September 29, 2021 - 5:38pm

The many, many months of Covid lockdowns have been a boon for online content creators. Flashy displays of wealth and excess have provided some much needed escapism, with creators pushing the limits of good taste in a quest to get views. One specific trend has blown up massively: “viral food hacks”.

@bananalovesyoutooThis Milkshake technique is great for parties! #party #fyp #foryou #foryourpage #vrial #cooking #hacks #chef #DIY #tiktok #duet

♬ original sound – Anna Rothfuss

Take this video from TikTok user (and veteran viral prankster) ‘@bananalovesyou’, where she makes an “extra creamy” milkshake with her toilet. Or maybe this “viral cake hack,” where a woman opens a tub of ice-cream, revealing a disembodied doll’s head. Even Jason Derulo is jumping on the bandwagon. This weird sub-trend is hard to name — but it’s certainly not going away anytime soon.

Writing for The Atlantic, Amanda Mull suggests that these videos are a subversion of the ultra-shareable, made-to-be-viral Tasty videos which ranged from the eminently DIY-able to the surreal. But whereas Tasty videos evoked desire, these newer videos evoke disgust — as the saying goes, the mirror of desire. Same story, second verse.

Other people have more nefarious explanations of these videos. TikTok user @dontletthisfloppod suggests in one video that maybe they’re “sploshing” videos. According to them, “sploshing” is a fetish that involves playing with messy substances — usually goopy foods. This explanation feels broadly correct; there is definitely an undercurrent of eroticism in these ostensibly PG videos.

But although recurring motifs include making and filling holes in cakes, oozing custards, sensually smashing pastas and doughs, that doesn’t feel like the M.O. What is more striking is that there is always something taboo happening, even though the setting and concept itself remains mundane. There is nothing overtly sexual, nor is there anything vile or vulgar. But there is, undeniably, always a rule being broken: a random hairbrush on the counter, a barbie’s head in the batter, glitter in the toilet. This theme runs through each of these videos.

Explicit sexualised imagery is inescapable today, both in the online sphere and in mainstream culture. If a song titled ‘WAP’ (Wet Ass Pussy) can reach number one in the music charts, how subversive — and taboo — can any sexualised content really be? If everything is naughty, then nothing is naughty. Perhaps the reason behind strange food videos causing such a sensational reaction is because they invoke disgust in its most basic sense. We’ve broken down all the cultural barriers, but we still crave the shock of the forbidden, the disgusting, the strange. The only thing that can provide us with that erotic thrill is (mostly) asexual. It’s a fetish — but not as you’d think.

Katherine Dee is a writer. To read more of her work, visit