

          It is a necessary step towards better parental controls though: once streamers are self-declaring if their streams include mature content, you can do things like letting a user set a PIN that needs to be entered to watch such content.

          It's not clear how much more can be done from the streamer's side (apart from puritans simply telling them "don't").

    There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the way twitch operates its guidelines. Be consistent, you idiots.

    Seriously, a semi naked female form? Fucking prudes...

    "a woman’s body is inherently sexual—which it is not,” I disagree. Wether its through society or just myself but I tend to find womens bodies, the curves and lines, very sexual. Especially when they look as beautiful as her which is obviously no way her fault. But sending anyone negative messages is just douchebaggery.

    I think you're misunderstanding the meaning of comment.
    She isn't saying the female form can't be or isn't sexual, she's saying it's not inherently sexual, meaning it's purpose is not confined only to that.
    (For most folks anyway)

    That body art (by the artist the article focused on) is absolutely incredible - how anyone could think it to be purely a sexual ploy is beyond me. Especially given the fact that some of it took upwards of 15 HOURS to create. This is truly art, and nothing more.

    To think we live in a world now where this has to be explain. Sigh.

    Nudity has no place on Twitch. That's pretty cut and dry. It's their platform, and you have to respect their rules.

      They need to respect their streamers and viewers enough to properly define their rules. Also no nudity is taking place. Her chest is covered pre-stream it's just extremely form fitting.

      Except they allow it anyway including from Male streamers.

        Don't remember any male twitch streamer having a fit for being banned for flopping out his penis live on stream

    The underlying problem is that you can't tell people what to think about things. We each take everything in a different way, the same story told to different people will receive different responses.

    Some will see this as an expression of art, others see sexualisation, both, neither and various other thoughts can be taken by it.

    Is this the body painting streamer that other female streamers use as an example of double standards when they get banned for wearing a sports top?

    “They think it’s really sexual because they think a woman’s body is inherently sexual—which it is not,”

    ^ this. If a man were to go topless on Twitch, I don't think anyone would complain. Why is it different for a woman to do the same? Her body is not sexual in nature - only when a person does something sexual with their body (context) is that then sexual.

    People need to get over this old-fashioned way of thinking. It's toxic.

      So ok for me to paint my penis and ball sack on stream? Maybe I can pierce the tip as well, its just body art man.

    Was a bit skeptical, but it seems fine to me. After watching the full sequence and listening to her well executed commentary, it's much more technical than sexual.

    .. whatever

    Last edited 31/10/19 9:37 pm

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