Gen Z is leading the bottoming revolution on TikTok

Young queer creators are using the platform to educate each other on the joys of anal sex. Welcome to #BottomTok.

by Tom Haynes
|
26 July 2021, 9:15am

Stills via TikTok

The first time Odus bottomed during sex, they were shouted at for not douching. Not knowing what a douche was, let alone how to use one, they went home and Googled the answer. “I didn’t know what was going on in my body or how it was supposed to feel,” they recall. “There’s this huge expectation you need to know everything.” For a long time, they say, the experience of bottoming was “painful, stressful and filled with anxiety”.

For a lot of young queer people, particularly those who want to explore anal, those first few forays into sex are just as terrifying and confusing as Odus describes. Thankfully, there is a dearth of information online to help guide young LGBTQ+ people through the sometimes messy realities of douching, foreplay and how the prostate works. After bottoming for “a slew of terrible tops”, Odus sought comfort in relatable Tumblr posts; and while they found them somewhat helpful, “they didn’t really talk about stuff like anal fissures”.

Now 24, Odus is rectifying that issue using TikTok, where they upload videos about kink, queer dating, and indeed, anal fissures. In one video they poke fun at tops who are unable to find the prostate. Set to Lorde’s “Solar Power”, they superimpose their face onto a diagram of the G-spot, miming the line: “Can you reach me? No, you can’t”. It might be silly, but it’s the sort of content you couldn’t imagine existing on Instagram or YouTube even today. Finally, thanks to TikTok, bottoms are getting a platform.

Speaking from their home in Australia’s Woolgoolga, Odus explains why: “TikTok doesn’t suppress content in the same way I notice on other platforms. There’s a huge amount of queer people creating content on there and their videos resonate with others who haven’t really been told these jokes before, or heard them in a context that’s relatable to them.”

Odus is far from the only creator enjoying viral success from making light of bottoming struggles. Content around the less-than-glamorous realities of queer sex has become its own TikTok genre. For Callum, also 24, whose videos take in the trauma of sex with haemorrhoids, “getting railed” in the woods and “morning fun” without having douched, #BottomTok provides a refreshingly open platform for young queer people to ask questions comfortably and without judgement. “I get so many messages on Instagram and TikTok saying ‘Dude, I needed this’, ‘Thank you for telling me this is normal’ or ‘Wait, does this happen?’ and I always write back to reassure them.”

The relative abundance of videos about anal sex naturally raises the question of censorship. While it is true that TikTok has suppressed LGBTQ+ content in the past (for which it has since apologised) and that it continues to remove adult content where it can, the vast majority of content on #BottomTok flies under the radar without creators having to use words like “seggs”. Bar the odd asterisk or emoji, most of the vocabulary is inconspicuous enough to be left as is — and for the most part, the content isn't titillating or softcore.

The creators we speak to are broadly positive about the way TikTok has left their content alone. Two of them have previously been banned, but in Callum’s case he admits that posting “thirst trap” videos was to blame rather than his videos about haemorrhoids. Though users can’t post unfiltered porn on TikTok like they could on Tumblr, the comedic videos have been allowed to remain and do fairly well — making TikTok arguably the only space where young people are seeing videos about anal sex that aren't pornographic.

More recently, bottoms and tops have been locked in a bemusing war across the For You Page, as the bottoms hit back at the tops for branding them as 'messy’”. Virginia-based 19-year-old Issac remembers uploading one such video, in which he poked fun at bottoms while miming the line from The Fault in Our Stars: “Really? You just ruined this whole thing”. He soon found himself being brutally cancelled as TikTokers lined up to stitch his original clip — both tops with sincere advice on how to be kinder, and bottoms with messages of solidarity to one another.

A few even took their anger to Issac’s DMs. “I had people saying ‘you’re never gonna find anyone with that kind of mindset’. I was scared,” he says. “I had never received that much hate.” Issac, who ironically is usually a bottom, had intended to be tongue-in-cheek with his now-deleted TikTok. He now shies away from making sex-related content, citing a lack of nuance among non-Gen Z audiences on the app. “Our humour is very different from past generations, so things can be misconstrued when you’re getting into education or other real-life stuff.”

Ultimately, what these videos are providing is the queer sex education so sorely lacking in schools; the popularity of TikToks about bottoming masking a sincere cry for better (read: any) LGBTQ sex ed. For Callum, who grew up in the Scottish region of Fife, where he was “the only gay in the bloody village,” this was non-existent. “When you grow up talking about gay sex everyone just thinks it’s a willy up the bum,” he says. “But you can get hemorrhoids and shit. You need to prepare for that stuff. Sex ed was just ‘wear a condom’.” Odus, who describes his videos as “edutainment”, agrees, noting that his TikToks are “reaching a lot of young people who are hungry for questions to be answered”.

Some creators argue that the increased volume of bottom-focussed content on TikTok is not a solution in and of itself. Michael, 21, from Los Angeles, is a full-time OnlyFans creator and recalls using porn as a teaching tool during his teens, “because in school they don’t really teach you and then you just have to do it and learn that way”. He maintains finding helpful information for LGBTQ bottoms is still difficult and says most of the videos about bottoming are too comedic to be educational. “Normalising anything that’s hard to talk about is a good thing, but there aren’t many videos that are like, ‘here’s how it’s gonna feel’, ‘this is how you clean’, ‘this is what you eat’.”

Dr Jeff Cohen, Assistant Professor of Medical Psychology at Columbia University who specialises in LGBTQ+ mental health, argues similarly: “Given the lack of information, it is understandable that LGBT+ youth utilise online outlets and social media platforms for information about sex.” But while he agrees online discourse around queer sex is “refreshing”, he believes that conversation “needs to go beyond social media and into the classroom”.

For others, TikToks about bottoming struggles may not be formal educational, but they provide important discussion-starters that simply didn’t exist on social media five years ago. “People will look at my video and laugh, but they’ll learn something from it and ask about it,” says Callum. “I’m hoping that through TikTok, the next generation will be safer and there won’t be as many people having to find this stuff out the hard way — by going through bottoming not knowing what’s gonna happen.”

Follow i-D on Instagram and TikTok for more messy bottoms.

Tagged:
Sex
LGBTQ
sex education
TikTok