Like most accounts that fall within the jurisdiction of Horny Twitter, @BrattyBoysXXX is a shrine to specialized X-rated content. Its genre of choice is all things twink. Jack-off videos, nude photos, clips of orgy sessions, and tweets asking “Daddy, can I rub my little #twink ass all over your face?” are typical fare for the page. But with Election Day inching closer, @BrattyBoysXXX felt the need to widen its scope considerably. This summer, it transformed into an anti-Trump platform dedicated to “selling smut & dunking on donald.”
The choice to mix porn and politics may seem strange, if not completely inappropriate to some of the account’s 32,000 followers, but to Jayden, the 35-year-old Las Vegas sex worker who runs @BrattyBoysXXX, it’s personal. His sister is battling cancer, and he fears that President Trump winning a second term would only make matters worse.
“What type of cruel person tries to prevent everyday people from keeping their health care? If Donald gets his way, people like my sister won’t be covered in the future, because she’ll have had a preexisting condition,” says Jayden, who asked that he be identified by only his first name. “This type of deep, dark, supremacist evil needs to be countered through each and every channel we have available to us. That includes our social media.”
Over the past few months, the @BrattyBoysXXX Twitter feed has reflected that, retweeting Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, sharing clips from the Lincoln Project’s constant skewering of Trump’s campaign, and posting links to IWillVote.com right alongside rimming videos and a Twitter poll asking if “Twinks in Panties/Stockings” are hot or not.
Despite Jayden not getting politically active until 2018—picking up shifts at the phone bank for his local representative and helping out on the midterm campaign for Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada—he says the change happening on many pages similar to his is a natural result of the evolving online economy for sex workers. In the past two years, the landscape grew exponentially, democratized by the popularity of creator-friendly cam sites and the adult subscription platform OnlyFans.
“Everyday people have replaced your typical Barbie and Ken tropes. Now that there are no more gatekeepers, we’ve learned that folks no longer have to fit a mainstream idea of whatever social beauty standards are pushed onto sex workers,” Jayden says. “Compound that with the massive gap in income equality, and you’ll see why there are more people in our industry willing to speak out. We’re your neighbors. We’re ordinary people who, like you, have a lot to lose.”
Across the internet, many sex workers are wielding their influence to spark political change. In September, a group of strippers in Georgia went viral for their inventive video ad, which urged undecided voters to visit a website named Get Your Booty to the Poll. There was also YouTuber Tana Mongeau’s #BootyForBiden initiative where she promised nudes in exchange for proof of voting. (Though after the move landed her in hot water, she claimed it was “sarcastic,” telling Business Insider, “No one needs an explicit photo of me to go vote and make a change in our country. As much as I love Biden, I am not telling anyone who to vote for.”) In the past, get-out-the-vote campaigns famously relied on the sheen of celebrity to make the election process appear cool to young people (think: Diddy’s 2004 “Vote or Die” effort or the nonprofit Rock the Vote partnering with MTV), but in 2020, when fandoms exist for stars far removed from Hollywood and concert arenas, they’re coupling with the horny internet to target voters’ more private impulses.
The evidence is robust and shameless. Head to the website Naked Ballots, where Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, and Mark Ruffalo participated—sans clothes—in an ad campaign that detailed how to properly do mail-in voting. Or check out the Twitter feed of Michael B. Jordan, who just last week tweeted “VOTE EARLY” alongside a thirst-trap photo of his bare chest. (As expected, some followers were upset at Jordan for not fully committing to the bit. “You could’ve gave the people some nipple if we’re getting frisky for votes,” one commented.) There was also Instagrammer Adam Waheed’s #ThirstTraptheVote promo for Comedy Central in which he got completely naked and detailed the advantages of voting by mail.
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Not everyone is a believer in the impact of these ads. “Using sex to [get out the vote] is a gimmick,” says Laura Packard, a partner at PowerThru, a digital consulting firm that works with progressive nonprofits and political campaigns. Gimmicks, she says, can be persuasive, it’s just hard to tell how effective they are, especially since there seems to be scant evidence of their real impact. “I hope they are closely tracking their back-end data, so we can learn whether their tactics put out good results. But will they kiss and tell after the election?”
Gimmick or not, adult performer Cherie DeVille understands that “humans are visual animals.” For her, sex is the perfect instrument to “lure Americans into the political conversation,” she says. DeVille has appeared in dozens of adult films—in the porn industry, she’s known for her various performances as a naughty stepmom—and, in 2019, tested the waters for a presidential run on a Reform Party ticket but eventually withdrew. In February, after reading a Politico story that explained the grim reality of voter turnout (about half of Americans don’t vote), she felt compelled to do something.
“I wasn’t shocked. For the past few years, I’ve heard fans from both sides of the aisle voice discontent with our leaders, but many of them either didn’t vote or didn’t know how to vote,” she says. “Many states make it difficult to vote. When you Google your state’s voting info, you’re hit with a million ads before you find your state’s official website. It’s a clusterfuck.” So, to unfuck the process, DeVille created a one-stop, state-by-state voter registration hub—ErectionSeason.com.
Another reason DeVille developed Erection Season was because she felt her rights were increasingly under attack. “Until recently I kept my views out of porn, because both Republicans and Democrats watch porn,” she says. “As a small-business owner, I didn’t want to alienate any customers. But this is no longer an option. FOSTA-SESTA and other laws are targeting porn stars and other sex workers.”
Lawmakers passed FOSTA-SESTA in 2018 as a means to curb sex trafficking, but it had unintended consequences: It shut down many websites that sex workers relied on for income. Voting, DeVille says, is the main way average Americans like her can have a voice in a complicated political process that doesn’t always have their interests at heart. “Voting isn’t perfect in America,” she adds, “but it’s the system we have.”
Voter turnout efforts aren’t perfect, either. Celebrity thirst traps, Twitter pages like @BrattyBoysXXX, and websites like Erection Season creatively tap into our personal desires and entice voters, but their ultimate impact is negligible.
“My cynical answer is this probably isn’t going to work,” says Ryan Morgan, founder of Veracity Consulting, a digital advertising firm in Washington, DC, that has worked on campaign runs for Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “That being said, 2020 is different. With the summer full of protests, there’s engagement like we’ve never seen before. As a reaction against President Trump, with Black Lives Matter, and the pandemic—all those things give young people more incentive to get involved.”
Morgan says effective political ads come down to highly tailored interests: For some individuals, it will be NBA players like LeBron James speaking out, for others it will be Taylor Swift urging fans to the polls. In 2008, Barack Obama’s messages of “Hope” and “Change” spoke to the soul of Americans. For certain young people in 2020, it’s thirst traps and sex-targeted messaging.
“I’m a data guy, and there are ways to tell if this message is effective, like if you do randomized control trials,” Morgan says. “But I’m guessing the people pushing out the sex-oriented messaging are not doing that, so there’s really not going to be a way to tell if this is effective in moving the needle or not. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun and engaging.”
It’s impossible for Jayden to quantify how many people he’s actually reaching. Still, he doesn’t plan to stop using @BrattyBoysXXX as an anti-Trump platform anytime soon. “Four years ago I was crushed watching the elections,” he says. “I hope that on Election Day we reject him so resoundingly through a landslide that he and his regime have no option other than to walk away.” He’d consider it the ultimate climax.