The View From The Male Gaze: Sexualization Of Female VTubers - Dere★Project

The View From The Male Gaze: Sexualization Of Female VTubers

The other day, as I leisurely scrolled through my YouTube recommendations, a captivating thumbnail featuring one of my cherished female VTubers caught my eye. She struck a provocative pose, adorned in a rather revealing outfit, and wore a cute yet seductive expression. My finger hovered, hesitating before I clicked, an uneasy feeling tugging at me.

You see, I’ve been a devoted fan of VTubers for quite some time, and I couldn’t help but notice an emerging trend where female creators are often sexualized in an attempt to boost views and subscribers. The vibrant world of VTubing, while offering immense opportunities for creativity, does cast a shadow that we, as a community, must carefully analyze.

In this post, I want to share my perspective as a male VTuber fan on some of the unique challenges women face in this industry, including objectification, unequal power dynamics, and difficulties building an audience in a male-dominated space.

My goal is not to criticize any individual creator or company but to spark discussion on how we can build a more ethical and inclusive VTuber culture. There are no easy solutions, but acknowledging the underlying issues is an important first step. By speaking candidly from the heart of a concerned fan, I hope this post can advance the conversation on how to better support the talented women who bring so much joy to our community.

The View From The Male Gaze Sexualization Of Female VTubers

Objectification and Sexualization of Female VTubers

It’s no secret that female VTubers are often subject to objectification and over-sexualization, both by individual fans and corporations looking to profit off their sexuality. Male fans, in particular, frequently focus on the attractiveness and sex appeal of female VTubers in ways that undermine their talents and individuality. Comments about their bodies and physical appearance overwhelm any discussion of creative content or personality. And, of course, the overtly sexual fanart and disturbing fantasizing crosses the line into harassment.

But the reality is more complex than simply blaming “horny male fans.” There’s immense commercial pressure placed on female VTubers to sell an image — often involving a delicate balance of cuteness, beauty, and just the right amount of eroticism. They’re put in a position of having to commodify their sexuality to gain popularity. Yet if they embrace their sexuality too much, they risk being seen as “pandering” and not taken seriously as creators. It’s a difficult line to walk. 

There also tends to be a double standard when it comes to female sexuality and “lewdness” in the VTuber world. Male VTubers who flirt with fans or make risqué jokes are generally celebrated for being funny and confident. But when a female VTuber expresses her sexuality candidly, she’s more likely to be dismissed as a “thot” just trying to manipulate male viewers. There’s a glaring contradiction around how we perceive women owning their sensuality.

Ultimately this culture of objectification takes a toll on female VTubers, leading to self-esteem issues, mental health struggles, and even driving some to retire early. It also fosters toxic attitudes in the community, training male fans to see these women as sexual objects rather than human beings.

There are no quick fixes, but starting with self-reflection about our own biases is a good beginning. We have to recognize that these VTubers deserve the same respect we would grant any other creative professional.

Unequal Power Dynamics 

Peering beyond the actions of individuals, a disquieting truth unfolds within the very structure of the VTuber realm — the presence of stark power imbalances. Simply put, the predominant consumers of content, the vast majority of viewers and fans, are male, while the primary producers, especially in the case of independent VTubers, are female. This dichotomy inevitably fosters exploitative and at times predatory dynamics.

Independent female VTubers, in particular, find themselves in a vulnerable position when confronted with harassment from fans who contribute views, donations, and influence. Speaking out against such misconduct requires exceptional courage. These women often tread carefully as their careers hinge on appeasing the very individuals mistreating them.

On the other hand, VTubers affiliated with corporations enjoy more institutional protection. However, corporations face financial incentives to turn a blind eye to objectifying behavior if it translates into revenue, and sometimes they may even encourage it through selective promotion.

While we might like to believe that success as a high-earning VTuber is an open playing field, the reality is far from it. The system inherently disadvantages female creators by favoring those who align with the male gaze. For women, “breaking through” demands not only exceptional content and talent but also meeting unspoken expectations regarding appearance and personality. This often entails striking a delicate balance between cuteness and sexiness. Meanwhile, male VTubers of mediocre skill can coast on novelty value alone. The standards are unequivocally unequal.

None of this is intended as a blanket criticism of fans, companies, or individual VTubers who are doing their best navigating complex dynamics. There are exceptions and counterexamples, but looking holistically reveals stark inequalities baked into VTuber culture. Being aware of this bigger picture helps provide context for why individual women may make certain creative or marketing choices that feel questionable or contradictory. They’re responding rationally to skewed incentives. Calling out that imbalance of power is the first step in creating a fairer ecosystem.

Building an Audience as a Female Creator

Given this tilted playing field, it’s no surprise that women face added barriers when trying to build an audience in such a male-dominated domain. Female VTubers often have to work twice as hard to “prove” themselves before receiving opportunities, while male peers coast on novelty value.

Women consistently report rude comments from viewers questioning if they are “real” VTubers and implying they don’t deserve their success. This discouraging culture undoubtedly causes talented female creators to burn out before reaching their potential.

Competition is inherent to the entertainment industry, but female VTubers face unique challenges here as well. When they manage to build a modest following, they become targets for harassment campaigns, doxxing, and anti-fans looking to undermine their confidence. Even seemingly positive attention like fanart can work against women trying to establish credibility, as communities flooded with sexualized drawings drown out discussion of their talents.

Let’s not overlook the heightened scrutiny female VTubers endure in the face of controversy or scandal — scrutiny that amplifies minor errors that are often forgiven when committed by popular male VTubers. Female VTubers are more likely to face permanent cancellation and a barrage of online abuse, driving them offline in the wake of mob backlash.

Astonishingly, when these women achieve a level of mainstream success and recognition, a faction of male fans perceives it almost as a personal affront. This manifests in waves of trolling, raids, false reporting campaigns, and deliberate attempts to undermine these accomplished women — call it crab mentality.

Again, naming these barriers is not an indictment of any individual but an attempt to explain the unique pressures facing women trying to achieve visibility in an online world that remains disproportionately male. The playing field is far from level, contrary to the meritocratic narrative we like to believe.

Understanding these systemic disadvantages hopefully fosters empathy and gives context. Only by becoming aware can we start removing the obstacles holding so many talented female VTubers back from reaching their full potential.

Wrapping Up

If you’ve read this far, thank you for sticking with me on this introspective ramble. As a longtime male VTuber fan, writing this felt a bit uncomfortable at times. I risked over-generalizing and realized these issues are complex with countless nuances I’m still learning to grasp.

But I believe the only way we make real progress is through raw, honest conversations — even if they force some self-reflection. Staying silent on matters of injustice, however minor they may seem, only allows harm to persist.

The female VTubers bringing me so much laughter and joy over the years deserve a community that supports them as full human beings — not just as objects to consume. There are concrete steps we can take, like speaking out against sexism and reporting abuse when it crops up.

However improving the culture has to start within each of us as fans, questioning how our assumptions may unconsciously contribute to unfair systems. Progress happens gradually through millions of small acts of courage by ordinary folks.

In that spirit of humble progress, I choose to remain cautiously optimistic. The very fact these conversations are starting reflects increased awareness of inequalities that have long lingered unquestioned. Step by step, the path ahead looks brighter for the phenomenal women putting themselves out there to realize their creative visions through VTubing.

As a fan, I’m proud to do my small part in supporting them on that journey in any way I can. What shape that support takes will look different for everyone. But the first step for all of us is simply listening with sincerity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Aren’t you exaggerating the problem? Plenty of male VTubers deal with harassment too. 

Any public figure indeed faces harassment to some extent. However, data consistently reveals that women, including female VTubers, endure a disproportionate amount, particularly in the form of sexual harassment. While the issue is not exclusive to female VTubers, they bear the brunt of it.

But aren’t some female VTubers actively playing into this culture by pandering with sexual content?

There’s certainly a complex conversation around VTubers who lean into sexualization. Often, they find themselves compelled to make this choice to gain visibility in an overcrowded market. The critique should be directed at the systems and incentives that force such compromises to seem necessary.

Isn’t this just what the male audience wants though? Supply and demand? 

Even if something is profitable, it doesn’t make it ethical. As a community, we should hold ourselves to higher standards and call out practices that exploit VTubers or treat them as objects, even if some benefit financially. Prioritizing human dignity over profit is an important value.

Aren’t you white-knighting or virtue signaling here?

I intend to act as an ally, not a “savior.” This is a call to fellow fans to reflect on their behavior. I don’t claim moral superiority; I simply aspire to improve community norms. If this call for reflection makes you defensive, consider why.

Who are you to judge what female VTubers should do anyway? 

I’m NOT passing judgment on individual choices. I’m urging fellow fans to contemplate the circumstances that shape these choices and how we can enhance them. The goal is to expand freedom, ensuring VTubers feel supported regardless of their style or approach to content creation.

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