The hot, hot rise of the NSFW Twitter alt

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While Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr heavily censor their users, Twitter is a hotbed for anonymous, explicit accounts – is it about sex work, art, or exhibitionism?

Back in its heyday, Tumblr was a breeding ground for explicit content, both DIY and professionally made. It was a platform where people felt comfortable to express themselves sexually, and showcase the naked body in all its guises. However a mass exodus of NSFW media from the site back in 2018 saw droves of users deleting their accounts and looking for a new outlet for their nudes. But with Instagram and Facebook boasting some of the strictest censorship guidelines on the web, people found a new, unlikely home for their sex-positive content: Twitter. Once a hotbed of celebrity beefs and breaking news announcements, in recent years, your timeline has more likely been dominated by dicks than the musings of Nicki Minaj or Azealia Banks. Twitter alts (basically a second, burner Twitter account. Think Finsta, except on Twitter) are rapidly on the rise.

You might find yourself wondering what would possess people to put their dick pics into the public domain, but, truthfully, there’s a bunch of reasons. For @xredcheeks, a 21-year-old from Glasgow, setting up his Twitter alt was about creating a space to share NSFW content that people could enjoy without being caught off-guard in the same way they might be if he shared it on his main account. He says that his alt has brought him many positive outcomes – monetary reward, sexual gratification, and a feeling of empowerment and ownership over his body and sexuality. “(It feels) empowering and sexual (when I share my content),” he says,  “People are looking for a new way to consume and produce sexual content. With the loss of Tumblr and real life meet-ups, people have flocked to Twitter to seek out this content, which in turn empowers them to produce their own.

“People seem to enjoy homemade NSFW content, rather than overproduced NSFW content, so they look for a space where they can enjoy tons of organic material in one place.”

“I generally have guys who are closeted, so my anonymity and their discretion is respected, and we have similar accounts. I am out and proud, (but) respecting the privacy of the guys I meet or talk to is important and hopefully mirrored by them”

Another example is a 28-year-old fashion stylist from London, who has asked to remain anonymous. They created their alt to find a sense of community online.  “I was interested in talking to like-minded guys who had a similar taste in sex to me,” they say. “It’s a public account, but I never post my face. I now have a diverse mix of followers. I generally have guys who are closeted, so my anonymity and their discretion is respected, and we have similar accounts. I am out and proud, (but) respecting the privacy of the guys I meet or talk to is important and hopefully mirrored by them.” They say that, with Twitter, there isn’t the same level of expectation when it comes to content creation as there is with sites like OnlyFans and ManyVids.

And Twitter seemingly isn’t opposed to full-frontal nudity. The site’s sensitive media policy prohibits “adult content within live video or in profile header, or List banner images”, but doesn’t ban it entirely from the site, making it generally acceptable for people to operate NSFW accounts. But despite the seemingly looser policies, the site isn’t always crystal clear in defining what’s permissible. 26-year-old @hungred94 learned this the hard way. He started his alt after losing his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to make a bit of extra money (via cash tips and OnlyFans) while he looked for new work opportunities.

After being reported, he had his account suspended at just over 12,000 followers, cutting off a vital stream of income which he’d come to rely on during the pandemic. “I was devastated,” he says. “There was no warning. I probably didn’t take running an alt as seriously as some of the porn stars did, so I was incredibly happy with having a nice following. It was completely out of the blue.” Instead of his account being entirely deleted, he’s been in a limbo phase where Twitter is deciding whether to reactivate the account, or suspend him permenantly. “It would have been nice to have had a warning as I’ve now lost a little stream of income. For over a month I have been begging Twitter to give me a response on whether I can have the account reactivated. They’ve ignored all of my emails so far. I’d like to think I would start another account, but I’m not your typical ripped, tanned queer, so gaining 12,000 followers again would take me some time.”

“An alt account can just be for empowerment, sex work, gym progress… we are not always there to be everyone’s quick fuck!”

@hungred94 isn’t the only one to be affected. The issue here is that many other OnlyFans users rely on Twitter to boost the exposure of their material. In fact, OnlyFans openly promotes the cross-pollination of content on Twitter in order to drive subscriptions. But if Twitter chooses to deactivate or temporarily freeze an account, content creators can expect to see their income swiped from beneath them without warning, leaving them in a precarious position.

Aside from running the risk of having your account deactivated, there’s also a certain stigma attached to having a Twitter alt. “A lot of people generalise that you are a sex-obsessed person who will have sex with anyone just for gratification,” @xredcheeks explains. “However, that is not how it is with everyone. An alt account can just be for empowerment, sex work, gym progress… we are not always there to be everyone’s quick fuck!”

In some ways, you might consider that Twitter is somewhat a safe space for people to celebrate and exercise exhibitionism on their own terms, but as with anything online, it does have its downfalls. For now, it’s a suitable replacement for Tumblr. Users have the option to make their accounts public or private, can share the material they’re comfortable with, and make their own mind up as to why they want to share their content, whether that’s for financial gain, sexual exhilaration, or even art. Put more simply by our anonymous stylist: “To be honest, I just love random men looking at my hole!”

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