T, the New York Times Style Magazine, published a piece yesterday called, “Welcome to the Age of the Twink.” Firstly, I love that title and it makes me think of a Jetson’s-era world of beautiful twinks in Lycra bodysuits and astronaut helmets, jetting around on those little space-cars. Oh! They could go to Hamburger Martian’s for drag queen bingo!
But after I got over thinking about that (a good twenty minutes) and after I realized that T is something I’ve not really gotten around to reading much of (it’s shocking!), I put Troye Sivan’s “Bloom” on repeat, took a hit of poppers and read the article. Just kidding, I didn’t read the article!
The thesis of the piece, the piecis if you will, is this: as women begin to dismantle the “legacy of toxic masculinity,” twinks represent a similar departure from the male shackles. “These twinks, after all, aren’t just enviably lean boys or the latest unrealistic gay fantasy, but a new answer to the problem of what makes a man.”
First, after bingeing several T articles, I’ve noticed that they’re (mercifully, because I can’t handle some long diatribe) short and typically include a final graph that pivots to make some larger, societal point. It’s a cute look, and one that I definitely am guilty of, but I wish that this piece was longer. Give me more, hon!
The piece introduces itself with a scene from Call Me By Your Name, where Oliver (Armie Hammer) steals Elio’s (Timothée Chalamet) drink and gives him a brief, tense massage. The author notes that Oliver’s body – broad, hairy and muscled – is in stark contrast to Elio’s – smooth, lithe. In the negative space, it draws comparison and highlights the youth of Elio as well as the older appeal of Oliver.
The author, Nick Haramis, touches upon the rising popularity of “twink” models in more mainstream culture: Ryan McGinley’s photo-series of slim, sloppily dressed Saint Laurent models; leading men Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One), Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Manchester by the Sea), Nick Robinson (Love, Simon); singer Troye Sivan and celebrity-child-savant Jaden Smith. As these men, and their bodies, are being pushed to the forefront of culture and propped up as sexual objects as desire, their twinkiness, and its entrenchments in effeteness and femininity, are similarly propelled.
It’s a little too close to Chris Pratt having to totally reinvent his entire body in order to get a leading role in a movie for me to safely see the rising prevalence of twinkish body types as anything more than a trend or the beginning of a movement.
However, I do agree that prioritizing body types other than the traditional “Leading Man” body – any of the Hollywood Chrises – is a step in the right direction, and the appreciation for androgynous, lithe and sometimes-feminine bodies in men is worthy of attention. But what that made me realize is that, for the most part, twinks still operate within a certain paradigm of toxic masculinity.
Twinks, at least the ones that came to mind when I read the piece as well as the ones who were mentioned in the article itself, are typically portrayed as white or white-passing. The cover photo of “Welcome to the Age of the Twink” includes men of color, but the overarching notion of “twink” is young, cis, white, attractive, slim.
There is the notion that twinks are, inherently, slim. There can be branches: Haramis discusses “twunks” (he mentions Zac Efron; I counter with Tom Holland), Euro twinks (the BelAmi boys) and femme twinks (Adam Rippon). I would argue that otters – slim, hairy men – exist on the twink spectrum; and who among us has not fallen in love with a tattered-knee skater boy or a stoner, drawn gaunt by the love for their respective crafts?
So twinks can be slim, or muscular, or hairy, but they are never fat. They always adhere to the beauty standard that thinness is ideal. Through the promotion of twinks in mainstream culture, we are saying that we are widening the lens of attractiveness – but not that wide. We will dip outside of our ideals, but just slightly.
An essential part of twinks is the idea of prioritizing youth. I’m not saying there aren’t old twinks, looking at you Charlie Hides, but when you look at that through a critical lens, you realize: if twinks are young, then they are meant to idealize youthful, boyish figures. I wonder if their bodies are prized only because it is implied that they are temporary; no one stays young forever, so the twink body will eventually evolve into something else. You can be feminine, but only because eventually you will become something else.
The point of the piece, in my eyes, was acknowledging and celebrating that different types of bodies are being seen as viable, valuable and attractive. And I loved thinking about twinks and bodies and queerness for an hour, so I’m grateful for the piece. But I love it more for reminding me that we still have a long way to go in terms of body inclusivity. Ugh, I did the T thing of putting my thesis (my piecis!) at the very end!