There’s really no way to say this coyly. On Wednesday’s episode of ICYMI, Slate’s new podcast about internet culture, hosts Rachelle Hampton and Madison Malone Kircher talked about piss play. As in urophilia. As in … getting turned on by urine. A new TikTok trend, dubbed #PissTok, provides a surprisingly nuanced lens into how Gen Z is using pee to destigmatize sex online.
Rolling Stone senior culture reporter EJ Dickson dove into the world of #PissTok earlier this month. Rachelle and Madison called her up to discuss her article, the long arm of Fifty Shades of Grey, and how normalizing fetishes has forever changed the language of the internet. (More specifically, why we all want celebrities to drive over us with their cars or step on our necks.) The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Madison Malone Kircher: How would you describe PissTok?
EJ Dickson: So there are all these different sub-genres of TikTok. There’s Alt TikTok, there’s FoodTok. You can basically apply any descriptor to “Tok,” and it could describe any aspect of TikTok. So PissTok is basically just this version of content that I came across. Literally, my friend texted me, and he was just like, “I’ve been seeing all of these videos on my ‘For You’ page of girls expressing their desire to get peed on. Have you seen that?” And I had seen maybe one video, but I hadn’t been deluged with dozens as he had, and I started to look into it, and I saw that this had become something of a meme.
Kircher: Did that then trigger the algorithm? Did your For You page then become watersports central?
Dickson: I guess. The thing about the For You page and the TikTok algorithm is that it’s so abstruse. You have no idea exactly what’s triggering you to get fed a certain kind of content, but I definitely got my fair share of PissTok videos after that.
Rachelle Hampton: Two questions: Do your friends normally text you just little bits of internet ephemera and ask, “Can you explain this?” And then, were you surprised to learn that there was a watersports side of TikTok? Especially with the way the algorithm works in that it’s supposed to censor any kind of NSFW content. I’m always fascinated by how different parts of TikTok manage to get around the censors.
Dickson: I have been covering sex and internet culture and the adult industry for quite some time, so nothing really shocks me anymore. So seeing a bunch of people make jokes about getting pissed on, I wouldn’t say it was inherently shocking. I will say that I shared your view of “How did this avoid TikTok censors?” Because the TikTok algorithm is notoriously stringent about adult content, and people find really creative ways to subvert it. But also there’s a lot of really egregious shit that gets past the algorithm. Just really vulgar shit. And this was definitely a prominent example of that.
Kircher: I laugh every time I see someone caption a TikTok with the word sex spelled “seggs,” which is a really basic tactic to avoid TiKTok censorship. It makes me giggle every time I see it,
Dickson: It’s hilarious. And what’s another one? “Gluck Gluck 9000” is how people describe oral sex. Which is apparently something from a Barstool podcast, but I had never heard of it, and I laughed for hours when I saw that. That’s so creative.
Kircher: I would love to hear you describe one of the TikToks in your piece. Do you have a favorite? Or the one that really made you think, “Oh, this is something I want to explore?”
Dickson: The most prominent one was this meme with somebody—usually a woman—where the video is captioned, “When I go to the beach with [insert romantic partner or some sexy celebrity here], and I get stung in the mouth by a jellyfish,” and then the audio is this dramatic surging music and somebody saying, “I have won, exactly as planned.” And that’s it. That’s the TikTok.
Kircher: Do you think there really is a rise in piss kink or watersports culturally, or are these just largely tongue-in-cheek TikTok jokes?
Dickson: I think they’re largely tongue-in-cheek TikTok jokes, but the thing about covering meme culture that really interests me is as much as people are prone to dismissing the import of something like this and saying, “Oh, it’s 100 percent just a joke,” there’s always a grain of truth to it, and that’s the part that I’m always interested in exploring. And I don’t think it’s necessarily that there’s been increased visibility of watersports per se, but I think there’s definitely been increased visibility of kink and fetishes in general. And this is just sort of another way of joking about how freaky you are, is saying, “Oh, I want Elizabeth Olsen to piss in my mouth.”
Hampton: So you said you noticed there’s been a rise in the visibility of kink. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Dickson: The obvious answer is Fifty Shades of Grey, which is sort of the main cultural moment where kink and BDSM hit the mainstream. Which is kind of unfortunate because if you’ve seen Fifty Shades of Gray, it’s not exactly a positive depiction of BDSM or a particularly accurate one. But it inspired a real run on handcuffs and sex-toy stores and a real interest in kinky erotica and people were taking all of these different classes. So it was a double-edged sword in terms of the effect that had on the culture. It definitely increased the visibility of a community that otherwise was sort of shrouded in misconception and didn’t have a lot of visibility, but it was also wrong. It was wildly inaccurate. So I think it really stems back to that.
If you spend a lot of time on TikTok, you can gauge that there’s been a real rise in sex positivity among Gen Z. Joking about wanting to get peed on—even if it was clearly a joke—that’s not something that would have been in the zeitgeist to the extent that it is when I was a teenager—it certainly wouldn’t have become a meme. Because just claiming female sexuality in itself wasn’t really a thing. It’s probably something that a teenage girl would have been mocked over, even if it was very clearly intended as a joke. So I think there’s sort of a couple of different things going on here.
Kircher: I’m now thinking about being 16 and tweeting the things I do now about wanting to be stepped on or run over and, just, absolutely not.
Dickson: Thirst in general—especially female thirst—it just wasn’t something that was commonly accepted. I’m very squarely a millennial. It just wasn’t a thing. Horniness wasn’t a thing that was taken seriously or considered its own currency and thank God it is now because it’s hilarious.
Hampton: Most of these videos that you mentioned in your Rolling Stone piece were also by women, and I wonder what you make of that.
Dickson: That’s what I found most interesting about it. Like I was saying earlier, I think it’s just been increasingly accepted for young women to express their sexuality in general and to express their desires. Even if they’re somewhat transgressive or somewhat extreme. And also something that I found really interesting in talking to someone who made this video was she was describing Gen Z humor as making yourself the butt of the joke. You don’t make anybody else the butt of the joke. And I think there are people in the kink community who might at first glance see this trend and think, “oh, it’s kink-shaming,” or, “oh, it’s making fun of people who want to be peed on,” which I think is a little bit of a superficial interpretation. But I also think it’s incorrect because it’s the girl in the video who’s the butt of the joke. It’s just the extreme nature of her horniness that’s the butt of the joke. That’s what makes it funny, just the extremely out-of-control nature of the horniness, like in that sketch in I Think You Should Leave, the “Honk if You’re Horny” sketch where you just cannot contain it.
And that’s the kind of thing that makes me laugh, but it’s also really transgressive because—like we were talking about earlier—it’s just not something that would have been permissive for young women to talk about when I was in my late-teens or early twenties.
Kircher: I had this moment the other day—I don’t know if you saw this tweet—but Brie Larson tweeted a photo of herself staring at the ground. And the caption was, “pov: you’re an ant.” And my brain immediately, without even thinking, just went to, “Quote-tweet: ‘Step on me.’ Send.” But it feels like the language of the general public internet has gotten kinkier in the last few years, in a way that’s usually not serious. Do you feel like these TikToks and memes are helping to destigmatize kink?
Dickson: I do and I don’t. I don’t think it’s really about the kink in itself. I don’t think this necessarily draws attention to watersports or “normalizes” urophilia. But I think it also does in a way, because just the fact that it’s being talked about or publicly claimed—even if it is as a joke—I do think that’s a step in the right direction. I think the example that I cited in the piece of the only time growing up that I’d ever heard of urophilia was the John Slattery episode in Sex and the City where Carrie is dating this politician and the relationship disintegrates because he wants her to pee on him. That was definitely problematic, and the kink is definitely the butt of the joke. Whereas, with this, it’s not the kink that’s the butt of the joke, it’s just how my extreme horniness is taking over my body.
Hampton: I really do kind of love this moment that you’re describing that we’ve been in, it feels like for at least the past five years where extreme female horniness is kind of just expected. “Horny on main” is no longer something that people are like, “Oops, I accidentally tweeted about wanting Daniel Kaluuya to drive me over with his Range Rover.” It’s all normal. I’m just thinking of all the TikToks I’ve seen of people thirsting after the scarred fish from Finding Nemo.
Dickson: Oh, that’s my favorite.
Kircher: I’m sorry, what?
Hampton: People are really horny for, I think his name is Gill? I really love that you scroll past this on your TikTok page and you’re like, “OK, this is just what it is right now.” And I think of Thirst Aid Kit, the Slate podcast, and how it very much kind of dealt with this idea of female desire and normalizing it, even as they were making jokes half the time. It’s kind of great.
Dickson: What I would pose to you guys is: How much of this do you think is an actual conversation that’s going on IRL and how much of this is just sort of part of online vernacular? I will tell you that even my non-Extremely Online friends, they talk like this. We talk like this all the time. It isn’t performative in the way that so much of the “I want Rachel Weisz to spit in my mouth,” “I want Rachel Weisz to run me over with a truck,” or “I want Rachel Weisz to trample over me” is.
Kircher: Stop reading my tweets.
Dickson: But you know how so much of that is one-upmanship and performative? I don’t think we necessarily talk like that, but I would say maybe 90 percent of our conversations are how horny we are for a specific person.
Kircher: Have we gone too far?
Dickson: There are some ways in which I find the performativity and the one-upmanship a little grating, but what I really think is interesting about it is that we still live in a culture where casually talking about how horny you are is increasingly becoming acceptable, but having an OnlyFans isn’t. And doing sex work isn’t. And, as somebody who’s spent the bulk of my career reporting on those spaces, that tension is interesting to me. I don’t know if the majority of people who are making jokes about being horny online are necessarily pro–sex worker. I know Gen Z is increasingly becoming pro–sex work, so I’d like to think that’s increasingly becoming the case. But I don’t know if horniness acceptance is necessarily rising alongside sexual freedom’s acceptance in general.
Kircher: It seems safe to assume that every person who was tweeting about wanting X hot person to run them over with a vehicle is not also vocally pro–sex work, even though those two things should be correlated.
Dickson: I think kink-shaming has become sort of a joke trope online where if you criticize anybody for having a left-of-center sexual preference, then somebody will jokingly respond, “Don’t kink-shame.” It’s sort of become a meme in itself. And I feel like sometimes it is kink-shaming. Sometimes there really are people online who are shaming somebody for having a slightly left-of-center kink. Just because sometimes kink-shaming is an argument that’s taken to an extreme, doesn’t mean that you should totally make light of it in 100 percent of the cases. And I feel like our culture has a hard time understanding that, and talking about kink in a healthy way, and separating our discussion of kink from discussion of actual consent violations and boundary violations.
Kircher: Yeah. Would you say the conversation around Armie Hammer is probably the most recent and mainstream example of that? Although we should say that Hammer has denied or not commented on the individual allegations against him. He’s called them “bullshit.”
Dickson: Yeah. That was an instance where the initial reaction to those texts being released was “Oh my god, this guy is such a sicko” for being into what is ultimately not a super common kink—cannibalism and blood play—they’re not super common kinks, but they are kinks. And they can be practiced consensually. And eventually we got to the place where we were like, “Oh, no, the problem isn’t that he has these kinks. The problem is the abuse of power and the fact that he was emotionally abusive, and physically abusive, and violated consent.” But I feel like it took longer than I would have liked to get to that place.
To hear the rest of the episode—including a call to AppleCare in an effort to turn off the automatic capitalization of LOL—subscribe to ICYMI.
In my decade at Slate, I’ve worked on everything from investigating how wearing your backpack with two straps became cooler than wearing it with one strap to adapting The Great Gatsby as a video game to inventing a highly scientific systemic for determining whether new movies are too scary for you. The support of Slate Plus members has allowed us to continue to do the kind of ambitious, irreverent, and service-y cultural coverage you won’t find anywhere else. Thank you! —Forrest Wickman, culture editor