The explosive TikTok trend boosting women's sex lives by 74%.

Throbbing members, straining groins, guttural growls and hot wet centres... once relegated to semi (lol) ironic bargain bins in bookstores around the country, these phrases are once again being read by the rapidly dilating pupils of women in their millions around the world.

The re-emergence of the erotic romance genre has swept the planet like items knocked off a desk atop which a CEO has her way with her secretary. The world might be a binfire right now, but thanks in part to #booktok - TikTok’s literary corner - women are escaping into smut in record numbers, with women and non-binary readers leading the charge.

Watch: Sexologist Chantelle Otten shares the best sex tips for couples. Post continues after video.

Video via Instagram @chantelle_otten_sexologist.

Hashtags within BookTok like #SpicyBookTok - with over 1.2 million posts, and #Smut - with 488k posts - have such passionate followings they have been credited with shaping bestseller lists, reviving the work of authors like Sarah J Maas, whose 2015 series A Court of Thorns and Roses hurtled to stratospheric success in 2022 thanks to its popularity on the platform.


While the popularity of 'spicy' fiction is nothing new, in the past we’ve collectively credited its resurgence to one book or author. 50 Shades of Grey had middle-aged mums buying leather at unprecedented levels in 2015; in 2003 The Bride Stripped Bare caused a global stir with its then-anonymous author dishing on the inner fantasies and actual dalliances of a suburban married woman. What’s changed in recent times however, is the surging popularity of platforms like Wattpad and Literotica, which allow for crowd-sourced erotica as well as spicy fan fiction, in a democratisation of the market akin to the way sites like Pornhub and RedTube disrupted the porn industry.

For sexologist and counsellor Tanya Koens, a change in the type of erotic content - as well as who is being platformed - is what is responsible for the increase in popularity. 

"As Dan Savage likes to say, a lot of porn seems to be created for angry straight white men," she says. 

"Not everyone is into choking and violence. Traditional porn doesn’t really feature a lot of pleasure for folks with vulvas."

Juxtapose this, says Koens, with the fact that Dipsea, for example, boasts 25 per cent of its content written by and for queer people, and 50 percent of its content written by people of colour. 

Does it have something to do with the fact that men are traditionally more visual, and women are more turned on by their own imaginations? Koens doesn’t think so. 


"I think society just makes a lot of stuff that is designed to appeal visually to men, while shutting women down," she says. 

"I think we've been gendered. Our sexuality has been gendered. Lots of people can imagine different things and get off on imagining, lots of people can't imagine, lots of people get off on touch - so once again, I think that if you're producing content that really appeals to people, they're going to go where they find what they like."

As well as unifying the smut-lovers of TikTok, erotic fiction is also having some surprising IRL benefits.

One study by researcher Harold Leitenburg reportedly found women who consume erotic fiction have 74 per cent more sex than women who don’t.

@poppysabrina_reads Spicy book recommendations!🌶️🖤🥀 #booktok #booktoker #bookrecommendations #spicybooks #spicybook #darkromance #darkromancebooks #bookish #bookrecs ♬ original sound - spotifysongs

For Bernadette*, a 42-year-old mother-of-three from Brisbane who became interested in the genre during the pandemic, an increase in bedroom antics with her husband is one happy side effect of her reading hobby. 

"I was never really into watching porn, I find it a bit ridiculous and often, a bit exploitative," says the consultant. 

"But I saw this TikTokker rating books on their 'spiciness', so I downloaded a few. From there, I was introduced to sites like Literotica - where you can search [for] whatever short erotic fiction takes your fancy. There are even fan-fiction sex scenes with characters from films or celebrities!"


While Bernadette says her sex life prior to her introduction to erotic fiction was “passable for two middle-aged parents”, she’s noticed an uptick in her own desire she can directly relate to her new interest. 

"My husband now gets excited when I download a new 'spicy' book on my Kindle because more often than not I’ll be in the mood to ravage him," she laughs, "although to be honest, he’s not always essential for me to have a good time. I’ve since invested in a number of sex toys - what can I say, the algorithm served up what was needed!"

There’s no big mystery as to why upswings in the popularity of erotica seem to coincide with darker global times.

Research from the NIH suggests an upswing in online pornography searches coincided with the most restrictive phases of lockdowns across the world.

Out of the flames of the pandemic and the international uncertainty it heralded, the emergence of the erotic escapism genre for women is unsurprising.

Unlike life, erotic fiction ensures that not only does everything turn out OK in the end but also, if you hang in there, you’ll likely be rewarded with an orgasm or two for your trouble.

*Name has been changed for privacy.

Feature image: TikTok @celesteraine + @maaailinh + @ashreads.

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