Thursday, December 15, 2022

Jenny Popach: TikTok’s Sexualized Teen Problem Child

By Olivia Carville posted on BloombergBusinessweek “TikTok’s Problem Child Has 7 Million Followers and One Proud Mom: Young creators like Jenny Popach are posting suggestively sexual content, sometimes with parental approval, leaving moderators and executives unsure what to do.”

In the piece, Carville wrote that 16-year-old TikTok sensation and “bona fide influencer” Jenny Popach takes advantage of the allure of a nymphet by posting “hypersexual” TikToks such as twerking in string bikinis and teasing men with her jailbait status, which has calculatedly amassed her a (small) fortune:
Arritola is one of TikTok’s most controversial teen stars, with 7 million followers. Her popularity stems in part from hypersexual posts—what she describes as “shock-value content”—in which she twerks in string bikinis, body rolls in hot pants or drops innuendo in captions (“When men can go to jail for being with you”). In the past year, fashion brands eager to capitalize on her sex appeal have paid her a small fortune to wear their clothes.
Carville posted that Jenny’s a “problem child” for TikTok’s trust and safety team, because “[...] she’s posting content so risqué that the trust and safety team doesn’t seem to know what to do with her.” Consequently, TikTok has “[...] received a flood of complaints about Arritola’s videos, [and] her account was [temporarily] deactivated [three times] for violating its community guidelines.”

TikTok’s Problem Child: Jenny Popach

Carville shared that the TikTok account of a nymphet under 18 can be (temporarily) banned for participating in sexual activities, wearing minimal clothing, lip-syncing to sexually explicit songs, twerking, breast shaking, and pelvic thrusting.

When Jenny’s TikTok account was deactivated, she re-started her FanFix account - “an app where creators can make money sending exclusive pictures and messages to fans.” Jenny offered “[...] pictures and private chats with fans who pay $15 a month for a subscription.” Unsurprisingly, the nymphet earned $23,000 before returning to TikTok.

Carville wrote that “[...] moderating teenage content is so complex that it verges on the impossible,” because, despite the fact that TikTok removed over 80 million videos for violating child-safety rules in the first half of 2022, a whopping “20 billion clips were uploaded during that time”.

The Dark Side of TikTok: TeenTok

Carville related that TikTok’s algorithm rewards salacious posts like teens twerking in string bikinis “by promoting them on its For You landing page”. Consequently, the allure of nymphets has helped TikTok go from a valuation of $10 billion in 2016 to $300 billion today. Relatedly, Carville said in the BloombergBusinessweek documentary The Dark Side of TikTok: TeenTok, “Teenage TikTok is big business.”

The article didn’t mention if Jenny makes additional money via teen TikTok livestreams, but Carville did mention that TikTok team members suggested that TikTok “[...] include a five-second delay, enough time for at least some artificial intelligence moderation. Instead, livestreaming was rolled out without the delay.”

Maria Ulacia, Jenny’s mother, is not “pimping her out” and she “[...] has no qualms about Arritola’s social media stardom.” Of Jenny's rise as an influencer that started when Jenny was 10, Ulacia shared, “We loved it. We loved the attention.” Of her daughter's sexualized teen TikToks, Ulacia said, “We post videos that contain shock value to attract viewers and attention - giving the audience something to talk about.”

Of her mother, Jenny shared in The Dark Side of TikTok: TeenTok that most of the ideas for her most "shocking" videos came from her mother: 
“My mom is the girl, she’s my mom, by best friend, my sister, everything, my partner in this, and so she basically gives me ideas, if I don’t have any, she’ll give me a type of video to make. Sometimes she even buys my outfits and she’s the one that takes me to film most of my videos. Most of my videos that I’ve done with my mother are my most shocking videos.”
Unsurprisingly, Jenny confessed in the documentary that she wants her most salacious videos to go viral: 
“The content that does the best for me, I feel like is spontaneous, those are always great, or shock value [...] Make sure something shocking is happening that people will just like ‘[say] wait, let me take a double take’ [...] and wanna send it to their friends and want everybody else to see it."
Consequently, “[Jenny] Arritola has brand deals with Fashion Nova, PrettyLittleThing and Shein. She just launched a clothing line with Empty Soda and has recently been posing in a pink miniskirt-and-crop-top set with a heart-shaped cutout on the chest, encouraging her followers to buy it.”

Piper Rockelle

Of course, Ulacia isn’t the only mother using the allure of her nymphet daughter to make (a lot) of money. Carville wrote that “[o]ther mother-run accounts of preteen girls have encouraged followers to pay for photographs of the children in bikinis.” And Tiffany Smith, the mother of 15-year-old influencer Piper Rockelle, allegedly “[...] once mailed a pair of her daughter’s used underwear to a fan for money.”

Lastly, we learned from Carville’s piece that, this past summer, Jenny purchased a black Mercedes-Benz with $20,000 in cash and posted a TikTok “[...] from a car wash wearing a skintight bodysuit and white-heeled boots. In it, she lathers herself in foam, washes the car hood with her chest and winks at the camera.” Jenny said, “If you don’t have haters, you ain’t poppin’.”

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