Why TikTok's 'Vanilla Shaming' Trend Perpetuates Dangerous Non-Consensual Relationships

Photo: TikTok
Vanilla Shaming TikTok

There are many sides of TikTok, from #thriftflipping to Black American Sign Language.

And while they’re usually categorized as wholesome or entertaining – there’s a whole new side of TikTok that is raising some questions.

This new side of the social media app called #FreakTok has been coined the "darker side of TikTok," where there are millions of videos under the tag that create content that isn’t so innocent.

But, it seems as if most, if not all, of the content created under the tag has about the same similar message – vanilla shaming.

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It’s as if being vanilla is something to shame people about – especially women.

There’s videos of boys mocking girls for not being into choking. And as soon as someone disagrees, they’re labeled as “boring.” Since when does boring correlate to wanting to have safe boundaries during sex?

This is extremely detrimental to the line between consent.

TikTok is an app marketed towards preteens and teenagers, and many of the users on the app are young girls under the age of sixteen. They are seeing this content, and eventually may start to believe that choking, hitting, and spitting during sex is normal. 

They may feel pressured to say "yes" to boys who ask to do those things, and let's be clear: pressuring someone to do anything during sex does not fall anywhere near the line of consent.

It causes girls to question their preferences and what exactly “good” sex looks like. 

A TikTok user named Rachel shared a video in which she blasted the men on the app who turned vanilla into an insult and hypersexualized young girls to the point where they feel they need to allow men to "beat them up" in order to not be boring during sex.

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Many comments on the video were in favor of  the message, with one user even writing: “There is NOTHING wrong with being vanilla. Not everyone enjoys literal violence in bed and we need to stop pretending that’s a thing to be ashamed of.”

It’s disgusting to think about young girls watching these videos and then pushing themselves into situations where they aren’t comfortable just to fit in, and not be made fun of.

Consent is extremely important and if someone isn’t comfortable with doing something, then they should never be made to feel less than just because of that.

This social pressure is making young women feel as if their decision not to be choked or slapped is deemed as abnormal when in reality, it’s just an extremely valid preference.

This new trend of shaming people is further egging on the blurred line between consensual sex and sexual violence. These messages can lead to girls being put in situations that can then lead to assault and much worse. 

And these types of videos are being completely normalized on TikTok.

There are so many of them that romanticize domestic abuse, the "abusive boyfriend," and even “things girls want but won’t ask for," which is so harmful and scary — because it’s showing that even if a girl says no, she still wants it. Even though no should mean no.

Last summer, TikTok even had to step in and remove many videos under the #365days tag, after people were watching the Netflix movie 365 Days and creating content to show bruises obtained during sex from watching the film. 

These types of videos should not be categorized as jokes or harmless fun — not when unwanted physical violence in bed has led to many women being traumatized and “rough sex” has been used in the defense of homcide cases, which is just victim-blaming.

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This also shouldn’t be labeled as BDSM or a fetish. The BDSM and fetish community are not doing these things without both parties willingly consenting. It’s about respect, safety for them.

There are even users under the #KinkTok tag explaining what it really means to have kinks in bed, and discussing the what it means to have boundaries during sex.

These users are actively using their platforms to show what exactly it means to have a healthy relationship in bed.

There needs to be more of a filter on TikTok, and there also needs to be more of a open dialogue in schools, especially in sex education classes.

Young girls should be taught that their preferences are valid, and that if they are about to have sex with someone and that person makes them feel as if those preferences are stupid, it’s totally okay to walk away.

And young boys should be taught that no means no, there is no such thing as coercing or pressuring a girl to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

There is no such thing as “things girls want but won’t say.” If a girl says she doesn’t want to do something – she doesn’t want to do it, end of discussion.

Being comfortable with your sexuality, and being given a clear area to explore safely and with verbal consent from both parties is extremely important.

And it shouldn’t matter whether you’re into vanilla sex, if you have kinks/fetishes, or if you don’t want to have sex at all. Everyone’s decisions should be respected. 

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, you’re not alone. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that approximately 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the U.S. More than 12 million women and men over the course of the year suffer from instances of domestic violence and abuse.

Sexual abuse of children and minors is also incredibly common. 

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 have experienced sexual abuse from an adult. Girls are far more likely to be victims of sexual abuse; the organization reports that 82% of all victims under 18 are female. Visit RAINN for more information.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Chicago. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram