Countless BookTok users devoured the novel Icebreaker by Hannah Grace, which centers on an enemies-to-lovers trope between a competitive figure skater and a hockey player. There’s also Pucking Around by Emily Rath, an erotic novel with thousands of positive reviews which tells the story of a playboy professional hockey player and his physical therapist. These novels single-handedly turned an entire subset of BookTok users into hockey fans – not for the love of the sport, but for the real-life players who inspired their favorite heartthrob characters.
This led to rabid reader-turned-hockey fans openly fantasizing (in very vivid, graphic detail) about these players on social media for millions of people to see. But these women neglected to realize that though they may have been the inspiration for fictional characters, these professional athletes are very much real people. There’s also some shadiness from athletic teams looking to capitalize on the BookTok craze, with disastrous results. So, has BookTok finally gone too far? Let’s dive into the drama.
Erotica, Hockey Players, and BookTok Drama
If you’re looking for plot summaries, character deep dives, and book recommendations, look no further than BookTok. The controversial platform has over eight billion videos dedicated to the genre, and users from all over the world are sharing their favorite, most popular X-rated reads.
Making pornographic material mainstream is a problem in and of itself, and this conflict only proves this. All it took was one TikTok user who was a fan of erotic novels to bring attention to the real-world inspirations behind some of BookTok’s most beloved male love interests. The user in question, 27-year-old Kierra Lewis, is a devoted fan of BookTok’s smuttiest reads, and she used her platform of over a million followers to bring attention to the “hottest men” in hockey after reading a hockey-centered erotic novel. But these weren’t fan-created imaginings of her favorite characters or an idealized concept of which actors would play them in potential movie adaptations – they were the actual men who play hockey for the NHL.
Heavily featured in these videos is Alex Wennberg, the center player for the Seattle Kraken. The team is still in its infancy, having only been around since 2021, but Wennberg, 28, has played in the NHL for teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers since 2014. Wennberg is the common denominator in many of Lewis’ videos geared toward the NHL’s most attractive players, but the awkwardness doesn’t end there.
Lewis is known for being extremely explicit in her videos, even referencing being aroused while reading Emily Rath’s Pucking Around in a nail salon. Regarding Wennberg, she posted a video to TikTok asking him to assist his fellow players to score “in all three of my holes.”
Because Lewis was racking up numbers and engagement, the marketing team for the Seattle Kraken took it upon themselves to jump on the trend, posting videos of team warmups specifically aimed at horny BookTok fans. They commented on Lewis’ videos, and on May 9, invited her to a Kraken playoff game and gave her a jersey. Lewis posted about her experience online of course, and had a poster with the words “krack my back,” a sexually suggestive play on words.
At the playoff game, Lewis also called out graphic remarks to the players which she said later she didn’t know they could hear. The playoff game for one person in particular was the last straw, however, and not long after, Wennberg’s wife and mother to his son, Felicia Weeren, posted a plea to Instagram, asking for the harassment to stop. “I mean no hate on the booktok community,” Weeren wrote on a post, “just a little request for people to think twice about their comments/videos.” Weeren also posted one of Lewis’ videos as an example of the aggressiveness her husband has faced from fans, which Lewis, as you can probably guess, didn’t appreciate.
Lewis went on the defensive and said that her name was being dragged on social media and generally refused to apologize to Wennberg or his family, saying that the Kraken’s marketing team and people who came to her account from Weeren’s post on Instagram were entirely to blame. She didn’t address Wennberg or her past videos objectifying him and other players, and instead doubled down on her position. While this reaction leaves a bad taste in the mouth, Lewis is right about one thing – she isn’t solely responsible for this situation.
Is Any Publicity Good Publicity?
Whether you blame the Seattle Kraken for still being a relatively young team or their marketing department being run by inexperienced professionals, it’s obvious that they should bear at least some part of the responsibility for the way things unfolded.
It’s evident that once the team’s higher-ups noticed how its players were being featured on TikTok and how those videos were performing, they got excited. But capitalizing on social media trends is never a good idea, explains one marketing expert. You run the risk of overstepping a line, like this team did, and when all is said and done, trends on social media come and go quickly, and even if your post got attention this week, there will definitely be a new one next week that everyone will be focusing on.
It also shouldn’t take a marketing expert to know that the team’s priority from the get-go shouldn’t have been a TikTok user who happened to have a million followers, but the safety, comfort, and security of their own players. It shouldn’t have taken one of the player’s wives speaking up about how uncomfortable sexual harassment is for the team’s marketing department to know that partnering with Lewis, while perhaps done with positive intentions, wasn’t a good look.
After Weeren’s Instagram post, the team cut ties with Lewis, unfollowing her and removing their BookTok-oriented thirst trap videos from their account. They have yet to release a statement or even an apology to Wennberg and his family, and it’s clear that though there was an internal discussion of some kind on the controversy prompting the removal of their posts, there was no statement released to the public on the importance of boundaries and respect.
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a slew of bad marketing campaigns, and while this one is no exception, it’s distinct in that it directly impacted real people outside an internet craze. If other NHL teams or marketing departments are looking for inspiration and looking to capitalize on the popularity of TikTok, the Seattle Kraken is helpfully illustrative of what not to do.
Stranger Than Fiction
Perhaps it’s only natural to be intrigued and maybe a bit obsessed with the lives of celebrities or people in the public eye we’d never have access to were it not for the internet. But making videos specifically aimed at attractive men with families and going into graphic detail about sexual exploits we’ve fantasized about isn’t harmless interest – it’s delusional, not to mention gross.
Somehow having tons of followers on social media emboldens people to put their innermost thoughts and emotions on the internet forever, when they’d be much better off never seeing the light of day. Just because you feel you have something to say doesn’t automatically mean it has to be said. What’s worse is that this kind of engagement bait encouraged other people to do the same, with so much intensity and aggression that it offended Wennberg’s family.
This goes above and beyond enjoying smutty novels because they’re a fantasy. Many people who enjoy erotic fiction or even porn for their own gratification justify it by claiming that it doesn’t harm or affect anyone else, so how could it be negative? It’s evident from this very situation that this isn’t the case at all.
Celebrities might be inaccessible to the majority of their fans, but one taste of access can lead a person to think they’re entitled to exploit them or invade their privacy. BookTok’s spicier fans might have previously posted content all in good fun – but this situation just goes to show that however far removed we think we are, our actions always have consequences. Though it shouldn’t need to be said to grown adults, publicly and proudly making these kinds of graphic remarks can leave even the most popular user skating on thin ice.
Evie deserves to be heard. Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.