This Heartbreaking TikTok ‘Mascara’ Trend Isn’t About Makeup
Disturbing new social media trend sheds light on victims of sexual assault.
Content Warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual violence and can be triggering for some. If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
When you search #mascaratrend on TikTok, you might be surprised by what you find. It’s not at all about eye makeup, in this case.
What started as a codeword for people to talk about dating, past partners and sexual encounters (TikTok often filters any videos containing actual sexual lingo), has since morphed into an organic forum for victims of sexual assault. So-called ‘algospeak,’ or language that essentially doesn’t flag TikTok’s sensitive algorithm, has become all-too common; and this trend of using the word ‘mascara’ as a term for sex, is just the latest.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of all women and almost 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. Survivors sharing those stories on TikTok has become so popular that the hashtag now has more than 100 million views.
Actress Julia Fox even found herself embroiled in the trend, when she reportedly commented on a viral video posted by @big_whip13 sharing his experience as a victim of sexual assault.
“I gave a girl mascara and it must have been so good that she decided that her and her friend should both try it without my consent,” stated the video’s text, accompanied by hashtags on sexual assault awareness, and those encouraging other male victims to speak up.
Fox reportedly said, “Idk why but I don’t feel bad for u LOL,” before she realized what his video was in reference to — claiming she thought he was actually talking about mascara.
Celebrities aside, the trend has sparked many people to share their once-private stories with the world. User @Jahan.jaan explains, “as a child marriage survivor, I promise you it gets better. I was forced to marry the man who introduced me to ‘makeup.’ Now I’m learning how to heal and taking back control.”
“This platform, like many other social media platforms, have provided a way for people to express themselves in a manner that feels safe and in which they can feel validated and supported,” explains Jennifer Covarrubias, LMFT, clinical director at Healthy Life Recovery in San Diego, Calif. “The fact that the mascara trend has gained so much popularity speaks to how big of an issue we have at hand.”
Another recent, heart-wrenching video shows a woman who states that her “dad gave her mascara from ages 3-12,” her mom “knew about it,” and how that’s impacted her as an adult. A video that’s short on words, but speaks volumes.
While some of the videos are more straight-forward, others are downright metaphorical.
TikToker’s are sharing everything from “he stuck his mascara in another tube, and a mini mascara was made in the process. I’ll never get another mascara,” to “I thought I had a reliable mascara, but I must have misplaced it, and it ended up in a cute barista’s makeup bag 🥺.”
From serious stories of surviving assault, to more cheeky anecdotes of relationships past, the movement is prompting people to speak out, and raise awareness on an important topic.