Semiotext(e)’s Preliminary Materials For a Theory of the Young-Girl was published in 2012. At the time, the hollowness of the Young-Girl was still a physical emptiness, a sort of distillation of advertising’s warped feminist tropes. The Young-Girl was built up through products, sex, physical exchange. The Young-Girl was the physical embodiment of capital, of artificial scarcity. There was not yet precedent for the influencer class, the Very Online segment of Young-Girl, who would come to dominate a market of intangibles instead of tangibles.
In the text, the Young-Girl is defined, as she defines herself, through a series of quick takes without elaboration. To elaborate is to lose the essence, the vibe. Who is she? The following passages are relevant:
The Young-Girl appears as the culminating point of this anthropomorphosis of capital.
The Young-Girl is the figure of the total and sovereign consumer.
The Young-Girl is the extreme point of alienated socialization, at which the most socialized person is the most asocial.
The Young-Girl sells her existence like it’s a private service.
The Young-Girl’s own body takes on the form of a commodity that belongs to her.
It is only in her suffering that the Young-Girl is lovable. There is, evidently, a subversive power in trauma.
Without realizing it, I had been working on my own Theory of the Young-Girl for a few years. It was a different Young-Girl, however, one inseparable from the architecture of social media. A Young-Girl who commoditized herself early in life and entirely through the internet, who can no longer interface with real life without it crumbling her completely. In real life, the self-concept is mediated by interaction with other people, strangers even! Real life offers little means of control. Online, the other is anonymous. Anyone not anonymous has been selected by the Young-Girl because they will reinforce and validate her self-concept. Everything else is noise.
This Young-Girl sells access to herself and her image. She makes a good living doing sex work, more than the majority of other sex workers, but it is still survival sex work; she has no other transferrable skills. She deliberately and consistently violates the TOS of her chosen platforms by selling more of her image than is allowed under their decency guidelines, and then complains that her very being is being censored. She feigns innocence, and frames these interactions as involuntary. “I was just being myself!” She cannot distinguish between the self and actively curated marketable traits, instead making a stand on ideological grounds.
This Young-Girl phones it in. Her audience is satiated by her image, even snippets of it, over and over; as such, she needs to say very little, just enough to trigger the best returns from the algorithm. The only thing the audience wants to see in her eyes is gameness, acuquiecense. They do not want to hear her thoughts, or even acknowledge that she is capable of them, they only want to see her body. This has made her deeply incapable of rhetoric. If she has talking points, they are cribbed from viral information in her ambient surroundings that has very little meaning to begin with, or else she frames herself as a lone renegade of the discourse, with views far from anything in circulation so she can exist in isolation and without critique.
This Young-Girl is deeply agoraphobic. Her social circles are confined to those who can produce content or otherwise support her in her aims. Anyone else is a problem, a hole in the dam where the inconsistencies of real life can penetrate her consistent self-image. She will fight against this at all costs. Occasionally she may get it in her head to “go straight” but she will fail at this. She cannot work in a profession that his not in service to her self; in fact, she no longer even looks like someone who can exist outside, she has curated her image so heavily. She is constantly out of place except as content. She cannot go places or live with others as equally neutral parties. In another era, she would have become a nun.
This Young-Girl curates her life for an audience. Her surroundings, even her home, are spare and impersonal, almost monastic. They are selected for sight-lines, angles, lighting. There are no spaces that an outsider gaze does not penetrate. If she is sick, if she is in crisis, this is a performance as well. An unexplained absence from the gaze is inexcusable. She must perform.
This Young-Girl seeks extremes. Her existence, as mediated through a screen, is blunted; she has no natural means of experiencing novelty. As such, she seeks to maintain a constant state of catharsis by engaging in risk-taking behavior for her audience. She is engaged in race-to-the-bottom market dynamics with herself. She is constantly burning and constantly burnt out, or else terminally bored. She does not acknowledge that the cycle can be broken by choosing not to participate, because this would mean the fatal and irredeemable corruption of her image, which is her self. To log off is death. The only alternative is to constantly seek more, more sensation, more love, more support. She is overtaxed and never satisfied.
This Young-Girl romanticizes penitence for the same reason. She favors Catholic imagery; the mortification of her body is a product in itself. It makes her real. It makes her worthy of adoration.
This Young-Girl will surround herself with a close cohort of lovers, whom she has chosen from amongst her audience. She will keep multiple at a time and will become highly dependent on them for housing and sustenance. She cannot survive without interlocutors. She knows that when her beauty is spent they will leave, and she will be helpless; so she fawns, and tries to make herself worthy. Her lovers aren’t her equals. They are aid.
There’s a trilogy of books that I revisit a lot, which accurately portray this: Richard Calder’s Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things. It is complete schlock-philosophical cyberpunk which asks: what if the performance of gender was terminal, a fatal memetic virus? If you’ve read Theory of the Young-Girl, it’s an interesting supplement, a sort of apocalypse of capital and Spectacle.
Otherwise, this theory of mine will be built out over time; this remains a working document.