This story contains sexually explicit material.
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But in the case of #BoobFreq (NSFW), a controversial and extremely NSFW channel that purports to parody feminist culture critic and Gamergate shibboleth Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency, that is decidedly not the case.
#BoobFreq is shorthand for “Boob Frequency,” a weekly cam show featuring Princess Kora, a grad student, cam performer, and sex workers’ rights advocate who impersonates Sarkeesian.
As Vocativ first reported in a profile earlier this week, Kora’s XXX impersonation of Sarkeesian has earned her the ardor of thousands of Gamergate supporters. Last year, Sarkeesian famously became a lightning rod in the debate over ethics in gaming journalism, after gendered harassment and death threats from Gamergate supporters forced her out of her own home.
I usually don’t share the really scary stuff. But it’s important for folks to know how bad it gets [TRIGGER WARNING] pic.twitter.com/u6b3i0fysI— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014
“Go ahead, screen capture this and tweet it you piece of shit” ummm… ok. I’m not afraid of strawman "rebuttals". pic.twitter.com/8B74uYJOOU— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014
Kora first got the idea to impersonate Sarkeesian a few weeks ago, when her husband saw her wearing a plaid shirt and pointed out that she bore a resemblance to the critic.
“He said, ‘All you need is the hoop earrings and the lipstick.’ So I went out and I got them, and I went on cam like that,” she told the Daily Dot in a phone interview.
While on cam, Kora attempted to take her Sarkeesian impression beyond the physical resemblance. While performing various solo sex acts, she tried to mimic Sarkeesian’s tone of voice and demeanor.
“Some people say when [Anita] is on and doing her show, it looks like she’s reading from a teleprompter,” Kora said, “so I tried to look like I was reading off a teleprompter.”
Kora, who says she is critical of contemporary feminism, also took aim at Sarkeesian’s feminist views, “making stupid jokes like, ‘Oh, I’m crushing the patriarchy with my big boobs.’”
Within the first 24 hours of Kora’s show, Gamergate supporters started embracing #boobfreq, tweeting ironic hashtags like “#SexPositiveAnita” and memes of Kora dressed as Sarkeesian with her plaid shirt halfway unbuttoned, revealing her ample breasts. One meme included the hashtag, “Believes that toxic masculinity belongs all over her huge fucking tits.”
“It was a bizarre show, because people were tipping me to get topless, get naked, whatever,” says Kora. “But I was also talking about my views on radical feminism and sex work…[I was] talking about oppression and exploitation of sex workers as people were tipping me.”
By appearing on camera as a pornified version of Sarkeesian, Kora says she is effectively satirizing what she perceives to be Sarkeesian’s radical feminist and anti-sex-work views. While Sarkeesian has said little on the record about sex workers’ rights, she drew criticism last year for referring to sex workers in video games as “prostitutes” rather than the more politically correct term “sex workers.”
In her videos, Sarkeesian has also referred to sex workers as “prostituted women,” a semantic choice that many sex workers believe denies women in the industry any agency. (Sarkeesian did not reply to the Daily Dot’s requests for comment.)
Kora said that her cam show was intended to skewer Sarkeesian’s view of sex workers as “oppressed or exploited.”
“I’m a formally educated woman on camera [who] is having a good time,” she said. “I’m mocking the idea that sex workers are oppressed and acting under false consciousness.”
Given Sarkeesian’s history as a victim of gendered harassment, many feminists and Sarkeesian fans don’t see Boob Frequency as a “parody” at all. They see it as a way of supplying further ammunition to Gamergate supporters who hold Sarkeesian up as a representative of all that is wrong with modern-day feminism, or as a means of exploiting a woman who has made a career out of fighting the exploitation of women.
The Daily Dot’s Aja Romano, who writes about sexism in the gaming industry, said that she thought Princess Kora’s cam show was “like she’s allowing herself to be a conduit to allow gamers to practice the tactics of revenge porn.” Gamergaters who loathe Sarkeesian, said Romano, were “doing to her image now what they did to [game developer] Zoe Quinn’s actual image when they hacked her old erotic photos.”
Regarding Sarkeesian’s anti-sex work comments, Romano said, “I honestly don’t think she [Sarkeesian] criticizes sex workers, but the way the games are portraying them. I think she would argue that the games are denying sex workers the agency they would have in reality.”
In a Reddit thread on r/GamerGhazi, a sub for Gamergate critics, one poster even referred to Boob Frequency as a form of “revenge porn,” as it sexualized Sarkeesian’s image without her consent. Other feminists and Sarkeesian supporters on Twitter echoed the sentiment:
In a sense, the debate over whether Boob Frequency can be classified as “satire” or a different, colder, meaner genre entirely is reminiscent of the parallel debate raging in the blogosphere about the artistic value of the cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical publication that was attacked by Muslim terrorists for publishing cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.
While many on Twitter rallied in support of Charlie Hebdo and the right to free speech after the attack, which left 12 people dead, others were more critical of the publication’s claim to use parody to battle censorship. They argued that the cartoons were more exemplary of Islamophobia than “satire.”
“White men punching down is not a recipe for good satire, and needs to be called out,” Jacob Canfield wrote on the blog Hooded Utilitarian. “People getting upset does not prove that the satire was good.”
Although she acknowledged that Boob Frequency was intended as a “fuck you” to Sarkeesian and her ostensible anti-sex work views, Princess Kora rejected the suggestion that her cam show was a form of revenge porn, or that it bore any similarity to, say, a spurned ex-boyfriend sharing naked pictures of his former partner to debase and humiliate her.
“It’s not revenge porn. It’s parody,” she told the Daily Dot. “I remember when [the 2008 Sarah Palin porn parody] Who’s Nailin’ Paylin? came out. [Palin] is a celebrity. She’s a public figure. It’s fair game. It’s not remotely the same thing.”
Nonetheless, Kora acknowledged that some Gamergaters might be tuning into her channel not because they appreciate its satirical elements, but because they loathe Sarkeesian so much that they enjoy seeing her—or self-identified feminists, or even women in general—sexualized without their consent.
“That’s the only thing that perturbs me about the whole thing,” Kora said, referring to the prospect of Sarkeesian detractors using her cam show as ammunition for more gendered attacks against her. “I want to get across that that’s not my aim.”
Despite her now-enormous Gamergater fanbase and her use of the Gamergate hashtag on Twitter (not to mention such Gamergate-friendly terms as “SJW”), Kora said she also didn’t feel comfortable serving as a figurehead for the movement. While she felt “aligned” with the movement, particularly the “libertarian values [of] freedom of speech, and being against censorship,” she didn’t want to be a Gamergate figurehead—mostly because, as she freely admitted, she doesn’t consider herself a gamer.
“I make jokes about that, in the cam thing,” she said. “I say, ‘Much like Anita, I’m not a gamer.’ People say she doesn’t actually play games. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But I don’t know anything about video games.”
But even as she continues to invite criticism for blurring the lines between parody and something else entirely, Kora said she would relish the chance to debate Sarkeesian about feminism and sex-worker issues.
“I’d totally welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue with her,” she said. “I’d ask her what her views on sex work are, and I’d want to explore them and say, ‘Hey, parody aside, why do you refer to us as prostituted women? Do you know sex workers in real life?’ I’d try to educate her [on sex work].”
But if Boob Frequency is intended to satirize Sarkeesian’s channel, rather than to exemplify what Jacob Canield called “punching down” at a woman who has been threatened, attacked, and verbally abused more than most people have in their lifetimes, not even Princess Kora herself is clear that all of her fans are in on the joke.
“I don’t think [Boob Frequency] resonated with them just because they dislike her,” she said when asked why she thought her cam show found such a huge Gamergate following. “I think it’s probably because I tweet a lot about sex worker rights and freedom of speech issues and censorship, so people see I’m on their side of the issues and I’m not just a camgirl trying to profit from them. Or at least, I hope they do.”