By Hannah Oliver
Let me take you back.
It’s March 2020. The sun is shining and all anyone can talk about is the elusive COVID-19. A full-scale lockdown has just been announced in the UK, and the national backing track for mourning our domestic incarceration is SZA and Doja Cat’s ‘Kiss Me More’.
With absolutely nothing else to do, the whole world seems to be unanimously captivated by TikTok.
More than any social media platform before, TikTok seemed to formulate the ultimate model for engagement, as it became known for tailoring specific content to its users’ interests. So, if you’re into live sports - it will show you live sports. If you’re into 90s hip hop - it will show you 90s hip hop.
And if you’re into smutty erotic fiction: you’re in the right place.
Dubbed ‘BookTok’ by its very faithful community, the internet’s kinkiest book club began mid-lockdown as the likes of Colleen Hoover and Taylor Jenkins-Reid saw huge growth in their book sales. Whilst it has expanded to encompass a wide range of genres such as YA, fantasy, and contemporary fiction, by far its most popular niche comes in the form of steamy or spicy romance novels (wink, wink).
Steamy BookTok focuses on discussing and recommending contemporary romance novels with a sexy, sensual edge, sometimes even dipping into the ever-so-slightly more explicit world of erotica. And the more that discourses surrounding video pornography and its treatment of women have shifted into mainstream discussions, it makes sense that many of us have turned to reading as our preferred not-at-all-guilty pleasure.
Of course, the more members of steamy BookTok began to read of this genre, the more they began to realize that for every different trope, there was a corresponding kink. Fans of teacher-student relationships such as in Ali Hazelwood’s The Love Hypothesis might be into roleplay; fans of dominant, male love interests such as in Penelope Douglas’ Credence might be into powerplay; fans of Fiona Cole’s extremely spicy series Voyeur might be into, well, voyeurism. But there is one kink which seemed to take BookTok completely by storm: the praise kink.
What is a praise kink?
The ‘praise kink’ refers to a specific sexual interest in receiving praise or compliments as a form of arousal or gratification. In other words, it applies to anyone who gets turned on by feeling appreciated in bed. These compliments range from the standard ‘good girl’ affirmations to compliments surrounding someone’s appearance (‘You look so good’/’Your [specific body part] is mesmerising’) and their actions (‘You’re doing so well’/ ‘I love how you make me feel’).
But how can this kink be traced back to BookTok?
Well, before I provide evidence in the form of an extensive list of BookTok’s favourite novels featuring the good girl trope (you’re welcome), let me give you a surprisingly scientific breakdown of some sexy demographics (you’re welcome again) that might help us in our understanding.
A quick look at Google Trends gives us a good idea of how popular sexual interests have evolved over the last decade – and Google searches for ‘praise kink’ saw a steady increase throughout the course of 2021.
Coincidentally, so did Google searches for ‘BookTok’.
Source: Google Trends. Blue line depicts searches for ‘praise kink’. Red line depicts searches for ‘BookTok’.
PornHub also offers trends insights, but considering its demographic is around 70% male in the UK, and also considering the recent move away in women towards non-video styles of porn, I thought a more appropriate platform to analyse might be Quinn, arguably the most mainstream audio porn platform described as ‘the app for audio erotica. Made by women, for the world’.
During my very professional deep dive into the app (purely for research purposes, of course), I was unsurprised to discover that ‘praise’ is the second most populated category, with 286 audios to date. It is beaten only by ‘boyfriend’ at 291 audios, and closely rivalled by MDom with 284 audios.
Could the simultaneous rise in popularity of praise kinks and BookTok be coincidental? Maybe, but I doubt it. Because just as praise became heavily desired in audio porn, it became equally heavily desired in popular erotica.
I know everyone wants a pretty girl like you
You look so good when you put me inside you
There ain't nothin' like that moan when the tip's in
Good God (Good God)
Look at you, you're doin' such a good job
Girl I'm proud of you, I love the sound of you
Girl you're mine now, you were made for me
Cum for me baby, you don't gotta wait for me
With TikTok being known for sending trending audios skyrocketing up the charts, it makes total sense that artists are beginning to play into this. The best example of this within the steamy BookTok community comes in the form of the inescapable ‘NASTY’ by RUSS which currently has BookTok-ers and good girls alike in a chokehold. I say inescapable, because anyone even remotely interested in BookTok will have inevitably heard this audio in the last few weeks.
RUSS’s lyrics, gaining popularity for the use of praise and ‘good girl’ affirmations, directly targeted BookTok users who acknowledged this as an almost universal turn-on. Some particularly honest users even labelled it a ‘charge your rose’ anthem (I respect it), with other comments reading ‘I’m tired of explaining to my husband why this song is on repeat’ and ‘see y’all tomorrow - same time same place’.
And RUSS, in his assumptions about the sexual nature of the BookTok community, is ultimately right. A quick search for ‘books including praise’ will provide you with literally hundreds of options to add to your TBR list.
Okay, fine – I’ll stop edging you now.
Here’s a list of just a few of BookTok’s favs.
<"Booktok section, Barnes & Nobel, The Grove, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA" by gruntzooki is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.>
Books recommendations for readers with praise kinks
"The Hating Game" by Sally Thorne
"The Kiss Quotient" by Helen Hoang
"The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by L.J. Shen
"Birthday Girl" by Penelope Douglas
"Him" by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
"The Idea of You" by Robinne Lee
"The Dom Who Loved Me" by Lexi Blake
"The Player" by K. Bromberg
"Marriage Games" by CD Reiss
"The Siren" by Tiffany Reisz
“11 Hours” by Octavia Jensen
“Sinner” by Sierra Simone
“Praise” by Sara Cate
“Your Dad Will Do” by Katee Robert
“Fix Her Up” by Tessa Bailey
She said, "Spank me, that's the only way I learn"
I said, "Okay, good girl, good girl"
It’s no secret that sex education in the UK has a long way to go – especially when dealing with discussion of female-centred sexual pleasure. So whilst mainstream media loves to focus on anxieties surrounding the dangers of the internet when considering sexual self-education, I would suggest that spicy BookTok offers a perfect antithesis to that.
For anyone wanting to explore and discover their potential sexual fantasies in a safe and enjoyable way, the world of BookTok could very much be the answer. Also, for anyone (like me) who feels conflicted about the ethics of watching mainstream video porn, BookTok secondly serves to provide a plethora of alternatives.
So, for anyone remotely interested in exploring a praise kink, I strongly suggest you take some time to transform your TikTok FYP into your own personalised stream of spicy book recommendations. I promise you, you won’t regret it.