'I get more likes when I post thirst traps': Why is Gen Z so sexual on social media?
Early last year, Rolling Stones magazine reported that millennials have found Gen Zers to be “pure and puritanical”.
According to the article, these "puriteens" are so sexually conservative, they have no qualms calling people out on online behaviours that are deemed “too much”.
In the same year, Vox ran an article, crediting Gen Zers for their involvement in the Cancel Porn Movement on TikTok.
At the risk of sounding like a finger-wagging prude, it’s difficult to agree with the sentiment every time I witness yet another Gen Zer gyrating their hips or posting something that alludes to a sexual experience.
While there are probably “puriteens” out there who post more wholesome content on TikTok, my algorithm seems to lean heavily on the other side.
The kind where videos like this one, this one, and this one exist.
While TikTok doesn’t allow for nudity, pornography, or sexually explicit content (inclusive of texts), many TikTokers get around this by using symbols and numbers in place of letters for explicit words.
For example, they use “p3n1$” and "d!ck" to get around blocklists. Words like “sex” get turned to “seggs”.
It appears, I’m also not the only one that feels this way.
A month ago, Reddit user u/Xinfinte shared their frustrations on how a sexualised version of TikTok has ruined their feed.
Other users in the comment section also agreed.
I’m fully aware that some of these videos were created satirically, I can’t help but feel like there’s some truth to them.
After all, TikTok has grown from strength to strength as a marketing tool. Various adult performers such as Gwen Adora, have also used the platform in their marketing plans to build a bigger fanbase.
From “psychologists” giving toxic dating advice, to content creators promoting things like high value dating (where women position themselves only to date men of high networth) and toxic feminism, the platform has been the birthplace of several worrying trends.
According to my Gen Z friends, it’s nothing to worry about, though.
“Of course we don’t believe everything we’re seeing on TikTok. Gen Zers are looking for more authentic online experiences. I’ve seen some of my friends share personal problems with family, their partners, and are more open to discussing sex, too,” says *Judith, 22, a university undergrad.
A local influencer I reached out to — who has more than 25,000 followers on Instagram — shared that appearing available has helped her gain more followers on the platform.
“I get more likes when I post thirst traps,” she revealed.
“A lot of people from Instagram have also started following me on TikTok when they saw I had one. It’s led to me growing followers, which is great for my brand.”
In some ways, I completely understand why my influencer friend does this.
Sex does sell. If owning a pretty face, appearing single, and occasionally posting suggestive photos means she gets more clout and in turn, more sponsorships that pay the bills, then why not?
Perhaps sexualised content is entertaining on TikTok, and maybe that’s what people want to see.
I mean, millennials did pioneer the whole concept of posting thirst traps, right?
Social media marketer and expert, Tramaine Teo, has also noticed that Gen Zers are more adventurous in trying out different platforms and exploring new things on social media.
“They have little to no reservations about posting things in general. They’re not afraid to be looked at or ‘judged’. This is who they are and it’s a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude,” Teo observed.
That said, she added that this didn't apply to every Gen Zer. “Gen Zers who grew up in a hybrid world of pre and post social media were a little more reserved and calculated.”
With over 14 years of experience in digital marketing, Teo has definitely seen all the ways various age groups have responded to social media trends throughout the years.
According to her, while there are different ways that generations have interacted with social media, we might just see a dilution in boundaries between the ages and the trends they take on.
Instead of grouping consumers based on their age, we might just group them based on more objective-driven trends.
“We might begin to group consumers based on what they’re trying to achieve, whether it’s to engage, to entertain or to be entertained versus how old and when they were born,” she explained.
(*Names have been changed on request)