TikTok life hacks: Sexual fetish videos hiding in plain sight? – BBC

You've probably seen them on your TikTok For You Page, posted by accounts uploading what look like absurd, silly crafting videos.
Bare feet plunging into silicone, women smearing food over their toes – apparently to combat dry skin.
Often billed as life hacks, the "solutions" on offer are almost always totally unrealistic and pointless.
Recently, talk online has turned to whether this content is subtly catering to an audience with certain sexual fetishes.
Check the comments under these videos and you'll see many suggesting that there's something else going on.
TikTok's guidelines ban "content that depicts a sexual fetish". But the company says it's reviewed the clips we are referring to and they don't break their rules.
One of the biggest accounts for this type of content – which we've decided not to name – has 11 million followers and its videos have received a total of 163.8m likes.
We asked Alix Fox, a writer, broadcaster and sex expert, to watch an assortment of these videos.
Many focus on feet – a well-known kink for some people. But others are more obscure.
For example, one suggests that if your jeans don't fit, you can get in the shower with them on, so that they get wet and are easier to pull up.
Alix noted themes like exaggeration, focus on particular body parts, use of food and mess, anticipation and humiliation – all of which she says are related to types of fetish.
She told us that the companies posting them will be aware of the crowd they can attract.
It "won't have bypassed their knowledge" that certain types of videos get more views, she says.
If you read the comments under the videos, lots of viewers seem convinced they're watching fetish content.
Ultimately, Alix believes it is worrying that children as young as 13 "can view commentary and discussions of types of eroticism", and might even be led to porn sites.
"Young people are being exposed to confusing, sexualised things on the internet, whether deliberately or not," she says.
The content's become so popular that adult website PornHub now has a section named after one of these major "crafting" pages.
But, Alix says, it's "extremely difficult to prove" they're intended to cater to fetishes.
"The lines between what is absolutely knowledgeable that fetishists will want to watch it – versus just total coincidence… those lines are becoming increasingly blurred," she says.
Alix admits that, despite endless similarities between these videos and "the tropes of porn", some people may simply enjoy watching these silly videos as a way to relax.
"If you know a life hack is going to be terrible, you can enjoy watching it without the sensation that it's another thing to add to your to-do list," she says.
It's important to note that some, but not all, of these videos do appear on other platforms too.
One of the most popular "crafting" accounts also has a huge presence on Facebook and YouTube.
A big factor in their popularity on TikTok is the app's algorithm.
"Algorithms are rewarding that content the more reaction you get to them," says Alix.
"It doesn't matter whether that commentary is positive or negative, sexual or innocent.
"If that engagement is happening then you are bringing in money."
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