Why men take shirtless selfies
My relationship with my body has changed a lot over the past year. As I started to train more, lose weight, and develop something that looked like abs while on lockdown, the number of shirtless photos on my Instagram feed increased. While I’ve always loved selfies, in the past my photos were pretty tame, mainly because I didn’t consider myself “fit” enough to justify showing off my body. But because I’m proud of the progress I’ve made (and also because, let’s face it, I appreciate the attention), I left that kind of doubt behind, even though I still don’t look like most of the other guys i know post gym updates.
And I’m not the only one. With growing frustrations in quarantine and no immediate outlet for this energy, many more people are thirsting for the main. In the same way that the less artfully organized “photo dump” has become more and more popular on Instagram due to a “screw it up” mentality, some of us have decided to be cautious and go wild when it comes to how many -ody bodies we’re showing, whether on our IG grid or in the relatively safe space of the green circle of close friends.
Sometimes these photos are taken in gym mirrors after a particularly intense workout. Other times they’re snapped on the beach, by a pool, or while they’re still in bed and caught by the hangover horn, or literally every time you feel- same.
It’s easy to characterize a sexy selfie as shallow and attention-seeking, especially if the person taking it is female. Many guys seem to take the nickname “thirst trap” literally, and due to the parasocial nature of platforms like Instagram, will mistake any type of photo showing skin for an invitation to sneak into DM’s. someone. “People seem to assume that women’s thirst traps are a call for attention, but it’s not like that for me,” says Katie, 28. For many women, sharing photos of their bodies is not at all to attract the attention of men, but to reclaim ownership of their body image as a result of years of distorted diet culture, beauty standards and convoluted ideas around exactly How? ‘Or’ What sexy they are allowed to be.
“I recently started posting more Thirst Traps than ever before, and it’s not because I’m desperate for horny strangers to sneak into my DMs,” Katie continues. “When I post a picture in sportswear or a swimsuit, I’m the one pushing back a world that told me to hate my body and be ashamed of my sexuality. It’s like … a recovering myself. It’s powerful. It’s me saying, “I’m here, I’m taking physical space.” Funny how men think our thirst traps are all about them – men. They are about us. “
For men, the motivation and target audience behind thirst traps tell an equally complex story, albeit with an inherently different dynamic, since men haven’t learned what to do with their appearance since time immemorial.
“I think for both men and women it’s about seeking validation and attention,” says writer Graham Isador. “Sometimes it’s related to sex. Other times I think it’s related to controlling your image. Growing up, I struggled with eating disorders. allowed me to appropriate my body in a healthy way. Showing this work was affirmation of the work I did. I don’t know if many men would admit it, but I think gym-based thirst traps for guys are as much ‘watch what I can do’ as they are fucking. Mainly because very few women I’ve known, even women I’ve slept with, have ever laughed at selfies at the gym. “
He has a point. When passionate straight movie stars like Chris Hemsworth and The Rock show off their gains in the gym, these photos are as much about projecting conventionally masculine ideas of power and strength as they are looking sexy. .
But anyone who doesn’t fall into the cisgender and straight categories can express something completely different when sharing photos of their body with the world. Take earlier this year, for example, when Elliot Page posted a photo of him in a swimsuit. Yes, her skinny abs were on display, but there was so much more going on in this pic: Page proudly shared a first look at her bare chest after surgery and was celebrating the purchase of her first pair of men’s swimwear after surgery. come out as trans in december 2020. See someone be able to kiss their own body after years of dysphoria? It’s the kind of happy visibility that is still too rare for trans people.
In a test for Catapult, AE Osworth explored how selfies and thirst traps helped them keep track of their own transition, while also learning to take up more digital space. “By taking the photo, taking the time, I value myself and my current body,” they wrote. “I give myself meaning, I affirm my existence, my correctness; my desire to give myself more meaning increases.”
Oddly enough, elsewhere in the LGBTQ + community, there are those for whom racy photos are a way of life, not to mention a way to make a living. As a homosexual and a writer for Men’s health, my Instagram Discover page is made up of shirtless thirst traps shredded from wall to wall, mostly instaays (i.e., trendy, uninitiated gay influencers) who took advantage of their abs and their V-cuts to create millions of followers and brand sponsorship deals.
But while these sculpted himbos are frequently accused of narcissism, or of projecting unrealistic and unhealthy body image ideals, it’s worth noting that this too has its roots in something deeper. For gay men from the ’80s and’ 90s, displaying a muscular physique became a way to challenge stereotypes and prove that they were healthy during the AIDS crisis.
That it would end up being taken out of its original context and grounded in the culture of gay men as a means of attracting attention was perhaps inevitable, especially given the proliferation of digital means of self-dissemination. And as with any internet culture, it’s important to be aware of the closed loop in which these images and likes circulate: the types of shirtless photos that rack up thirsty likes and comments on social media tend to feature a similar range of physical characteristics. (These men are slim, able-bodied, muscular, conventionally good-looking, and extremely white.)
Regardless of the somewhat problematic aspects of the thirst ecosystem, where women’s sexual expression is frequently, often deliberately misinterpreted and certain body types are disproportionately praised, there is undeniably still power to be found here. To renegotiate and recover. For anyone who was bullied, judged, or discriminated against when they were younger, or who ultimately reached the outer body that reflects their true identity, taking a sexualized, scantily clad validation approach has its appeal. I am certainly not immune.
As long as we don’t get all of our self-esteem and our sense of worth from these sources, there’s nothing wrong with flaunting what you have, right?
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