YouTube’s Softcore Porn Problem

Sah Kilic

And how it’s messing with up-and-coming creators.

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Photo by Alexander ShatovAlexander Shatov / Unsplash

Here’s a question: For the 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute, how many human- and AI-hours does it take to moderate it? A metric tonne, I believe, is the answer.

So things slip through the cracks—porny things.

YouTube has a set of rules, right. These rules auto-flag things, but they’re not really rules that govern. In practice, they’re a set of constraints that certain creators can use to navigate the waters and game the system to their benefit — one way is by posting softcore porn.

And you might be asking, well, why post it on YouTube when you can post it on the sites and platforms that specialize in that? And oh 🍯, yes, of course, they do that — but just like any creator trying their hand at business, they have a marketing funnel.

And YouTube Is Ground Zero

YouTube has one of the most massive userbases online — just like a writer posting content on writing platforms, answering questions on forums, and tweeting, all to get people to come to their blog, email list, or buy their product — these creators are posting teasers for where they make the real money, i.e., sites like Onlyfans.

“This isn’t porn; I’m just reviewing this product… in my lingerie.”

“This isn’t porn; I’m just showing you a cleaning tutorial… in my sexy maid outfit.”

“This isn’t porn; I’m just doing ASMR.”

I. Am. Just. Doing. ASMR.

Now that one really riles me up as an avid lover of ASMR. And let me clarify — it doesn’t upset me that these creators are hustling. No, the hustle is good. It upsets me that the whole category gets an “NSFW” reputation because it’s so prevalent in this YouTube sub-community.

A Quick Intro To ASMR

If you don’t know, ASMR is a bodily response, tingle in the scalp, or overall relaxing experience that many people might get with a certain “trigger.” It’s a real thing, not imaginary, and if you don’t get it, that really sucks for you. I’m genuinely sorry because this feeling and the YouTube niche around it is a lot of people’s cure for insomnia, stress, and anxiety management.

The top creator in the category has ~4,000,000 subscribers, Gibi ASMR, and has probably posted every category of ASMR under the sun.

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Gibi ASMR Screenshot

Popular triggers (types of content) for ASMR videos include; 360 spacial audio talking, softly spoken vlogs, whispering, tapping, scratching, crinkling, typing, ambient nature sounds, and roleplay videos with popular real-life scenarios where ASMR occurs (doctor visits, appointments, interviews).

Now Back To The Problem

YouTube’s softcore porn problem is in many communities; gaming, reviewing, reaction videos, and vlogs. Bloody everywhere. But it’s illustrated perfectly in the ASMR community — this is why we used it as an example.

What’s more intimate than whispering into someone’s ear, right? Now add things like mouth sounds, try on hauls, and add three teaspoons of spice into the pot — and oh damn, the cap slipped off, and we accidentally added about six tablespoons instead.

And now you’ve got a whole category of content that as long as the creator is whispering and using some good mics “counts as ASMR.” It doesn’t matter that they’re doing a lingerie try-on haul, sucking on a lollipop, and promoting their Onlyfans. Because why would it, right?

  • They’re obviously whispering with a voice-over — ASMR
  • Sucking on a lollipop counts as “mouth sounds.” — Still ASMR.
  • And they’re not promoting their Onlyfans; they’re promoting their Linktree, which links out to their Onlyfans — Sigh.

And then the classic nay-sayers will come out.

YouTube doesn’t have a problem! It’s the creeps that are jerking off to this stuff. Those are the people that have a problem!

Common Complaints vs. The Real Issue

I genuinely respect the hustle. I don’t think these creators are doing anything wrong (with a caveat), and when given a choice between censorship, heavy moderations, more rules on one side, and an open platform on the other— I’d pick the open platform every time.

My issue, the thing that frustrates me, which is a symptom of the open platform and wild west, is the piggy-backing — and I’ll explain what I mean in a second, but let me address some different arguments people usually have.

Complaint #1: “Someone, think of the children!”
My Response: “YouTube has a safe mode, guy. Turn it on and keep an eye on your kids.”

Complaint #2: “It’s obscene!”
My Response: “So is your general belief system, guy. It’s 2022; let the boobs fly free without judgment.”

And that’s it. Now, my complaint is purely about community, creators, and piggy-backing. Good content will always prevail but adding softcore porn to mediocre content seems to very frequently distract viewers from actual “category creators” trying to hustle their way to a living.

Humans are just smart-ish monkeys — we get distracted by sex, food, and shiny things all the time.

The Market Decides, Sah.

So YouTube’s softcore porn problem is really an algorithm and content suppression problem, not because of technology solely, because of psychology and biology too.

Now people might disagree with me here. “The market decides, my friend, let the hustlers hustle, and we’ll see who comes out on top.”

It’s an easy argument, and maybe a strong one too, but it’s hard to stand by it when it rubs many creators the wrong way. We’ve seen this with some of the latest Twitch controversies.

But when creating or not creating softcore porn is the thing that makes or breaks a creator’s dreams —I’d argue that it encourages more creators to push the boundaries so they can compete; the pressure is definitely there.

Hell, even Pokimane, a popular female Twitch Streamer, commented on the pressure of wearing “sexier outfits” in a New York Times article.

There are people that will ask you to wear more revealing clothing, but then if you decide to, there are people that will comment rude things — Pokimane

It’s a lose/lose for these creators, especially female ones. You’ll have someone take over your category after all the hard work you’ve put in, and then in all likelihood, you’ll get pressured to follow suit — something Pokimane has also commented on.

It sounds far-fetched, and I don’t mean troves of creators are creating softcore porn because the algorithm and people want that. It’s that they’re possibly feeling pushed, or pressured, by outsiders topping their category, and they want to survive— that’s the problem.

A Perfect World

If I had a genie in a bottle and rubbed it in a completely innocent and not weird softcore porn way, my first wish would be for a perfect world—a world where there’s no piggy-backing on subcategories to monetize your NSFW content.

A world where sexual content competes with itself and not the average creator playing on the fields of quality and merit. But unfortunately, there is no genie and no such thing as perfect.

But there is some hope for this issue, and it’s all about YouTubers and creators understanding their audience first and monetizing their content differently.

Here’s The Theory

If you’re the average creator trying to make it on platforms like YouTube, you likely have a strategy that’s something like this:

  1. Post a lot.
  2. Gain a massive audience.
  3. Monetize content through AdSense.
  4. And get brand deals.

That’s the usual route, and it’s the easiest. YouTube has it built-in, and advertisers will reach out when you’re big enough. But that’s a long-haul plan with a slew of problems where piggy-backing NSFW creators are only one.

And yet there are content creators out there with a few thousand subscribers that will get to the same level by just being a little business savvy.

The theory is this: The people who prefer content that’s not about the actual topic of interest don’t matter anyway.

Meaning the people who click through to your video and watch it are the interested people. Sure, it hinders growth by “value metrics,” but you’re not trying to sell an Onlyfans — which begs the question for the average creator, what are they trying to sell?

Regular creators need to take a page out of these NSFW creators’ books; they’re selling a product to the people who want to purchase by using YouTube for discoverability — so these average YouTubers need to do the same.

Ads and sponsorships are a later-game income stream. The early earners are:

  • Digital Products (eBooks, Courses, etc.)
  • Print-on-demand Products
  • Extra Content Subscriptions (Patreon, Substack, Paid Communities)
  • Referral Links (Amazon for starters)

Not all views are created equal, and even though YouTube has a ton of problems that take views from creators —it only affects the casual advertising revenue stream.

And since creators can’t wait around for YouTube to make a call and fix the issue, they need to focus on the revenue streams above — because focusing on those means focusing on your true believers.

It’s true believers, the real fans, that will enable these creators to rise. And if you’re a creator that’s sub-category has been infiltrated by NSFW piggy-backers, this is the most effective thing you can do to deal with the problem.

And that brings an end to my ranting, ladies, and gents.

In Summary

  • YouTube has a problem with NSFW creators infiltrating niche content and piggy-backing off it to promote their Onlyfans accounts.
  • YouTube has bigger fish to fry and isn’t dealing with this issue because it’s a divisive one — who’s to say what a creator can and can’t do, right?
  • If you’re a creator who loves their category but doesn’t want to dress scantily or change their content to compete on that level — you need to find your true fans and monetize your content in different ways.
  • Small creators can still make a big living using the right channels.

Until next time,

Sah

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If you want a tour guide to everything mindset and digital, I'm your guy. I cover self-improvement, travel, entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, technology, and media. Find more of my stuff at https://sah.substack.com/

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