“Breeder” is classic queer lingo. (Straight people, I’m giving away our secret language; don’t go snitching.) A breeder is someone who engages in the type of sex that can lead to the production of a new human — i.e., someone in a heterosexual relationship. The term is used jokingly, but it has an implicit negative connotation: It’s meant to make you think of gauche, brutish animal breeding, not sex for pleasure.
Why have TikTok Zoomers adopted breeder memes now? It’s hard to say, but one guess is that IRL breeding feels especially high-stakes amid the sickness and death, wildfires and economic collapse. Young people starting their adult lives in a messed-up world may struggle to understand why anyone would want to continue this cycle. You’re really gonna accept the heightened risk and bring a kid into, well, this? And then pay for childcare?
But on TikTok, “breeder” has become shorthand for hetero digital culture. The term is often used in the captions of videos by queer people to mock the oppressive experience that is being on straight TikTok:
Or the odd phenomenon of straight guys always needing to one-up women:
Or the many, many commenters who think “heterophobia” — discrimination against straight people — is real oppression, or real at all:
While TikTok cool kids are just now discovering the term, “breeder” has long been used within queer spaces. The term “breeder,” used to refer to heterosexual couples, has a different meaning from “breeding” — being aroused by the prospect of having sex without protection. It’s getting off on the idea of sex that could risk pregnancy or an STI.
Nothing about the use of “breeder” by TikTokers is particularly new or unique to the Gen Z experience. A cursory search outline shows that queer people have routinely referred to straight bars as “breeder bars” for over a decade.
In fact, the term is rather dated. In April, Queer Kentucky writer Vinny O’Hara pleaded with straight allies to stop using the term because it doesn’t reflect the diversity within our queer community today. The term “breeder” fails to acknowledge that queer couples (as they always have) can also produce children.
“When straight people use that word, they forget about all of the families, parents and children who make up our community. They forget about the wide range of queerness and gender identity that make couples so much more diverse than just ‘man’ and ‘woman,’” O’Hara writes.
So, let’s get one final thing straight (pun intended): Heteros, you don’t get to call yourself breeders. Because even if the term isn’t as inclusive as its literal interpretation, it isn’t likely going anyway any time soon — and we’d like our slang back.