From Mikayla Nogeuira’s “Mascara Gate” to the Jeffrey Marsh and Shumirun Nessa dispute, anyone who’s ever been on TikTok knows the app is no stranger to controversy — and one of its most polarising creators is Tara Lynn, known as @taraswrld.
Much of Tara’s content revolves around her day-to-day life, including her job as an OnlyFans creator. With a following of nearly 5 million, Tara has gone viral multiple times, and not always for the right reasons.
A history of controversy
In September 2022, Tara found herself in hot water after stating that BeReal was giving her the impression that she was the only person working.
Only two months later, she was the centre of controversy again after sharing that she had spent $10,000 on Harry Styles concert tickets. In the now-deleted video, Tara complained about ticketing issues she experienced in the lead-up to the show. After a mix-up with her pit tickets — which she initially bought for nearly $2,000 — StubHub offered to replace these pit tickets with balcony seats. Tara responded with, “No, like, I finna be in the pit.” As a solution, Tara proceeded to spend an additional $10,000 on a fresh pair of pit tickets.
The video sparked mixed reactions. Many creators made light of the situation, mocking Tara for her tone-deaf remarks and her exorbitant purchase. Others were quick to call out her appropriation of African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
These are only two examples in Tara’s long list of contentious behaviours, the most recent of which occurred in February 2023 when Tara took to TikTok to share that she would be sleeping with a woman for the first time for her OnlyFans account.
Creating WLW content for profit
In the get-ready-with-me video, Tara revealed that she would be having her first sexual experience with a woman later that day and filming it for her OnlyFans account. Providing context on the idea and how it came about, Tara explained that while she is sexually attracted to both men and women, she could never envision herself having a serious emotional connection with a woman.
“I don’t think I could ever date a girl,” she said. “I’ve only ever had, like, severe crushes on, like, men.”
In a now-deleted follow-up video, Tara addressed questions that she was getting about sleeping with a woman — friend and fellow OnlyFans creator, Lilah Gibney — despite having a boyfriend. She explained that she did it “for work” and that her boyfriend was “totally fine with it.” She even added that, early in their relationship, he got visibly excited when she kissed a woman in front of him.
“His eyes lit up,” she said. “It was the funniest thing ever, like, he was so excited.”
Tara went on to clarify that a previous boyfriend of hers was extremely insecure about the idea of her kissing other women. This, she explained, shocked her because “most guys love that.”
Tara also reiterated that she is straight and, while she enjoys kissing women, could never envision herself dating a woman.
The queerbaiting debate
Many users were quick to highlight that Tara creating queer adult content (despite being straight) is a textbook case of queerbaiting.
A highly divisive subject, queerbaiting refers to the mediatic practice of hinting at or alluding to queerness for the sake of capital, promotion, and/or publicity — without actually depicting real queer experiences. From Harry Styles to Taylor Swift, several celebrities have been called out for queerbaiting — and it’s a concerning trend.
Here’s what we need to understand about queerbaiting: at its core, the term is intended to apply exclusively to mediatic content, be it film, television, or anything in between. However, thanks largely to its proliferation on TikTok, the term is seeing something of a problematic evolution. As VICE puts it, “the problem with the overactive use of queerbaiting is that it’s shifted from a criticism of content and the decisions made around how to promote that content, and onto celebrities and other real people.”
A harsh reminder of this arose last year when Kit Connor, star of the Netflix show Heartstopper, came out as bisexual on Twitter. The tweet came after Kit was repeatedly accused of queerbaiting, having profited off his portrayal of a queer character without explicitly stating his connection to the community.
“Back for a minute. I’m bi. Congrats for forcing an 18 year old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye,” his tweet read.
With this in mind, it’s crucial to remember that, in this context, the object of criticism isn’t so much Tara as it is the content she’s created and the profits she’s reaped from it.
And in this case, the debate around queerbaiting isn’t a debate at all. Given the fact that Tara admitted that she is straight and simply created WLW content “for work”, she confirmed her exploitation of the LGTBQIA+ community for personal gain.
The fetishisation of queer women
Going hand-in-hand with queerbaiting, WLW fetishisation was another issue TikTok users pinpointed. Of course, this issue isn’t exclusive to TikTok nor Tara; we see it everywhere, from our television screens to our city streets.
The roots of WLW fetishisation run particularly deep in the realm of adult content. With self-proclaimed straight women like Tara making this kind of content, the genre known as “lesbian porn” isn’t actually lesbian porn — it’s simply straight women putting on a performance. What we’re then left with is content that lacks authentic queer representation and, in turn, doesn’t serve the community that the genre was intended for.
So, who does it serve instead? Straight men.
As a result of content like Tara’s, the sexuality of LGBQIA+ women becomes mere fodder for the gratification of straight men. In turn, their very real relationships, desires, and identities aren’t taken seriously.
As creator @oceanvanexel pointed out in her response, Tara only exacerbated this exact issue by stating that her interest in women was wholly physical: “This is exactly why us lesbians and WLW relationships still get invalidated – because it’s just seen as something sexual.”
The price of perpetuating the male gaze
In the weeks since the videos were posted, Tara has addressed the backlash on multiple occasions. She first published a response video and later went on the PlanBri Uncut podcast, doubling down on her comments.
Queerbaiting, fetishisation, an utter lack of reflection or remorse — the list of indiscretions is long and still growing.
But perhaps the most dangerous effect of all is the price we pay by catering to and perpetuating the male gaze. When we enable and uphold the patriarchy that has riddled us with so much harm — particularly by exploiting those who have long been marginalised — we all lose.
As allies, those of us outside the queer community, particularly straight women, need to do better. Not only do we need to reflect on our own behaviours and biases, but we need to hold each other accountable for them.
For far too long, the heavy burden of fostering accountability and understanding has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the oppressed. Now, it’s our turn to carry the weight.