The #cancelporn hashtag on video-sharing platform TikTok has had 175.8m views at the time of writing. To get a sense of how popular that is, the #sexpositive hashtag has had 72.4 million views, and the #sextech hashtag has just 42,200.
While TikTok’s community guidelines mean sexally-explicit content in all forms isn’t strictly allowed on the site, the rise of the #cancelporn movement on the video-sharing platform indicates some of the anti-porn attitudes of the app’s young audience (TikTok is a popular platform for Gen Z users, loosely described as those under 24).
Fifteen-second viral videos depicting ‘porn funerals’, promoting #nofap challenges and videos raising awareness of non-consensual porn have reached millions of views since the beginning of the year.
Yet, on the flip side, TikTok has drastically changed the way porn is created and has contributed to a rise of amatuer content.
The portrait-orientated (perfect for smartphones), graphic-heavy TikTok-style of video editing has meant that the recognisable ‘TikTok-style’ is now all over Pornhub. Using this form of content creation also means you have a higher chance of going viral through joining TikTok challenges, a plus for creators trying to increase their audiences quickly.
What’s more, this amateur, reactive form of content creation is popular with porn consumers, too: an xHamster trend report published at the end of 2020 revealed that interest in amateur and homemade adult content had surged, and was the top category for its US users.
Gwen, a 25-year-old sex worker from Toronto, recently told Wired: “TikTok has allowed me to connect with a whole new, diverse group of followers that I wouldn’t be able to reach through Twitter or Instagram,” says Gwen, who has accumulated 125,600 followers on TikTok since joining last September. “It’s been an integral part of my business growth in the past half a year.”
TikTok’s community guidelines stipulate that any “nudity, pornography or sexually explicit content” isn’t allowed on the site, and while many videos depicting sexual content get flagged and taken down, some can slip past the algorithm.
However, this means TikTok is not the platform to start building up your adult content and following, which isn’t surprising given the global clampdown on explicit online content and the FOSTA/SESTA bill that has made it even harder for sex workers to advertize their services online.
Having said that, adult content creators can publish non-explicit, TikTok-friendly content to drive traffic to more adult-friendly platforms, such as their Only Fans or Pornhub profiles. They could also use TikTok purely as a video editing platform, as the free app currently lets you download unpublished videos without the TikTok watermark.
There’s also a content crossover opportunity with Reddit channels, with many TikTok-related adult subreddits popping up in recent months (the subreddit r/TikTokXXX, which has more than 61,000 members, has gained over 20,000 new subscribers in 2021 alone).
However, only some – “around 30 to 40 per cent” – of the subreddit’s videos come from TikTok, as one of the sub’s moderators told Wired. He said most use the TikTok aesthetic to get traffic on the sub, with the fresh, concise videos appealing to the 18+ Gen Z audience.
Clearly, as TikTok’s Gen Z audience grows up, there’s a divide in attitudes around sex and online pornography among its users. While TikTok will never allow sexually explicit content, the app’s popularity isn’t going away and has changed the way people create content forever.
If adult content creators and sex workers can use the app as a marketing tool to direct traffic to sites where they can make an income, it’s certainly an audience that isn’t going away. But will TikTok increasingly ‘shadow-ban‘ all account sharing anything remotely sex-related? We’d like to be optimistic, but it’s hard to be as social media policies and wider governmental laws continue the crackdown on sexual content online.