TMNs don't like to be touched during sex, and people seem to have a lot of opinions about that.
If you’ve been on queer TikTok lately, you may have noticed a new fascination with Touch Me Nots. Search “touch me not” or “stone lesbian” and you’ll find hundreds of posts of queer women and lesbians — mostly femme — bashing stones as undesireable, or bragging that they’ve “turned” their lovers into bottoms.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Touch Me Not is exactly what it sounds like: someone who prefers not to be stimulated, or touched, during sex. It is a lesbian identity category — now used more widely when discussing queer women or non binary people — that describes folx who give during sex but do not recieve.
Often used interchangeably with “stone,” TMNs are different than tops in that they often do not disrobe and don’t allow their genitals to be touched during sex. Both terms have been around for a while (think Leslie Feinburg’s iconic 1993 novel Stone Butch Blues). My fiancé, Sam, is stone, and says the recent surge in hostility toward TMNs and stones has been difficult. “It’s really hard to see people posting this kind of stuff. It’s hard enough being a butch lesbian and on top of that explaining to others that I’m stone. It hurts to see these kinds of thoughts coming from your own community,” she says. “It makes me feel like I’m a conquest and not a person.”
The wave of criticism TMNs are receiving on TikTok goes beyond funny banter or discourse. It’s invasive, invalidating, and sex negative. There are endless examples of TMN shaming on TikTok, but they follow three main trends. The first is exemplified in this post from a TikToker called siannityniqua. In the post, Sianni plays out a discussion with a potential lover, doing a full 180 when her fictional lover discloses that they are a TMN.
What’s especially interesting in the clip is that the fictional TMN, realizing her disdain, still tries to please her with a “Maybe I can change.” But apparently, the damage is done. In this post, TMNs are undesirable and intrinsically flawed.
To be clear, this isn’t about singling out Sianni (who has a sizable following), or any one specific TikTok creator. There are dozens of videos in the same vein, such as this one, this one, this one, or this one. This first trend is all about shame, undesirability, and rejection — and they go much further than any one-off venting or personal preference. They’re about collectively gatekeeping what queer sex should look like and who gets to have it.
So we know TMNs are being rejected for their identities, but what happens when someone takes a TMN as more of a challenge than a lost cause? In this TikTok, thisiscorky a.k.a. Courtney Wright theatrically brags and flaunts her supposed sexual prowess to people who have not been able to “turn” a TMN, like she has. The post reads, “When you turn a touch me not into a touch me please.”
It’s mostly (but not exclusively) femmes making these kinds of videos. And they feel ego-driven and rather oppressive. Even the idea of “turning” someone’s sexual preferences to suit your desires mirrors the age-old trope of cis het men trying to flip queer women “straight” as a personal measure of their own power and masculinity.
Sure, some TMNs change and their preferences for touch may vary depending on the relationships — sexual fluidity is often a part of most people’s sex lives. But regardless of a TMN’s sexual journey, consent is theirs to give and ours to respect. For sex educator and journalist Aria Vega, “when the partner of a Touch Me Not approaches sex with a single goal of getting them to change their ways, that partner is treating [them] like a problem to be solved.” In reality, there is nothing about TMNs that needs to be fixed because nothing is broken.
Finally, the third trend deals with pressuring or coercing TMNs into bottoming, or receiving, during sex. This video from adoree_tabb is a good example; the creator lip synchs lyrics that may come across as just sexually aggressive, but are literally about violating consent. After watching this video, sex positive speaker Dirty Lola’s says, “Even if you are ‘joking’... people have bodily autonomy. You can’t make people do things. It reminds me of cis dudes who say ‘I can make you not be a lesbian, or make you only love men.’”
There are quite a few reaction posts to all these videos where TNMs express their discomfort and awareness that they are treated as conquests. Creator hyx.ce succinctly confronts this “dom femme” attitude in their video. They shake their head emphatically and are notably intimidated as the audio plays, “Let me hit it! Let me hit it!”
“It's unfortunate and disheartening to see such a toxic power dynamic reflected in videos depicting femmes celebrating or bragging about turning or rejecting TMNs,” says Abbie Aldridge, a Tampa-based therapist and founder of Healing Village Therapy, commenting on the trend. “Publicly applauding oneself for rejecting someone based on who they are and their boundaries is not an endearing quality and begs for introspection.”
But mosty importantly, each of these three trends — shame/rejection, bragging/conquesting, and implied coercion — show a deep misunderstanding of not just boundaries, but also about the flexibility of non-heteronormative sex. “The videos also displayed a shortsighted view of the capacity for love and pleasure that a TMN can bring to a relationship, diminishing them to such that their value is only how they can satisfy the sexual expectations of another, as though they aren't an otherwise whole person,” Aldridge says.
In reality, TMNs bring a lot to the table by challenging sexual convention and redefining mutual pleasure. “It's not only possible, but well-documented that TMN and stone individuals can experience pleasure and may even reach orgasm by giving pleasure to their sexual partner(s), empathetically from the receiving partner's pleasure,” says Aldrige. The reasons for preferring more indirect sexual pleasure varies for each person — but at its core, there are innumerable ways to enjoy, give, and receive pleasure.
Vega wishes the internet did a better job of hosting nuanced, intergenerational conversations on queerness and sex. “Sometimes it feels like the internet doesn't actually facilitate conversation as much as it lets us build pedestals to look down on others from,” they say. “Butches and studs — whose community often overlaps with TMNs — are the backbone of the queer community. They have always been an essential component of women's liberation, sexual liberation, and queer liberation — any and all social movements that call for a reimagining of our social contracts.”
At its core, this is a discussion of autonomy and basic respect. TMNs are whole and desirable just as they are — no matter what’s trending.