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Sexual content on a social media platform with millions of young children should never be allowed, but lines become blurred when TikTok users find subversive ways to share fetish content with others. Behind seemingly innocent videos lay adults seeking to arouse one another, uncaring that it may be occurring right in front of your child. Protect your child from inappropriate online content and prevent digital injury with our GKIS Screen Safety Toolkit.

What is a “Fetish” or “Kink”? 

A fetish refers to sexual arousal resulting from objects or a specific body part that is not typically seen as sexual.[1] Fetish objects or body parts could include feet, hair, food, or even balloons. For those with a fetish, sex may be less pleasurable or even impossible without the presence of the fetish object.

In contrast, kink refers to unconventional or bizarre sexual activity with self or others.[2] While fetishes can become sexual disorders, kinks typically do not progress to that level. More specifically, Fetishistic Disorder occurs when a person’s fetish escalates to the point of being persistent and distressing.[3] To meet the conditions for this disorder, an individual must experience sexual urges that meet the definition of a fetish, these fetishes must cause distress or impairment in functioning, and the object they fetishize must not be used in cross-dressing or sexual stimulation.[4] 

Fetishistic Disorders are typically seen in males and emerge during puberty.[4] Fetishistic Disorder can make it hard for individuals to develop intimate relationships and can cause sexual dysfunction.[4] Studies have also found that fetishism is often correlated with other mental health issues, substance abuse, criminal justice involvement, and an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.[4]

How are TikTok Users Posting This Content?

Most social media websites have content filters and bots that flag any content that can be considered inappropriate or of a sexual nature. However, most of the fetish content on TikTok does not contain nudity, instead appealing to fetishes that utilize implied sexual behavior.

Popular TikTok user Lena Rae (@lenarae.lh), who has over 230k followers, has created a collection of videos titled, “Is This Fetish Content?” that identifies this type of content and calls out the users to post it.

In a video with almost 18 million views, Lena Rae reacts to a seemingly innocent video from user “putinnu” (a not-so-thinly veiled attempt at sexual innuendo “put it in you”). The video shows a woman in a wedding dress shoving a glass vase into a multi-tiered cake and then proceeding to pour multi-colored, runny frosting inside the vase. Lena Rae points out the vase is a phallic shape. She also comments on the consistency of the frosting and how the person is spilling it as they pour. The woman in the video explains that the frosting is going to run all over the cake, a reference that Lena Rae says is to appeal to those with a “sploshing” fetish. Lena Rae points out that the actions in the video are purposely repetitive and aim to appeal to a fetishistic audience.[5]

While these videos may not be expressly sexual like other content on TikTok, the hidden fetish content videos are flooded with comments from adults who are taking pleasure in the content being suggested to them. This creates a dangerous combination of adults with sexual fetishes consuming content that is “safe” enough to also show up on the For You Page of young kids.

How Viewing This Content Can Affect Kids 

Viewing sexual content at any age can be harmful to one’s mental health, but when viewed during a time of development, it can have lasting effects into adulthood.

Experts have found that young children who view pornographic content frequently become isolated, withdrawn, anxious, or depressed.[6] Consumption of online sexual content at a young age can lead to premature sexual experimentation as well as other high-risk behaviors, dating violence, cannabis abuse, or the development of harmful fetishes.[7]

What Parents Can Do

Open communication about sexual content can save your child from digital injury and stunted development. Some experts even recommend talking to your child as young as 9 years old about the difference between “good” and “bad” pictures.[8] Experts believe that in doing so, children will be better able to identify groomers or online predators and be less susceptible to them.

There are also various protective factors that one can turn to to prevent early exposure to sex. Creating an environment where a child feels connected to their parents and family can help them feel more comfortable communicating about the content they consume. To help facilitate difficult conversations about online content, try out our free GKIS Connected Family Screen Agreement. Fostering healthy conversations and helping your child create positive self-perception can help kids to seek validation from family and peers rather than online strangers. 

Like what you read? Check out our GKIS articles “Are TikTok Users Using Kids’ Games to Share Inappropriate Reddit Content?” and “Sextortion Scammers Targeting the LGBTQ+ Community”.

Thanks to CSUCI intern, Katherine Carroll for researching fetish content on TikTok.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited

[1] Collins, S. What Is a Sexual Fetish? (2015). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/sexual-fetish

[2] PureWow Editors. Kink vs. Fetish: A Sex Therapist Lays Out the Difference.

(2021). PureWow Wellness. https://www.purewow.com/wellness/kink-vs-fetish

[3] Martin, S. & Levine, S. Fetishistic Disorder. (2023). UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/fetishistic-disorder/print#:~:text=Fetishistic%20disorder%20is%20characterized%20by,or%20specific%2C%20nongenital%20body%20parts.

[4] Porter, D. Fetishistic Disorder DSM-5 302.81 (F65.0). (2023). Theravive. https://www.theravive.com/therapedia/fetishistic-disorder-dsm–5-302.81-(f65.0)

[5] Lena Rae [@lenarae.lh]. (2022). #duet with [@putinnu] RIP my algorithm #food #hand [Video]. TikTok. https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTR3L9f9W/

[6] Daniels, J. Children’s Early Exposure To Porn: What You Need To Know. (2022). EverAccountable. https://everaccountable.com/blog/effects-of-early-sexualization-on-children/

[7] Pistoia, J. Growing Up Too Fast: Early Exposure to Sex. (2022) PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/health/growing-up-too-fast-early-exposure-to-sex 

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