On May 8, 2015, DeviantArt user BigKneeLover made his first post. It was a winking Microsoft Paint illustration of Miku Hatsune, the blue-haired Vocaloid pop star that people make erotic images of even though she’s canonically 16. BigKneeLover’s first post was also intended to be erotic, which you can gather from some of the hashtags he used like “fetish,” “sexy,” and, of course, “big.” But unlike other sexy anime art, this Hatsune Miku isn’t undressed or gay, she just has knees that kind of look like titties.
Such is the nature of BigKneeLover, an account that has been posting women with large knees of various size, shape, and, presumably, weight and viscosity since that fateful day in 2015. As historically online as I pride myself to be, I admittedly only discovered BigKneeLover about a month ago, when I stumbled on a video of TikTok user @dandydemon from earlier this year witnessing BigKneeLover for the first time. “No, no,” she repeated while scrolling through BKL’s portfolio of bulbous knees. “You’re joking.”
That response is understandable, but when I first saw the big knees, I wasn’t particularly moved by them. I was kind of just like, “Ha. Nice.” I’ve seen a lot of things on the internet. As more BigKneeLover TikToks started entering my endless TikTok scroll, though, the account started bolting itself into my brain. I kept revisiting little details like the discoloration of the knees, the impressive size of the knees. And I had questions: were the knees tumors? Were they completely hollow, flesh whoopee cushions? But one question in particular kept tugging at me — who was BigKneeLover? I couldn’t rest until I found out.
But first, I needed to understand BigKneeLover. There’s a documented history of knee fetishes online, but seemingly none for big knees. It’s safe to say that @dandydemon’s video, which currently sits at 1.4 million views, sparked the modern big knee renaissance — BigKneeLover posted his first big knee art since 2017 this July. It’s a very sweet redesign of his original character, Kayla, who has knees that hang like plastic bags filled with cream cheese.
“Hi There, it’s been a long While,” the caption reads. “I Forgot about Deviantart for a While.” That’s a mild way to describe a four year absence, BigKneeLover, but I’ll let you have this. I made a DeviantArt account with the express purpose of messaging him (his profile lists no other social media or methods of contact), and I waited.
Then I dived knee-first into his past. The most comprehensive existing online resource for this is KnowYourMeme, which hosts an encyclopedic BigKneeLover entry describing the account as “an artist on DeviantArt” often “accused of being a troll account.”
Personally, I find BigKneeLover’s illustrations too lovingly detailed to be the work of a troll, but maybe that’s just me being a hopeless romantic. I asked concept artist RJ Palmer, who once said that BigKneeLover was “[his] discovery” about those early big knee days and how earnest he thought they were.
“I have had an account on DeviantArt for more of my life than I lived without one at this point,” Palmer said over Twitter DM. “In that time you get to see some pretty wild stuff, interests you never in a million years would have learned about without the site. There's been a number of extra weird artists I’ve seen over the years but I knew BigKneeLover was something special.”
He sent the profile to his friends, and soon after, it blew up organically on all the best places on the internet, like 4chan, Reddit, and a Buzzfeed list detailing “The 50 Worst Things On The Internet in 2015.”
Much to my dismay, Palmer believes that BigKneeLover is more than likely a troll parodying niche fetish artists. But like me, Palmer wants to believe that he isn’t.
“If they are legitimate,” Palmer said, “I just hope they get to continue being the artist they desire to be. Any time a new, unusual person gets discovered online you worry about people being mean to them.” Palmer also noted that BigKneeLover seems to be “largely unaffected” by hate commenters who have bombarded his account for the past few years, and he’s right.
“Kill me,” DeviantArt user Yugioh Tom wrote in 2016. “GOD WHY DID YOU ABANDON US AND LET SUCH THINGS EXIST,” user whythefuckisthisreal said in 2017. But nevertheless, BigKneeLover persisted, posting upbeat captions about being “Pretty Proud” of his thick-kneed catgirl or how he’s “Been Kinda Busy with Life but now the Business is Over” on a drawing of a beaming blondie with knees so big she has no feet.
A lot of BigKneeLover’s hate comments can be traced back to YouTubers with lots of subscribers featuring BigKneeLover in a video, or in video game channel Funhaus’ case, a series of videos. In 2017, Funhaus began a segment called “Hard Nettin,” which stacked internet phenomena against each other in hopes of finding the “most internet thing.” BigKneeLover won five episodes, earning himself a spot in the Hard Nettin Hall of Fame and inspiring listeners like Rebecca, who, years later, still keeps her @bigkneelover Twitter handle in homage to the illustrator.
“BigKneeLover sort of became infamous in one of my friend circles, so it stuck with me,” she wrote over DM. “I guess the appeal is seeing someone so genuinely into something that's relatively harmless, if a little strange. There’s no money or fame or brand to sell, just a guy who likes to draw big knees”
The more people I spoke to about BigKneeLover, the clearer it became that people fucking love the big knees. And more than that, they love the mystery artist who spent the last six years making them even when people online beg him to stop.
BigKneeLover never responded to my DeviantArt message. I noticed that someone commented on his most recent post that they had “sent [him] a message with some details” about an interview for a “podcast [they’re] working on,” which BigKneeLover didn’t acknowledge either. And if the podcaster can’t get BigKneeLover to spare even a cursory like, then where does that leave me, a (holds back vomit) writer?
I did, however, talk to one of BigKneeLover’s old friends, who preferred to stay anonymous, whom I’ll refer to using the pseudonym Anna.
Anna met BigKneeLover in 2013, before he became thee BigKneeLover, through a Skype group made up of mostly young artists. “They were a pretty reserved person outside of their friend circle,” Anna said. But “the entire friend group had a sense of humor where you couldn't quite tell when they were being serious and when they were joking. Sometimes they would play off something honest as a joke, sometimes they'd tell a joke with a straight face. The Skype group started losing members around 2015 and I haven't had much contact since.”
So we’ll never know the truth behind BigKneeLover's thirst for knees, which many DeviantArt users liken to a ballsack even though I can’t really see it. Anna also preferred to keep BigKneeLover’s identity a secret, not wanting to “ruin the mystery,” although they hoped for a future filled with “more knees.” Even though I couldn’t get all the answers I wanted, I do, too.
Ashley Bardhan is a writer from New York who writes about video games, sex, and other things people like.