Transphobic TikTok trend sparks debate about consent

@venusityping/TikTok @zander._.k0/TikTok

Tik Tok is one of the largest social networking platforms on the planet. Its dominance is clear on the web as content created on the video sharing app spreads to every corner of the web, sparking conversations and taking creators to new heights.

One of the latest debates to emerge on the popular app was sparked by a new trend, which has been accused of being transphobic. Some trending videos have drawn backlash for their perceived treatment of transgender people and quickly sparked a debate about consent.

The “binder off” trend.

The controversial trend that’s sparking a web-wide debate is harmless enough, particularly for those who engage in it. It largely revolves around those who are in relationships with trans people, particularly trans men. Many trans men use something called breast binders to gently compress their breast tissue, helping to give them a natural appearance that matches their gender. Binders have become increasingly popular in recent years as people rely on the non-invasive and simple option to reduce the visibility of breast tissue.

However, most binders should not be worn for more than about eight hours at a time, to reduce the risk of potentially harmful side effects. This means that even for people who feel much more comfortable with a binder, a portion of the day must be spent with their breasts unattached. For many, this can be an uncomfortable experience as they feel more relaxed and at home when the binding is in place.

The trend that has driven TikTok’s latest argument across the site sees frequent clip users’ partners reacting to their bare breasts. Each of the videos participating in the trend uses a similar caption and a similar piece of music, providing a view of when “my partner takes off.” Most of the videos see the participating TikToker staring at the exposed breast following their outburst, treating it as a sexual aspect of their partner’s physical appearance.

In many cases, this would not be a problem at all. These people are probably in adult, consensual relationships and anyone in a romantic couple must they find their partner’s body attractive. In the case of trans users of binders, however, this trend can be damaging and delegitimizing. Many trans men see their breasts as a clear symbol of a gender they’ve left behind, and the whole point of the binder is to hide. When the binder is removed, the disfigurement that many trans men feel is expressed in their breast tissue, and so the sexualization of this area ignores the potential trauma that some trans men associate with this area of ​​the body.

Most, if not all, of the videos participating in this trend are clearly well-intentioned and tackle the trend with a silly, light-hearted tone that is clearly not intended to be any kind of attack. Many also indicate that the poster asked permission before looking at their partners, which is a completely different scenario than making eye contact and having sex, an area that many binder users may feel self-conscious about without asking.

This issue sparked a wide-ranging debate about consent, as many viewers took to the comments section to defend the right to enjoy their partner’s body. Their arguments boil down to a single, concrete point: as long as both parities agree on this, they should be free to enjoy each other in any way they choose.

Not everyone agrees, however, and backlash soon followed. Several critical TikToks have emerged from the trend, as allies take to their own accounts to share their thoughts on the matter. The majority of critical TikToks also follow a similar structure, with users calling the trend “disgusting” and noting that looking at a trans person’s chest “just shows that you don’t see it for what it is.”

Other critics say the trend “shows that you don’t respect your partner and their identity when they’re not wearing a binder.” That seems to be the main push against the trend, as trans people and their allies take to the app to explain why sexualizing an unwanted body part can add to their disfigurement. Especially from a loved one, joining a trend like this can be pretty damaging, and critical TikTokers want to spread the word.

They are doing so through a wave of abusive videos targeting the trend and denouncing it as “gross”.

Criticisms of the “binder off” trend are proven to be at least partially correct through a review of TikTok’s flush binder content. Many videos show binder wearers complaining about having to remove their binder, showing the genuine problems many wearers have with their unbound breasts. To highlight, and even sexualize, this area of ​​their body directly contradicts their own comfort levels.

The trend is clearly something that cannot be treated as a monolith. The issue varies widely from case to case, with some binder wearers fully enjoying their partner’s interest in their breasts and others strongly opposed.

The discussion sparked by the “binder off” trend is surprisingly healthy and absolutely necessary, with even strongly disagreeing users sharing their opinions and thoughts on the matter. The conversation ultimately revolves around respect and consent, and any trend that sees people looking for the best way to support their loved ones is a win in our book.

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