Life

Men on TikTok Are Roleplaying 'Respectful' Boyfriends for Clout

"You never know who will give you a contract or something off of it."
July 20, 2021, 8:00am
TikTok men
Photos: Andrew AKA @

iamjoshcarroll, Enoch AKA @enochj_ and Andrew AKA @itsyaboyandrewpav

Have you been deprived of intimacy during the pandemic? Do you miss spontaneous holiday romances? Has your only source of sexual tension come from looking at Jack Grealish’s calves at the Euros? Me too. 

But don’t worry, you won’t have to live this way much longer because TikTok’s flirty men are here to save you! All you have to do is go on your FYP page and they’ll start asking questions like “What would you do if I was your delivery guy and I delivered your pizza and you opened up the door and we made eye contact”" as they slowly look you up and down, or say stuff like “when she knows the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’” while humping the air.

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Some of these straight, fully-grown men even go as far as listing all the ethnicities of the women they’re attracted to or give a lecture on how they’ll date you for your “maturity, values and ambitions. Others will literally beg to date you.

But why are these TikTokers making these videos and hitting on everyone on their feed? Are they genuinely looking for love? And do they think people actually find these videos attractive?

“Honestly, for me, I like to see people smile. I like to get a reaction. So most of my videos are positive,” says Enoch, the man who could be your pizza delivery guy. “I think the first video that gained some traction was a POV. I started reading the comments and noticed that it was just a lot of women there, so I was like, ‘okay, let me market a little bit more towards that crowd.’”

Unfortunately not all of the reactions to Enoch’s videos have been positive and a fair few commenters have mocked the 25-year-old from Atlanta for posting “cringe” videos. But this doesn’t seem to get him down too much. “When I made the video, I just threw it out there. So I knew it would either be received positively or negatively. I just hope nobody takes it seriously because it’s just a little fun,” he says. 

Is Enoch even trying to look for love on TikTok? Not right now, as he’s dating someone IRL. And yes, she knows about the videos.

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The creator sees the flirty content as a way to keep engagement up on his page and thinks it may help him professionally. “It’s an open door just to get your feet wet. It’s a hobby. You never know who will give you a contract or something off of it.”

And he’s not wrong. As 31-year-old Josh, a TikToker and model based in Sydney reveals, for some content creators, thirsting on the platform can be a fast-track to global success. In an age where Vinny Hacker sets the e-boy standard on TikTok, many of the men imitating him do so because they know the videos cross-pollinate their audiences. 

“I’ve got a friend who’s a lot younger than me,” Josh tells VICE. “He’s only 20 but did those types of videos. And then I met him in person and he’s not into the cringe stuff at all, but it’s a means to an end – he wanted to work in social media. He wanted to be able to collaborate with brands, he wanted to be able to make money in that space. 

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“After gaining over a million followers on TikTok, he’s now working with Dior, Prada and other massive brands.” There’s a method to the madness, after all.

As for Josh’s own videos, he’s been making more dating related content as of late. One of the recent ones was a POV based on what he’d say to a girlfriend who was worried about stretch marks. “Certain messages – especially ones where it could be quite a sensitive topic to men and women who have acne or stretch marks or things like that – it will be a bit of a calculated thing,” he says over a video call.

Most of Josh’s videos are inspired by real-life experiences, such as dating someone with acne and reassuring them it’s not an issue to worry about. “So with that one specifically,” he explains, “yeah, there was thought put behind it, because I knew that people would relate to it. But I thought it was a positive message.”

Josh says his audience is 85 percent female, so he wants to be intentional with the videos he posts. “I do kind of have to put things up that they will relate to. So that style of content does seem to perform better for me, just based on my audience.” 

Like Enoch, Josh is also in a committed relationship, but says that if he was single he wouldn’t be trying to find love on the platform. “I'm 31 years old, so I can't really be out here trying to thirst trap a bunch of teens,” he laughs. The model also works with big brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, so is worried what the more aggressively flirty videos would do to his image. “I've got to look after my brand. I can’t be, you know, grinding up and down on camera.”

But what about younger creators who don’t have a brand image to worry about yet? Andrew, a 16-year-old with 1.4 million followers on TikTok and is keen to grow even more of a following, says that whether the videos are cringe or not, they “get engagement either way”. 

I came across his video about looking after an imaginary girlfriend during her period on my TikTok feed. “With that video, I thought it would get ‘oh, he’s respectful’ type of engagement because I’ve seen others do the same thing. I usually look and see if multiple people have done the same video and got good engagement and no hate for it,” the LA-based teen says. 

These days, though, he wants to pivot away from this content as it doesn’t seem to be serving him any more. “I'm actually starting to switch my content into something else, because I think I've reached the peak of the POV category, and I need to find a new thing, so then I grow even more.”

Though many younger users may not see that engagement building is at the heart of this type of content, it’s crystal clear to others. “A lot of the men are posing into the camera and talking about really surface-level feminist stuff while shirtless,” says Jem, a 30-year-old TikTok user from Glasgow who came across these videos while doomscrolling. “And it feels a little sinister once you clock on to the whole system that they're kind of engaging in with their audience. I struggle to see how it could really be anything other than performative.”

Just like everything on the internet, it seems these videos are not what they appear to be – they’ve been largely orchestrated to farm likes and engagement from specific audiences. Whether we think they’re uplifting, funny or simply cringe, the question is – how long will we keep watching?

@thediyora