TikTok is kinky now

With dungeons closed during the pandemic, the BDSM community found a safe space on the app. Welcome to #kinktok.

by Talia Heisey
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21 June 2021, 8:00am

Photos via TikTok

For a long time, finding content and creators who specialized in kink on mainstream platforms required knowing exactly where to look. After NSFW Tumblr was shut down, kink community members were left with the “clunky” platform Fetlife or more established communities on social media platforms like Reddit. But now, on TikTok, there’s an entire community of creators sharing videos about fake dommes and their piss kinks. Whether you’re just downright curious or looking to bond with members of the BDSM community, all you have to do is tune into #kinktok, where you’ll find TikToks with billions of views and creators with followings into the hundreds of thousands. 

Like many of us who turned to TikTok during lockdown, kinktok’s loyal creators downloaded the app when the pandemic shut down local in-person BDSM meet-ups and events. Through the platform's algorithm, kink and fetish-related content began showing up on their for you page and the community was born. “During COVID there were no longer munches (meet-ups held locally for community education and socialization) and dungeons were closed. I had no community. Kinktok gave me that,” said @brat.tasticxxx, a comedian, content creator and educator. 

“I don't think that kinktok would be as cohesive and solid of a community or a resource as it is now without the pandemic,” Sunny Megatron adds.

TikTok’s algorithm allowed the community to thrive with the creation of online discords, munches, trainings and last weekend's virtual Kink Con, where creators gave a far more in-depth kink education than the platform’s 60 second video limit allows. “TikTok is a very interactive platform that encourages engagement, and when you have something like that where people are able to engage with creators and engage with each other, that just naturally fosters a community,” says Phrygian Monk, an educator and BDSM practitioner. 

To those outside of the kink community, TikTok helps break down the stigma around BDSM content. The ease of scrolling through the FYP makes consuming a video about the basics of consent in BDSM no different than a dance or make-up tutorial, yet there’s something inherently exciting about seeing someone talk about things often kept private — like fetishes — in your feed. “If you're not in the community, it's kind of salacious. It's kind of interesting. It's still kind of got a stigma where you're like, ‘Oh, I'm watching something naughty,’” Catie, aka @catieosaurus, says.

Catie initially struggled with whether they wanted to include kink content on their own channel  because the nature of TikTok makes it difficult for viewers to consent to seeing whatever clip shows up next. They eventually decided to start discussing their experiences on the app after realizing there was a lack of content exploring neurodiversity in kink.  

Catie’s experience of creating content on TikTok has parallels to joining the BDSM community for the first time IRL. “I feel like everybody kind of remembers their first time at the dungeon, or the first time at the munch,” they said. “But for me, I remember the first time that I posted a TikTok where I openly admit to being kinky, and I was like, what's gonna happen… and nothing happened.”

“It's important for people to have access to communities and spaces — including online — that explore and talk about sex, challenge shame, and that emphasize boundaries, self-knowing, communication and consent,” Jesse Kahn, a Director and Sex Therapist at the Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in NYC, tells i-D. “There's so much we can all learn from kinky people and communities, regardless of if we're kinky.”

For BIPOC kink creators, kinktok offers an overarchingly positive experience despite difficulties feeling seen and heard. “The algorithm is bias[ed]. It has silenced many on the app — Black, LGBTQ, trans, sex workers, anyone who doesn't fit society's standards. Yet somehow underage girls engaging in sexual activity is fine. Racism. Homophobia. Transphobia. Fatphobia are all okay,” @brat.tasticxxx says. “I am thankful I haven't been fetishized… Though, as a BIPOC creator and a woman I don't get as much attention as others might. For a community that's supposed to be open and understanding, it still has it's issues to work out. That being said, [TikTok] has been a great outlet for me.”

One of the dangers associated with a thriving kinktok community is the spread of misinformation or misleading content on the app. With so many creators active within the space, it's not uncommon to see inexperienced educators or unqualified users teaching dangerous techniques. 

“It seems like every other week somebody [is] teaching a cool bondage tie that will actually cinch up on itself and potentially cause very long-lasting, if not maybe permanent nerve damage in your wrists,” Megatron says. “You can't really consent if the person teaching you hasn't taught you all of the risks that are involved in that, and TikTok, because it's a medium that shows you 60 second little snippets, is not the place to be teaching complex things that we call edge play.”

Megatron has found that “the hardest [thing to teach] is that kink is customizable. The non-negotiable things we have in kink have to do with consent and ethics, and looking after your partner's well being. Aside from that, you can make your own rules.”

@BaezyBoo says that the majority of her followers look for sex education within kinktok. “Nobody else is there to teach them,” she says. “Nobody's gonna teach you how to make a girl squirt. Nobody's gonna teach you how to, you know, make a guy come from just head. You're not gonna find that on Google. These are the taboo things that you can ask [me].” 

Yet there’s much more to kinktok than just educational content. As a femme-domme @LucyLoverXXX, uses TikTok to share anecdotes about her job and post thirst traps. “I do not want to be held accountable as a kink educator on [TikTok] because other people are filling that space and I'm pretty busy just being a sex worker,” Lucy says. 

Compared to Twitter's oversaturated market, TikTok's algorithm has significantly increased Lucy’s profits. “I went from like top 9% to top 2.8% [on OnlyFans] in two months. If I have a video go viral, I will make a massive dump of cash off of it. There's really no comparison,” she says. “TikTok is a lot more personal [than other platforms]. You get to see my house, you get to see the kind of stuff I wear everyday, you get to hear my voice, see my personality, see how I interact with other creators, see me go live and I think that definitely creates more of an attachment from your audience.”

It helps that Lucy has also found her own niche as a professional princess dominatrix. “I've always found it interesting that with men, any man can just be a domme because they are men. But with women, there's a very certain aesthetic that is associated with being a domme, like this leather, goth, kind of thing, and those dommes are awesome… but that's just not me,” she says. “TikTok has really helped me express this duality of being very dominant and also a very feminine person.”

“Getting on kinktok and interacting with a lot of people has helped to dispel a lot of the toxic masculinity that I was kind of holding on to, especially some of the ideas around sex and sexuality,” Monk adds. “One big thing that I've more recently gotten into talking about is pegging and how it's not emasculating to enjoy pleasure.”

Though the visibility of TikTok can be negative, too, resulting in bullying, harassment and even death threats. And despite the openness of the kinktok community, there’s a lot of “vanilla shaming” occurring on the platform.

“Kinktok is particularly good at dispelling myths about kink quickly, which can spark curiosity and then [encourage people to start] looking for more information,” Jesse says. “The more accessible spaces that reduce shame and increase knowledge, self awareness, communication and consent the better.”

Although the app has stated community guidelines, kinktok creators, sex educators and sex workers within the BDSM community are often censored without having violated any of TikTok’s policies. “As soon as I started talking about positivity around sex kink and positivity around sex workers they started to take [my TikToks] down right away,” Chippy, aka @ChippyLipton2, says. The reasoning frequently given for the removal of Chippy’s content being “adult nudity and sexual activities,” despite her videos not containing any. 

“I think a really big issue in the kink community is that non-sex working kinktokers are often not censored to the degree that [sex working] kinktokers are,” Lucy adds. “That's the thing I've experienced every single day of being a creator on there.” 

Some members of the community feel that if TikTok added an 18 plus age filter, some of the issues around censorship and consent would disappear. “I would be much more comfortable posting more things. I think that's why I've avoided thirst trap content,” Monk said. “I tried to keep my education very PG, you know, as PG as kink can be.”

Other creators feel that an age filter would limit access to necessary sex education. “I'm not interested in putting [my content] behind a wall because I think conversations about consent, agency, respect, communication, negotiation and boundaries [are necessary]. Sure, I talk about them in terms of kink, but I also talk about them just in conversation with being a functioning adult and being a human being,” Catie says. “I don't want my content to be not accessible to the kid who grew up like me, not knowing that consent was a thing, not knowing that boundaries were okay.” 

The stigmas around BDSM — and speaking openly about sex in general —might perpetuate the frequent censorship of kinktok. But the fact that this community could never have existed on such a public platform 10 years ago, and is thriving on TikTok now, allows those who practice BDSM to reframe kink outside of it’s mainstream image. And that’s pretty powerful. “I think people need to be empowered,” Chippy says, “and I see this as a second coming of the sexual revolution.”

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