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“The Fifty Shades of Grey movie came out around the time my library got self-checkout,” says 25-year-old Georgia Deiker. “I used self-checkout to get the book without anyone knowing. I’d bring it to school and put this Betty Grable book cover on it, so nobody knew what I was reading.” Sixteen years old at the time, this was the first erotic novel Georgia read.
She used to find her penchant for erotica shameful, but now, she cosplays her favourite characters and proudly references steamy sex scenes online. Georgia, like thousands of other readers, joined a community that publicly raves about romance novels and smut scenes: Spicy BookTok.
BookTok is a section of TikTok where users discuss their latest reads, recommend new favourites and publish fan art and cosplay videos across all genres. However, fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels with descriptive sex scenes have become a BookTok sensation, falling under the #spicybooktok or #smut hashtags with posts from users all over the world.
Users posting on this section of BookTok rate their spiciest reads on a scale of one to five pepper emojis or rave about their favourite tropes. One such cliché is the “one-bed trope”: common in fantasy novels, where main characters are forced to share the last room in the roadside inn and finally face their sexual chemistry. BookTok, and more specifically, Spicy BookTok have been influencing sales and best-seller lists since their rise to popularity among users in 2020.
#BookTok has 42.5 billion views, with variations of #smut and #spicybooktok hashtags garnering billions of additional watches. While people started reading more during the pandemic, American analysts believe young people posting on BookTok influenced market gains and popularity for romance, fantasy and young adult titles. UK book sales in 2021 were the highest in a decade, and romance had a 49 per cent growth compared to 2019.
The industry saw relatively unknown titles skyrocket on bestseller lists after going viral on BookTok. The Ice Planet Barbarians series by Ruby Dixon was one of the most notable TikTok successes when its first instalment, originally published in 2015, became the fifth most-sold book on Amazon last June.
The series follows a group of human women stranded on a frozen planet inhabited by sexy blue aliens with anatomical features like ridged tongues and strategically-placed knobs. Spicy BookTok was simultaneously deeply uncomfortable and strangely intrigued when reading Dixon’s detailed descriptions of how exactly these well-endowed aliens pleased their human lovers.
PRUDE spoke to our favourite romance and erotica BookTokers whose viral videos are impacting the book industry and destigmatizing these genres. They shared their passion for saucy reads, insights into the Spicy BookTok community, and awkward encounters with family members who found their accounts.
Allison Hannum – @allireadss
“BookTok changed my life,” says Allison Hannum, a 19-year-old English student. She chose her degree subject after rediscovering her passion for reading from BookTok videos. Allison loves mafia romance, fantasy, and Greek mythology retellings, all with steamy scenes that she promotes on her account. One of her favourites is A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair, a Hades and Persephone retelling that she says incorporates both “sweet romance and steamy spice”.
Allison reads and posts about erotica to express her sexuality. “As a young woman coming into my early 20s, it’s really important for young people to have sexual experiences in a safe environment, especially through literature,” she says.
She also rewrites scenes from popular novels on Wattpad, an online platform for users to read and publish stories. Allison performs an important public service for the Spicy BookTok community: she writes sex scenes between characters that readers wish happened in the book. Through BookTok, she found a community that supports her sexual exploration and writing.
Her most successful retelling gained over 16,000 reads and features a threesome between fan-favourite characters from Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series. One of the most widely read series on BookTok, A Court of Thorns and Roses follows a young human woman’s adventures into the faerie (a human-size, sexier variation of tiny fairies typical in pop culture) realm with some steamy results.
While Allison says the BookTok community is a safe and inclusive space, people in her life don’t always understand her passion. “I was in a relationship for a while, and I felt judged because of the things I was into,” she says. “I don’t let my family follow me – I talk about faerie porn. The other day my uncle tried to, and I immediately said ‘blocked!’” However, Allison says her mother loves hearing about her viral TikToks and creative writing, proud of her success regardless of the explicit content.
Elvir Belardi – @elvirreads
As one of the few male book influencers, Elvir Belardi started posting about his reading habits on TikTok in 2021. “I’ve been shocked nobody has ever ridiculed me for being a man who enjoys reading books and romance,” he says. “We’re breaking stereotypes, and not just for me, but for women, LGBTQ+ people, people of different races. The more we do it, the more people will be confident in exploring their sexuality and personalities.”
The 22-year-old business student uses his account to recommend fantasy and romance reads, especially LGBTQ+ novels. Despite the variety of books he praises, there is one recurring theme: smut. “Smut is a bonus,” he says. “It’s weird because a few years ago people would go crazy if there was sex in a popular series. Now, everybody sees it as a requirement.”
Elvir loves reading and recommending fantasy series that go beyond the fade-to-black sex scenes popular in young adult fantasy novels in the past. One of his favourites is From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout, a well-known series on Spicy BookTok that gives “a unique spin on what happens when vampires are attracted to humans”, which involves biting in some very sensitive places.
After gaining a following on TikTok, Elvir now has publishers contacting him about sponsorships and early reviews of their books. Despite the hesitation he felt when starting the account, his success has defied his expectations. “It’s a safe space and something I never thought I would do because I’m kind of an antisocial person,” he says. He’s working on a young adult fantasy series, putting his favourite romance and smut tropes in the plotline.
Georgia Deiker – @peachyqueen012
Now comfortable to speak about erotica openly, Georgia recently found out her roommate also hid her sensual reads in public, except she used paper bag covers. Although Georgia and her friends stopped concealing their romance reads, not all erotica lovers are as willing to discuss the genre out loud. She believes the genre is “downplayed” and “shamed” because it is predominantly written and read by women.
“It boils down to misogyny,” she says. “You want to be able to talk about books you love, even if they’re not Pulitzer Prize-winning books. People feel like they can’t talk about romance and erotica because they worry people will judge them.”
One of the first series Georgia felt comfortable recommending to friends was A Court of Thorns and Roses, which turned into the primary source material for her cosplay videos. She often jokes about the characters’ sometimes-bizarre sexual encounters, like roaring faerie climaxes that rattle entire mountain ranges.
Georgia is proud to be part of a community that destigmatizes sex for young people. “These are the people getting into their first relationships and they’re learning about their sexuality. Even though you shouldn’t necessarily base your life on things from a fictional book, it helps to explore what you like and what’s healthy.”
Harper Alandra – @_tiktokharper
From hosting a month-long reverse harem TikTok series where the heroine has multiple male lovers, to promoting priest smut, Harper Alandra’s account is solely dedicated to erotica. Harper posted so frequently recommending Priest by Sierra Simone, an erotic novel about a priest who breaks his vow of celibacy on his church’s alter, that the author’s PR representative reached out to thank her.
The 23-year-old aspiring actress loves creating comedic videos about red-hot romances and is unconcerned about being judged. “The block button is right there. Write me a nice strongly-worded email and I’ll put it in my trash folder,” she says. “People should not be judging women for their choices about what they like to read.”
Harper defends the genre against those who scoff and say it’s only porn. She believes people, especially women, can use erotica to cope with trauma and past abuse. “People don’t know that we’re coping with our trauma within these books,” she says. “It’s not only an escape, but it’s a healing thing for us. People say, ‘well it’s just smut’. I’m like, have you read the book? Do you know what the character goes through? Because that’s like what I went through.”
Her most viewed TikTok was about her aunt discovering Harper’s smut-filled Kindle library after she forgot to log out of her account. She says her “whole heart dropped to her stomach”, but in the end, she responded in the best way possible – she gifted her aunt a stand-out title from her collection for Christmas.
Want to pick up a Spicy BookTok favourite? Check out for our list of recommendations curated by Allison, Elvir, Georgia, and Harper