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Straight twinks are apparently trending – no thanks

Dubbed the ‘Age of the Twink’ by the NYT, heterosexual men are being championed for their supposedly groundbreaking femininity

“Welcome to the Age of the Twink” declared an article published earlier this week on the New York TimesT Magazine website. If you aren’t fluent in gay slang, you might not be familiar with the term ‘twink’ – used to describe a young, slim, hairless, and (this is the important part) gay man.

According to the article, thanks to the likes of Timothée Chalamet, Jaden Smith, and Lucas Hedges, if you’re physically twink-like, your non-threatening stature means the world is your oyster – regardless if you’re gay or straight. At a trim 600 words, the article doesn’t really say much – apart from arguing that twinks provide “a new answer to the problem of what makes a man.”

New? Really? The skinny boy aesthetic has been championed in fashion and photography for years. The term ‘twink’ isn’t new either; it’s believed to be to be a derivative of the word ‘twank’ – a way to describe gay sex workers in the 20s – and has its own porn subcategory, and “tribe” on Grindr. What is new? The fact that straight men are finding mainstream success because of (largely straight) fans discovering value in their unhulking masculinity – in the same traits that have existed in gay men for decades. These ‘straight twinks’ are essentially seen as sensitive softboys – meanwhile, portrayals in gay porn show twinks to be stupid, effeminate, sexually passive, and always broke.

“At last, the conventionally-attractive fit white guy will finally get his day in the sun,” was among the funnier reactions to the article on Twitter, with the general response being: we knew. Aside from the obvious – a straight twink can’t exist – the conflation of slimness and, for the most part, whiteness to success is problematic. Not least because that is the way it has been for what feels like forever.

“The conflation of slimness and, for the most part, whiteness to success is problematic. Not least because that is the way it has been for what feels like forever”

It goes without saying, but thin models in fashion are nothing new. The preference for this body type can’t even be called a trend, because, excluding the few brands who prefer to cast muscular, athletic dudes, thin is the standard we see on the runway at both menswear and womenswear. Almost 20 years ago, when Hedi Slimane was leading Dior Homme, ultra-skinny models in ultra-skinny jeans sauntered down the runway. They returned again (even skinnier) during his time at Saint Laurent

But to conflate this body type with a long-running trope of gay identity makes little sense. Sure, the industry (and its many high profile gay designers and photographers) has a longstanding obsession with homoerotic images, but it isn’t that comfortable with models actually being gay. “I know several models with mainstream agencies that can’t be vocal about their identities or sexuality at all,” casting director and founder of LGBTQ+ only agency New Pandemics Cody Chandler told us recently. Possess those same twink-like qualities as a straight model, though, and you’ve got a winning combination. Again, nothing new for gay men who have been getting off to “gay 4 pay” pornos since forever.

Like with Chalamet, the appeal seems to be in embodying the look of being a twink without the most important part: actual gayness. Let’s not forget, 71 per cent of gay men interviewed by Attitude last year admitted they were turned off by prospective partners who showed feminine qualities. So while straight men are championed for their supposedly groundbreaking femininity, femme gay men continue to be marginalised and punished for their identities. This new fawning over an “age of the twink” is just a rehashing of the same message that these men have been hearing forever: “be gay, but make it straight.”