Tickled co-director David Farrier becomes suspicious about yet another website that is very quick to point out that it is not porn. Definitely not porn.
Update, October 30 – Splat! HQ has been in touch with the following response:
With regards to the “This is not an adult website” statement we had on our site. Yes, I admit that was a mistake. It was not intended to throw off potential models but was actually put on the site late last year as the UK’s Hardcore Porn underage blocking law was coming into force. I don’t view, and I am sure you don’t either, view our content as hardcore porn and it was stupid attempt to let people know that fact. It was wrong and in retrospective I can understand what kind of signal that might of sent out.
David, I do appreciate you reaching out to me again. But If I may, I do have one major issue with your article. It was not about The Splat! Show, but since it was mentioned in the same article as we were and it was quite disturbing to myself to be mentioned in the same article. It was regarding the rather disturbing news about a Man asking for children to get messy for reward in your home country. Being linked to that kind of story, indirectly I admit, caused immense stress and upset to myself. We never ask underage models to work with us and always ensure they are over 18.
It all looked so familiar: athletic looking young men in sportswear, talk of a competition, and a terribly designed website.
And then the clincher: “NOT an adult site”:
I came across Splat! HQ in the same way I came across Competitive Tickling – someone sent me a link with the note “this seems weird”.
Splat HQ, to a naive observer, may seem innocent enough. It’s a site that features videos of people – referred to as ‘contestants’ – being slimed. People get slimed on What Now, and people get slimed on MTV.
But it’s important to know that – of course – slime is also a fetish.
And when you look around Splat HQ, it seems pretty damn fetishy. There is talk of “sexy models” and “hot releases!”, separate sections of the website for males and females, and you have to pay for the videos after being shown thumbnails like this:
There’s also the fact the many of their likes on Facebook come from accounts with profile pictures of people being slimed, often in various states of undress.
I am no slime fetishist, so I tracked down a slime fetishist to see if their thoughts aligned with mine.
“I have a slime fetish and these videos definitely seem like they’re made for people like me,” Deep Fryer Girl told me.
“They mention the word ‘messy’ a few times in the site, which just kind of confirms for me that they know they’re making fetish material because wet and messy fetishism has a huge online presence”.
“The fact that they have separate pages for male/female ‘contestants’ is what really makes me positive that they know they’re making and selling fetish content.”
This is problematic.
To be clear, there’s no problem with slime fetishes. Fetishes are fine, as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult.
The problem is that as it’s being marketed to its online audience as “non-adult content”, you can only assume that it’s being marketed to at least some participants in the same way. That it’s just a wacky slime competition.
Do the people in the slime videos know what they’re actually making?
I emailed Splat HQ with some questions, but they are yet to get back to me.
I was curious to get in touch with some of the models to see if they were aware of the type of content they were creating, but most are listed by their first name only.
Splat HQ had posted the full name of one person, who they claimed was an upcoming competitor: a musician called Sam Callahan.
I emailed Sam’s management to see if he had appeared on Splat HQ, or was going to.
“We have indeed had an enquiry from Splat regarding Sam, however I can confirm that as yet he has not taken part,” replied a spokesperson from Mean Recordings.
I feel like a lot of my life over the last few years has been spent focusing on people desperately trying to trick people into believing a lie.
There was the case of Albi Whale, that Christchurch entrepreneur who signed several doctors up to his cutting-edge AI system which probably doesn’t exist, and the story of the Auckland International Film Festival that wasn’t really much of a film festival at all.
But it’s this weird phenomenon of tricking people into making fetish content that I’m particularly fascinated with.
There were the YouTube challenge videos where adults tricked minors into creating fetish material, the fetish shoot masquerading as an off-broadway play, and of course that popular sport of Competitive Endurance Tickling.
And now slime is on the rise. The New Zealand police put out a warning on October 18 about a local example:
“Police are advising parents to keep a close eye on their children’s social media activity after a series of suspicious posts were made on community pages in Wellington and Auckland.
“The posts are from a man seeking children, often aged between nine and 13 years old, to be part of a game that involves ‘sliming’, ‘gunging’ or pouring custard over themselves and the man.
“The individual offers money, vouchers or tickets to events in exchange for children playing this game with him. He says this game is part of his training as a youth worker or is related to a project he is completing for tertiary study.”
Why all the apparent trickery?
I can only assume it’s much easier to get people to sign up to create fetish content by not telling them it’s fetish content.
Fetish content can be so specific that to outsiders a lot of it just seems like a mundane activity.
For others, the thrill is in the deceit. That certainly seemed to be the case with David D’Amato in Tickled.
I don’t know who is behind the Splat HQ website or Facebook page – the usual searches returned nothing useful at all.
One interesting thing did happen as I wrapped up this story.
While I waited to receive a reply from whoever runs Splat HQ, they removed the “NOT an adult site” disclaimer.
So while it’s not calling itself an adult site, at least it’s not saying it isn’t one.
Baby steps, I guess.
Let’s just hope they’ve passed this memo on to the models.
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The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.