‘We are living in a sex misinformation crisis and TikTok is playing a big role’

Author of ‘Rough’, Rachel Thompson, on the harmful sexual experiences we discount as ‘just bad sex.’

Listen | 47:04

“We are living in a sex misinformation crisis,” says writer Rachel Thompson, “and TikTok is playing a really big role in that, and not for the better.”

“A major problem is the idea that choking is a really common thing in sex that doesn’t require consent,” she adds.

The author of ‘Rough: How violence has found its way into the bedroom and what we can do about it’ has been speaking to The Women’s Podcast host, Róisín Ingle.

The book explores the sexually harmful experiences people have, that often get discounted as ‘just bad sex.’ It features powerful testimony from fifty women and non-binary people, on the sexual violence that takes place in bedrooms at the hands of people we know, trust or even love.


Thompson argues the way we talk about things like consent and assault are no longer fit for purpose, and often fall into the legal binary of either rape or consensual sex.

She talks about violations such as ‘stealthing’, non-consensual choking and non-consensual rough sex; that our culture is only beginning to recognise now as sexual violence.

“‘Unacknowledged rape’ or ‘unacknowledged assault’ is when someone experiences a violation that has the hallmarks of rape or assault, but the survivor labels it instead as a ‘grey area’ or ‘a weird night’. It sometimes takes people years, even decades, to realise that something they went through was actually rape or assault.”

Thompson says the sex misinformation crisis stems from young people not receiving their primary sex education from reliable sources. Instead, they turn to porn and TikTok.

The result is that they enter into early experiences ill-equipped with vital information that “each individual sex act requires consent and it’s not just that ‘yes’ at the start and then anything goes.”

Thompson pays tribute to shows like ‘Normal People’ for demonstrating what ongoing consent is, and the powerful BBC drama ‘I May Destroy You’ for giving people the language to describe and understand crimes like stealthing (non-consensual removal of a condom).

This episode contains references to sexual violence and assault which some listeners may find distressing.

You can listen back to this important conversation on the player, above, or wherever you get your podcasts.