'Vanilla Shaming' Takes Off On TikTok
Is rough sex really the only way to have fun?
Ten years ago, Fifty Shades of Grey brought kink and BDSM into the mainstream. Suddenly, massive retailers were selling handcuffs, blindfolds and outfits, whilst the fire department saw a rise in calls relating to ‘kink gone wrong’.
BDSM advocates vowed to tackle so-called ‘kink-shaming’ head on. They called for better representations of BDSM relationships than that of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey’s, for safe, sane and consensual BDSM to be the norm in the media.
With a few exceptions, they didn’t really get it. Last year, much like a decade earlier, a film which blurred the lines of consent came to be synonymous with kink. That movie was, of course, 365 Days, the polish smash hit that portrayed a relationship between a kidnapper and his victim as sexy and desirable.
In spite of criticism (or perhaps because of it), 365 Days became a global phenomenon, and discussions around ethical BDSM once again hit the mainstream. But amongst this discourse, a new discussion emerged. That of ‘vanilla shaming’ and whether kinksters who loved these movies and the type of sex they portray considered themselves to be superior to people who just want to have ordinary sex.
TikTok user @han1noel made a video discussing ‘kinky’ things she doesn’t like. They included handcuffs, choking and name calling. The video went unexpectedly viral for a user with less than five thousand followers, racking up more than a million views. Although the user received some support, the comment section was divided, with one user writing ‘what do you do then… just lay there?’. Plenty of others echoed these sentiments, as if pleasurable and exciting sex must somehow be synonymous with violence.
@han1noel isn’t alone in finding anti-vanilla discourse uncomfortable. Another user, @oatmilk623, made a TikTok discussing how vanilla has been turned into an insult, most often leveraged against teenage girls. This is especially worrying – as some kinksters pointed out in the comments – as teenagers having sex are less likely to know what is safe to do, their own boundaries and desires, and can be less able to advocate for themselves.
The BDSM community has fought for a long time for acceptance and against stigma, yet some of their members on TikTok are now shaming and bullying young people who do not wish to engage in rough sex. The rise of ‘Vanilla Shaming’ on TikTok and elsewhere could have serious consequences for young women and teenage girls in particular, who, living under patriarchy, already feel pressure to perform sexually and to please men, no matter what they themselves like or want.