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Is Spicy BookTok Too Thirsty?

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Few places on Beyoncé’s internet are steamier than Spicy BookTok. The book-loving girlies, gays, and theys happily light up the social platform’s algorithm with their shared thirst for hot fictional characters like Oakley and Quinton (the heartthrobs of C.E. Ricci’s Iced Out series), where it’s safe for kinky imaginations to run wild. The rapidly growing community’s collective lust has even caused an uptick in sales in the romance genre over the last year, so BookTok girlies’ passionate response to shout out their fave in-book darlings is generally considered an acceptable pastime across the board. It’s when real-life hotties are the object of the same unbridled thirst that the lines between spirited advances and out-of-pocket conduct get dangerously distorted. 
The latest case involves a hockey player and a famously thirsty BookTok influencer. Over the weekend, Kierra Lewis, TikTok content creator and self-proclaimed “queen of BookTok,” may have unintentionally realized just how blurry the lines can get between harmless thirst and inappropriate lusting when Seattle Kraken center Alex Wennberg and his wife, Felicia, pushed back on the attention he was getting from TikTok users, citing it as sexual harassment. Last week, Felicia took to Instagram to call out BookTok for their “inappropriate comments” using images from the comment section of Lewis’ since-deleted video in which she shares remarks about Wennberg “scoring in all three of [her] holes.” 
"I genuinely don’t care about the comments about my husband’s looks. He is so beautiful, right?” Felicia Wennberg wrote. “What doesn't sit with me is when your desires come with sexual harassment, inappropriate comments, and the fact that, with the Internet, we can normalize behavior that would never be OK if we flipped the genders around to a guy doing this to a female athlete." 
Wennberg agreed with his wife, writing on his Instagram story, “I’m all for the BookTok community to write books and fiction about hockey, but the aggressive language about real-life players is too much.”
Some fans immediately came to Lewis’ defense since the popular creator is known for her very unserious, comedic banter about steamy book scenes, especially of the hockey romance variety. And let’s just say the quiet part out loud: She’s a Black creator. Plenty of non-Black women showed the same outward appreciation for Wennberg’s physical features. Plus, her love of hockey players in viral novellas didn’t include IRL ice king Wennberg until the official Seattle Kraken TikTok account began posting thirst traps of the handsome player back in October 2022 and welcoming the collective thirst, according to USA Today's For The Win. By all accounts, the Kraken hockey team was lapping up BookTok’s lust. Once Lewis started to share her newfound fandom of the Kraken and Wennberg — even birthing the catchphrase “Krack My Back” — it seemed like a mutually beneficial relationship had blossomed. Lewis was gifted tickets to games and a customized jersey, while the Kraken gained a slew of new fans thanks to her influence on TikTok. It didn’t matter whether BookTok actually cared for the sport or simply was thirsting after the muscled-up eye candy gliding across the ice. But the team backtracked on their participation in Spicy BookTok’s obsession when the Wennbergs spoke out, unfairly leaving Lewis to take all the blame.
Though the race card isn’t being played too much throughout this controversy (yet), the Weenbergs overlooking tons of other BookTokers in favor of villainizing a Black woman for boldly desiring a hot white guy was a choice, and the optics should warrant some side-eyes. Not long after Felicia made her plea, Lewis responded to the call-out with her own statement, claiming she was only making jokes about the NHL star and that his wife Felicia had unrightfully made Lewis the target of online harassment (which, ironically, is exactly what the Wennbergs were denouncing in the first place). Lewis even blasted the Seattle Kraken for riding BookTok’s clout. 
“The Settle Kraken not only took interest in my videos from the beginning that mention Alex Wennberg but even encouraged me to keep posting.”
Lewis and the Wennbergs did not immediately respond to Unbothered’s requests for comment.

A Booktok Jersey? I’M OBSESSED

♬ original sound - Kierra Lewis
Like Lewis, we’re all guilty of thirsting over a hot celeb. Maybe you daydream about Method Man’s sex scene in Power or wish you could add The Ultimatum’s Mal as a third in a steamy romp with your partner. Either way, we’ve all felt hot-n-ready like a Little Ceasars’ pizza for a fine-ass public figure. Thing is, the Kraken-Lewis-Wennberg fallout magnifies a much larger issue of assigning real-life people an imagined emotional (and sexual) connection with who we think these people are. And in this case, the idolatry seems heightened by how normal it is for BookTok folks to fantasize over characters, blurring fiction with facts. Wennberg (and fellow Kraken player Vince Dunn!) mirrored the hotties between the pages of spicy hockey smut, becoming an intense object of BookTok’s affection (it wasn’t just Lewis!). For example, one BookToker told High Snobiety that she fell in love with her book boyfriends, helping her shape what she wants in an ideal partner. And while a little delusion is OK when it comes to fictional crushes, it’s unhealthy to project any romantic make-believe onto a real person so explicitly. 
It begs the question: Is BookTok thirsting too hard? The issue is in the consent of it all. 
Most celebrities are well aware that fame comes with hoards of attention, sometimes unwanted. But mostly, they welcome it. Internet bae Winston Duke took the time to understand why his role as M’baku in Marvel’s Black Panther made him an instant sex symbol. “At first, I was really blown away by it,” he told ESSENCE, “I started feeling myself, but then I stopped and pulled back … I started to realize that what people were reacting to wasn’t me. What they were reacting to was a feeling of deficit when it came to images that they could consume in the media.”
Other sexy stars can grasp that their fans are attracted to the idea of them but don’t necessarily want it shared directly, like shouted to them during games, posted under pics of their kids, or detailed in their DMs — and they reserve the right to tell the people who support them to chill out.
“The irony is that communities of romance readers are often very attuned and aware of ideas of consent,” Dr. Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media technology at the University of Alabama who has researched BookTok, told NBC News. “But we’re seeing a disconnect between how it would be understood in a book versus how it would be understood IRL, so to speak.”
Normally, mild thirst for someone unattainable is simply scrolled past or garners a quick laugh (Can his wife fight?!), but let’s be clear, joking or not, there is a line in these matters. If the object of our online affection, celebrity or not, feels uncomfortable, who are we to keep line-stepping? 
In the spirit of a spicy good read and the 3D humans who are fine, by all means, thirst on, BookTokers. But here’s a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t say it to your fave’s face or don’t want your mom to hear it, maybe think about keeping your thirst to yourself.

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