Imagine that you are sitting in your bedroom, scrolling through TikTok, when you see something that makes you stop dead in your tracks.

Curiouser and Curiouser …

You’ve come across a video where an unknown person is recording a group of women walking down the well-lit streets of Spinningfields, Manchester. It has millions of views. Why? What’s so exceptional about that?

You click on the account, but all you find are similar videos. Women, at night, looking as though they’re about to go party. Not a single man to be seen.

Strange …

Then you come across more disturbing videos: shots focusing on women wearing particularly revealing tops; tipsy girls being carried home by their friends; a drunk woman crawling along the pavement, seemingly unaware of her surroundings.

But what really sends shivers down your spine, is the fact that none of the girls ever acknowledge the cameraman or so much as glance in his direction.

It’s as though they don’t know he’s recording them …

What’s Happening in Spinningfields?

Welcome to the dark realities of the #ManchesterNightlife phenomenon, where young women are being filmed without their consent in the Spinningfields area of Manchester, close to Deansgate.

The TikTok account Walking in China (@dinamini59) has amassed over 350,000 followers and 3.1 million likes from videos sexualising young women out partying. The unnamed photographer — believed to be a man from eyewitness accounts — includes inappropriate captions on his videos such as #hot, #beautiful and #sexy, even though most of the women recorded are doing mundane things like crossing the road or chatting with friends.

Despite the content being questionable, TikTok is doing very little to combat the latest example of misogynistic behaviour. Quite the opposite, actually. This creepy trend has spread to other social media platforms, including YouTube, where an account called Voice of the Valleys posts videos titled ‘Beautiful Drunk Girl Wander[s] on the Street of Manchester’ and ‘Beautiful Single Ladies One Night Losing Control in Manchester.’ This account specifically targets women who are intoxicated.

In response to the outrage these videos have caused, Chief Inspector Stephen Wiggins from the GMP released a statement in January, saying that officers have been made aware of these accounts. He encouraged anyone who believes they have been ‘filmed in a manner which is causing them alarm or distress’ to report the incident. However, there are limitations to what the police can do to prevent this intrusive behaviour. Technically, it is not illegal to film people in public without their consent.

Who’s to Blame?

But who is to blame for the popularity of these creepy videos? Some people (mostly men hiding behind their screens), seem to think it’s young women who are at fault.

Take journalist Ian Miles Cheong, for example. He uploaded one of Walking in China videos to X, showing a large group of women walking down the street together at night. This was captioned as: ‘Manchester nightlife. Why do so many young women do this to themselves?’

The problem with this is that it undeniably blames women — who are being stalked and shadowed — while detracting from the fact that Walking in China should never have been allowed to see the light of day. Do we have a right to condemn the women featured in these videos, especially when they never consented to being filmed? And why must it be the case that girls are shamed for letting their hair down on a night out while the boys don’t get so much as an eye bat?

This is exactly Amy Adams’ point. She is one of the many Mancunian women who have been targeted by Walking in China. When she realised that she had featured on the account at least twice without her consent, she decided to speak up about her experience:

‘All of the girls … are being recorded without their consent,’ says Amy. ‘I think the whole premise of the account is so disgusting, because [Walking in China] puts it as “nightlife in Manchester” when in reality it’s just some guy recording young girls on a night out.’

What’s worse, these videos consistently garner tens of thousands of (and sometimes over 7 million) views. Amy says that many girls who live in Spinningfields are now reluctant to leave their homes in the evening, for fear that videos of them will be shared with millions online.

Others have echoed similar concerns:

‘As a young woman living in Manchester, it freaks me out that our city is being posted online,’ commented one user on the Greater Manchester Reddit page. ‘[Walking in China] focuses on girls with more daring outfits … We are not prize cattle — we are humans.’

What’s apparent, is that these TikTok videos aim to sexualise and undermine women. Just because the man behind Walking in China is not physically hurting the girls he records, does not make his actions harmless. He is undeniably causing many women to feel ‘scared and unsafe’ in their own city.

Shame on TikTok

TikTok is most certainly not blameless in all this. The popular video platform needs to be held accountable for permitting content that violates their community guidelines on sexual exploitation, among other things. TikTok isn’t just allowing these men to go unpunished, it is rewarding their inappropriate behaviour by giving them a safe space and millions of potential viewers.

When men are allowed to film women non-consensually without any repercussions, it sends a clear message to TikTok’s predominantly young and impressionable audience that men can do as they please when it comes to women. In a society still rife with misogyny, where 49 per cent of women feel unsafe walking home at night and one in five will experience stalking at some point in their lives, we just don’t know what other non-consensual acts these #Nightlife videos could be egging men on to do.

This trend could easily spread to other cities, and other countries, putting more girls in harm’s way. It is wrong and irresponsible of TikTok to enable these accounts to grow huge followings when they perpetuate the idea that women are open targets for male voyeurism.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.