by Mary Harrington
Wednesday, 19
May 2021

The seductive app for sexless submissives

NewNew lets you pay to control other peoples' lives — what could go wrong?
by Mary Harrington
Living her best life. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for boohoo)

Is the interplay of power and surrender a pervy thing, a political thing — or something else altogether? I wrote recently about the way the popularity of ‘BDSM’ reflects a longing for hierarchy in a culture officially committed to egalitarianism. Now, though, a new app seeks to detach the seductive business of either taking or surrendering power from the clammy hands of the whips-and-chains community, and put it to newly-sanitised work-making money instead.

NewNew is an iPhone and Android app that allows you to pay to control others peoples’ lives. Users create polls on anything they like, and followers pay a small sum to vote. In many respects, NewNew echoes what BDSM practitioners call ‘power exchange’ — that is, a voluntary agreement in which one party relinquishes part of their autonomy to another’s control, in the interests of mutual pleasure.

NewNew’s Terms of Service are unambiguous in forbidding creators on the website to post content or polls that are sexual or pornographic, but it’s hard to miss the seductive voyeurism in the app’s offer to ‘Control what real people do’ and ‘Watch them do it’. The app itself scrolls through intro videos posted by young, attractive ‘creators’ who gush about being ‘so excited’ to ‘let you control my life’. And the flirtatious demeanour of many ‘creators’ in their intro videos makes the seductive sub-text (pun intended) abundantly clear.

Arguably though it’s less that NewNew is something pervy in disguise, as that playing with power and hierarchy has escaped the bounds of fetish subculture. And this proliferation of opportunities to play power games is driven in no small part by the way meaningful political agency is increasingly draining from our lives.

In his profile of ‘yacht influencer’ Alex Jimenez Oliver Bateman quotes Jimenez, on what owning a superyacht really means. In Jimenez’ view “it’s a signal that ‘you’re beyond buying and selling. You have more money than there is money to have. You’ve transcended.”

That world is pulling rapidly away from the one most of us live in. Joel Kotkin recently outlined in painstaking detail the consolidation of a new super-oligarchy that’s increasingly unmoored from 20th-century democratic constraints and working fast to consolidate its worldview and class interests. In this world, the people with agency are not voters, or even national politicians, but those who have — in Jimenez’ terms — ‘transcended’.

For those who haven’t attained this blessed state, which is to say all but a fraction of a percentage point of the human race, NewNew represents a kind of toy neo-feudalism. It’s a game in which people excluded from meaningful power in the emerging political order can role play at hierarchy.

And meanwhile, a new, real hierarchy is emerging — one that includes some of NewNew’s investors. And even as it encourages the rest of us to play at exchanging control and surrender for pocket money, that hierarchy is busy consolidating its power.

Join the discussion

  • I’ll pay everyone’s small fee for that money-obsessed narcissistic Bateman, because he wwnts money for nothing and at least walking the plank will only bruise his ego not his tackle after something painful. He’s naive. There’s BDSM like 50 shades of sh!te and then there’s BDSM involving horrors such as doing things with produce that cometh out of the body, bloodletting or even cannibalism … have you heard the one about the 2 german gay blokes, except it happened, one wanted to be eaten, the other said “ok, tiger” and obliged. At the murder trial his defence was that the eaten party consented. Like the author says, what can possibly go wrong.

    That app should be avoided. (I know about this because I’m gay and you’re bombarded with sex info, images, pride marches or on Eurotrash type programmes. I bake bread instead).

  • It’s never ceases to amaze me how dumb some people can be. Paying to vote on whether some low level celeb should wear green or blue etc,etc, etc. Just how dumb do you have to be to fall for the rubbish about controlling some aspect of someone’s life when in fact all you are doing is giving away hard earned money to someone who is happy to rip you off

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