Twitch and Ninja Are Reinforcing Monogamy

Mega-star Ninja is allowing the Twitch community to privilege a heteronormative monogamous romantic relationship over all others. There’s a problem with that

You’re a popular gamer who has millions of fans on your Twitch channel, where people watch you play video games, in this case, “Fortnite Battle Royale,” and you make a crapload of money doing that, but there are some people you just won’t play with — women.

Say what?

Recently, one of Twitch’s top streamers, Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, recently stated, “I don’t play with female gamers. … If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever.”

Because — no surprise — women aren’t safe even in the gaming world, according to the videogaming news website Polygon:

“Twitch thots,” harassment, warding off obsessive or judgmental viewers are all serious concerns for well-known female streamers. In contrast to the reality of being a woman on Twitch, Blevins’ choice to draw a line feels like a conservative gesture — even a familiar, divisive one.

Yes, his choice does. In fact, it sounds a lot like how Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, avoids the hint of impropriety by not dining with women or attending parties that serve booze unless his wife is with him. He’s not alone: even author Ta-Nehisi Coates admits he’s “a dude who believes in guard-rails.”

Ninja, who has been married for just about a year, defends his choice, saying:

While I understand some people have implied my views mean I have something against playing with women, I want to make clear the issue I’m addressing is online harassment, and my attempt to minimize it from our life.”

So here we are in 2018, having male millennials — Ninja is 27 — basically stating that the only way they can avoid taunts and teasing online (I get it; online harassment can be brutal) about anything potentially misconstrued as romantic is to remove any hint of it from their day-to-day life.

That’s one way to deal with it I suppose — shut down interactions with half of the human race. Safe! Pence does it. Coates does it. A lot of men do it.

But isn’t there another way? Couldn’t Ninja use his huge platform as a way to address the sexist harassment of women and the sexualization of all male-female interactions? Couldn’t he let his fellow gamers know that they can be better than that?

Beyond that, there’s another message that Ninja and Twitch are enabling — allowing the community to reinforce and privilege a heteronormative monogamous romantic relationship over all others.

When we wed, we say our vows before family, friends and loved ones — a community that would presumably support us through good and hard times. Ninja is allowing his Twitch community to dictate the (presumably) monogamous nature of his marriage. He is held captive by their morals, which seem to suggest that even the “hint” of flirting could destroy his marriage (and, perhaps just as important, his wealth).

Even with something as innocent as gaming, any male-female interaction may be misconstrued as sexual or romantic. And that is reinforcing an amatonormative mindset — the belief that exclusive, monogamous romantic relationships are more important than all others.

Maybe Ninja and his wife are happily monogamous. But what if they had an open marriage or were poly? What if they were bisexual or pansexual, where presumably anyone could be seen as a romantic “threat”? What if they had defined infidelity between themselves, as all couples should, and have healthy boundaries when it came to such things as flirting and engaging with members of the opposite sex? Would his Twitch community be open to that? It doesn’t seem likely.

Twitch, a platform that could be used to broaden minds is, instead, narrowing them, and so is Ninja. That’s unfortunate.

Want to include men and women in your gaming and still have a healthy marriage? (Of course you do!) Find The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press) at your indie bookstore or on Amazon; follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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