Inside the weird world of MaidTok

Bonjour tout le monde, welcome to TikTok's latest thirsty trend.

by Tom Haynes
14 December 2020, 2:20pm

Images via @peekink, @austinbe19 and @jackson_odoherty

Doused in purple lighting and soundtracked by Tyler the Creator, Maddy lies between her boyfriend’s thighs while he strokes her hair. The camera pans up to reveal said boyfriend, Jackson, dressed head to toe as a French maid. It’s a video which perfectly sums up TikTok’s latest and horniest trend — click on the audio and you’ll find dozens of similar clips, some stitched with another TikToker reacting with silent, palpable envy.

Jackson, a social media entertainer of five years, and girlfriend Maddy, both 26, have been together for 10 months. They’ve been making content across Facebook, Instagram, OnlyFans and TikTok for about as long and currently have around five million followers between them on the latter alone. On the phone from Australia’s Gold Coast, Jackson says he felt “gorgeous” wearing the outfit. In fact, he kept it on all day, taking the opportunity to take a few pictures for the OnlyFans he shares with Maddy before driving to his local petrol station wearing the look. “I kinda liked it,” he admits. “I was just playing video games and I said, ‘do you wanna take some more 18+ photos while I’m in this bitchin’ little outfit to see how I look?’”

If you’ve spent much time on TikTok over the past few months (what else would you be doing, right?) then you might have seen Jackson and Maddy pop up on your For You page. In fact, you might have seen dozens of boys dressed in sexy maid outfits, their lovers’ heads resting on their fishnet stocking-clad legs. These are the boys of MaidTok. Think of them as the logical evolution of the FemBoy trend from the end of summer — a distant cousin if you will. But where the wholesome TikTokers of #FemBoyFriday just wanted to show off their nice skirts and crop tops, the boys of MaidTok are a far less bashful breed.

The trend is less about displaying sartorial choices and more about playing up to the fetishised and feminised ideal of the french maid, inspiring thirsty comments, like, “it’s so hard seeing other people living your dream,” and “MY JAW DROPPED I WANT THIS SO BAD,” along the way. Jackson’s video, he explains, was Maddy’s idea. As with most TikTok trends, it was something she came across on her For You page — except it was the girl who was in maid gear. “I said, ‘let’s flip the script and I’ll be your maid.”

But is MaidTok as simple as guys wearing dresses for fun? Caden, 21, is a non-binary TikToker from Maryland. They recall seeing MaidTok videos pop up on their For You page throughout October and November, and instantly realised that something about the clips didn’t feel right. Responding to the trend via a TikTok of their own, they said: “Cis straight men going viral for wearing skirts on TikTok is not dismantling the patriarchy. It is not combating toxic masculinity in the way you think it does.”

“Honestly, I was bored,” says Caden, who has been active in the cosplay and anime convention community for several years. “I’ve seen nice maid outfits up close in maid cafes, and the cheap outfits that these men were wearing didn’t impress me at all.”

Dublin-based writer and actor Egonano, 18, is also non-binary, and says the cis men of MaidTok are appropriating elements of femme culture. “The ‘maid trend’ really is not in its own vacuum,” they argue. “Femme men and gender non-conforming people have been pioneering and dying for centuries just because of their gender expression and presentation, so to say cishet white boys have started a trend which challenges gender norms is completely disrespectful to the queer community.”

There is also unease among creators. 19-year-old Charles (@poodwattle) from Washington, recalls adding the maid outfit to his Amazon wish list “as a joke” and felt obligated to use it when someone bought it. His TikTok content sees him dress up in all sorts of outfits from goth cowboys to “ECatBoys”. Though the popularity of MaidTok has undoubtedly benefited Charles, he says wearing the maid garms has shackled him creatively. “The more I do it the less inspired I feel my content is,” he says. “In that sense, the more of a chore it is because I feel like I’m chasing views.”

These days Charles is less keen on the maid content. “I think that it’s just a cop out because it’s such a lure for attention,” he says. “It was funny and cool when it started but it grew too quickly and has given an opportunity to anyone to use it to grow their audience without much effort.” Charles also agrees with some of the criticism from the queer community, and admits it was part of the reason he backed out of making videos with the maid outfit. “I want to respect people’s identities,” he explains. “If creating videos that don’t really have that much impact on me are disrespectful, I’ll stop.” That said, Charles does wonder whether coming down too hard on MaidTok might do more harm than good. “It discourages men from exploring, expressing and enjoying their femininity, which obviously feeds into toxic masculinity.”

Maddy’s boyfriend Jackson sees no problem with using clothes to express himself. “If a straight guy or straight girl wants to dress outside the norm, let them,” he says. But the issue isn’t quite as straight forward as that. “It’s a complex thing for sure,” says Egonago of the trend. “It’s true that any attempt at differing from gendered clothing does break down the rigidness of masculinity. But at the same time, it cannot be a monumental change when white cishet men are at the centre of it.”

“They’re not normalising men wearing skirts, as the claim goes,” Caden adds. “The videos on MaidTok are mainly just thirst traps. Sexualising isn’t the same as normalising. When women, non-binary people and queer men wear skirts, it’s because they like to wear skirts, they exist in skirts. Yes, sometimes they look hot or they sexualise themselves, but not all the time. The only time cis straight men wear skirts on this damn app is to look hot and get clout.”

Heterosexual men in stereotypically femme clothing is not a new idea. But it’s true that some mainstream examples, such as Harry Styles’ recent styling on the cover of Vogue, inspire furore in some pockets of the internet. Harry responded to the backlash over his cover shoot, which featured him wearing a dress, with a sarcastic Instagram post captioned “bring back manly men.” The TikTok in-fighting over MaidTok though, is slightly different; less about breaking down the archaic gender binary in the fashion industry, more about whether or not the trend is an innocent reclaiming of a fetish image, or an instance of online queerbaiting.

For Austin (@austinbe19), a 19-year-old Texas-based figure-skater, it’s not that Gen Z has suddenly developed a maid fetish, it’s more the image of confidence the outfit projects. “I know some people like it because things like French maid and bunny outfits have been sexualised in recent history, but the other side of it is that is people just like seeing others comfortable in their own body,” he says. “I think it’s good so many people can get exposed to seeing guys in more ‘feminine’ clothing. I have no issues with my masculinity and see no issues with being able to go out and have fun.”

For Austin and many others, the MaidTok trend, while silly, is at least contributing in some small part to breaking down toxic masculinity. “I think it’s a balancing act between genuinely showing off your love for something and just doing it for views,” he says. “At the end of the day they’re just pieces of clothing that anyone should be able to feel good in. I mean, look at me — I bought a maid outfit because I saw other guys who looked comfortable wearing them.”

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