Here’s How Kink Is Taking Over Social Media in the Wake of the Pandemic
It’s the Great Hornification of the 2020s.
By Arielle Richards
The internet has always been home to the horniest pockets of society. But since the heat of the pandemic and its multiple lockdowns, social media is hornier than ever.
Being “Horny on Main” was once the ultimate online faux pas – the descriptor given to anyone who accidentally or intentionally engaged with sexy content on their main account. But now the internet is a thirsting, fiending world where the top lore of the land declares: “God gives his toughest battles to his horniest soldiers”.
Private, secret “finstas” of the past have bled into many people’s personal accounts, too. From thirsty memes to sexually-charged recipes, people are creating and sharing kinky content on their public accounts.
Yes, the 2020s has seen the normalisation of flagrant horniness online. It’s the “Great Hornification of the 2020s”, “The Horny 20s” or maybe, “The Hornycene”.
But how did we arrive at BDSM recipes and creampie memes shared on main? And what does all of this mean for real-life sex-positivity?
TikTok is becoming the app du jour for the majority of the population, and its influence on humour and culture is undeniable. It’s fitting, then, that TikTok is where the journey down the rabbithole, to trace the genesis of social media’s accelerating hornification, begins.
FOODTOK, SPLOSHING AND CULINARY THIRST TRAPS
To truly understand how everyday content got so horny, we have to look at three streams of content on TikTok: FoodTok, sploshing and culinary thirst traps. They share a common link: food and sex.
One of TikTok’s most popular subcultures is Food TikTok, or FoodTok. On the app, FoodTok hashtags have amassed over 57 billion views, a staggering number considering the app truly only took off in 2018. On FoodTok, you can see recipe videos, captivating meal vlogs, restaurant reviews and hypnotic lifestyle content, made popular by creators like Emily Mariko.
But nothing is safe from the internet’s horniness – especially not FoodTok. Recently, an influx of intentionally kinky content has surfaced there, from BDSM-fuelled desserts to wet and messy sprinkles play.
In 2019, under the guise of “food hacks”, videos began appearing that followed the reasonable conventions of most home cooking videos: a big kitchen, a starring cook who narrates their recipe to the camera as they go, and a camera person who dutifully tracks the whole thing.
But these home cooks weren’t like the others. They created baffling, disgusting concoctions. There was the now-infamous Spaghetti-O’s pie, the horrifying toilet-bowl ice cream punch, and a candy-cane platter topped with Chinese takeout.
On this side of FoodTok, every last kitchen implement was used. Nerds were sprinkled on spaghetti and whole hands entered jars of mayonnaise. It was a lawless hellhole. The videos all followed a similar pattern: the cook, usually a well-groomed white woman, always managed to do the absolute most in the worst possible way. The videos were always incredibly, incomprehensibly, infuriatingly, messy.
Like countless others in the videos’ comment sections, I remember being tormented by questions: What am I watching? Who are these people who do such unspeakable things to food? Why is this happening?
And, finally: is this a sex thing?
In 2021, Eater solved the mystery behind “[everyone’s] least favourite gross viral food videos”.
The videos all led back to one man: a Las Vegas magician by the name of Rick Lax. His network of creators made viral “prank content”, and the disclaimers on all of his Facebook posts insisted everything had been made “for entertainment purposes only.”
The videos were perfectly constructed to engineer virality, and all shared a distinct energy I could only identify as bad porn.
On TikTok, it’s speculated that these types of video pander to sploshing, a fetish under the “wet and messy” umbrella group. Sploshing generally involves getting off on the experience and sight of dousing oneself, or another, in food substances. While it’s undetermined whether the creators in Lax’s network are sploshers themselves, one of the creators, Getti Kehayova, told Eater the videos were “all positive” and “about making people go ‘what the eff?’”.
But sploshing isn’t the only kind of kinky food content going viral on TikTok.
On FoodTok, culinary thirst traps are everywhere. With impeccable editing and an emphasis on ASMR, creators are tapping into the inherent sexiness of possessing cooking skills – from Doobydobap’s, “Don’t yuck my yum”, to the wider genre of “hot men making cool food”.
The most notable of these creators is Cedrik Lorenzen, a self-taught chef whose desserts are served up with a side of BDSM. Rapid cuts of Cedrik’s hands leave little to the imagination as he fingers batter, slaps supple dough, and squishes yolks between his fingers. Notable captions include: “I’m putting you on my to-do list”, “Now spread your legs and try to tell me about your day” and “Look me in the eyes & tell me you’re coming”.
There’s almost always a side-profile shot of a muscular, shirtless Cedrik, spitting a mouthful of liquid into the awaiting sink.
There’s something unsettling about the boldly erotic use of food porn in its most literal sense. Maybe it’s the audacity. Or maybe it’s Cedrik’s use of language, which would usually be relegated to BDSM relationships, that he’s appropriated on such a public forum. Perhaps it’s the fact that, ultimately, TikTok is still an app for children.
“Love watching your videos but what’s with the spitting?” one commenter asked on Cedrik’s video captioned: “I want to do bad things to you”.
“It’s not for you Maryana,” someone else responded.
IT BEGAN WITH A SP!T K!NK
In 2019, Mel Magazine declared “spit in my mouth” the internet’s thirstiest meme, attributing its humble beginnings to a horny moment in 2017’s Disobedience, where Rachel Weisz delivers a load of saliva into Rachel McAdams’ waiting mouth. The meme took off on TikTok, and began a long-lasting life of its own, sparking the “I would never let a man spit in my mouth” trend.
On social media, horny meme cycles spiral exponentially. “Spit in my mouth” provoked a thirsty meme cycle, which went from face-sitting over to pegging, then to creampies and breeding. On TikTok these jokes are almost always made by young women, who, in the quest for ever-edgier humour, consistently push the limits of what’s acceptable to joke about – it’s just a small microcosm of something that happens again and again.
Things didn’t stop with “spit in my mouth”, “choke me out”, “sit on my face” or even “suck my toes”. In May 2021, there was suddenly a flush of jokes about having a piss kink. In one video, a young woman joked about purposefully getting stung by a jellyfish in order to get peed on. “I’ve won. Exactly as planned”, she lip-synced.
And while kinky language is being normalised on social media, whether or not it’s translating to a real-life progression in sex positivity is still debated. Laura Miano, a sexologist and founder of Posmo, an online sex toy store inspired by queer sex theory, told VICE changes were being affected by the internet, especially in the normalisation of fetishes and kinks.
“These fetishes have been in existence for a reason. They can be sexually arousing and really tap into some of our most primal desires. What has most likely held us back from these becoming more normalised is the social stigma that surrounds them,” she said.
“It would have been hard for someone to be the first person to voice to their friends or partners that they have an interest in these kinds of kinks. Before TikTok nobody was really talking about them.”
Still – TikTok is just the latest platform of the social internet helping connect people who might otherwise keep their true feelings private. Laura says seeing a kinky video with thousands of likes, views and comments, possibly made by other people in your circle, would “almost instantly communicate that [your] kink is shared by many other people”.
“Stigma is often driven by fear but when [X] amount of people share your view, it becomes far less scary. This all makes it much easier to discuss and explore with people outside of the internet.”
FROM WHENCE IT CAME
In the past, the internet’s horny flag has been flown mostly away from the social eye – on NSFW forums, in the depraved and hallowed halls of Reddit, animated in quick GIFs across Tumblr, and all over Twitter. Social media may have connected us in ways previously unheard of, but it also allowed us to express sexuality online.
Ultimately, though, we have people in the sex industry to thank for the normalisation of horny discourse on social media. In many ways, they walked so we could run our mouths about “mommy milkers”.
Most dismantling of taboos, and de-stigmatisation of anything sex-related, can be attributed to sex workers. The mainstreaming of “horny” internet culture comes alongside the gradual destigmatisation of online sex work, which has been propelled by the wider uptake and acceptance of sites like OnlyFans over the past few years.
OnlyFans’ meteoric rise felt sudden, but was actually the compounding result of sex workers all over the world adopting the paid-access platform. They brought in traffic – and set up its userbase – when its subscription feature became the 21st Century’s answer to selling porn.
And the current evolution of thirsty humour is being driven by young women, specifically black women. Cardi B and Megan the Stallion’s release of “WAP” in 2020 was perhaps the most obvious watershed moment for brazen declaration of women’s sexuality, with its energetic beat foregrounded by deliciously thirsty lyrics.
And we really have black women to thank for being the drivers of horny meme culture recently, too. This is clear on Instagram, with the rising popularity of cultural icons like 27 year-old Patia Borja of Patiasfantasyworld, an Instagram meme account run by Borja and two others, sitting at the vanguard of chaotic, thirsty meme accounts. Since its genesis in 2017, Patiasfantasyworld has set the bar high and horny with incredibly thirsty, mostly original memes for its 436,000-strong, majority black, queer audience.
Online, forums have worked to popularise and normalise fringe cultures since the inception of the internet. Take Furries, for example: It’s speculated that furry fandom has been around since the 80s, but it was the internet that skyrocketed the culture to its current global prominence.
In pre-social media times, even mentioning a piss kink was transgressive. Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw – who could just as easily be positioned as the villain for today’s audience – famously flips out and dumps a partner at his request of a golden shower.
But the internet has allowed us to connect with people, cultures, lifestyles and beliefs we never would have in the past, and it’s allowing for the rapid acceleration of social change.
The normalisation of kinky language online seems to signal forward movement, even if it’s “only jokes” for now.
It’s just a bit of fun – isn’t that what sex is all about?