The Retrograde Queerbaiting of Rita Ora’s ‘Girls’ and The Times’ ‘Age of the Twink’


Between the problematic anthem ‘Girls’ and The New York Times’ think piece on the ‘Age of the Twink,’ it’s high season for co-opting LGBTQ culture.
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/ Atlantic Records

By Ira Madison III, The Daily Beast

Always quick to discover a trend late, The New York Times—via its T magazine—published an article Monday on the alleged “Age of the Twink.”

“The latest twinks—many of whom are straight—are what you might call ‘art twinks,’ building upon an aesthetic legacy established by Ryan McGinley’s turn-of-the-millennium photographs of the sloppily skinny, or last decade’s leather-pant-clad Saint Laurent models chosen by the designer Hedi Slimane. And yet they are more culturally mainstream: a growing cohort of famous (and famously small) boys who stand in opposition to the lumbering, abusive oafs who have been dominating this year’s headlines,” the piece read. 

The slang “twink,” typically used to describe a boyish-looking, usually white, gay male age 17-25 (though that age range varies depending who you talk to), is being oddly co-opted here for an article on young lithe Hollywood leading men Timothée Chalamet, Tye Sheridan, and Lucas Hedges. In doing so, it positions these men as somehow a creation to combat the predators of the #MeToo era: “Female body types have always cycled in and out of style; yet with men, alternatives to the ideal of imposing physicality have usually been ignored or lampooned. But as women continue to use their voices to undo that legacy of toxic masculinity, a different kind of change is taking place from within the culture: 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.”

As LGBTQ culture becomes more mainstream, it’s easier to package and sell it to straight people, and ‘Girls’ and The New York Times have both hopped on the bandwagon.

The idea that a body type is what makes a man capable of sexual assault, and that this new image of a slim, white male will somehow counteract women’s trauma of the past, is wildly ludicrous. It ignores the fact that there have and will continue to exist many abusive men with a “twink” frame, and that it’s the power structures of Hollywood that contribute to men committing sexual crimes. The cultural embrace of a new body type isn’t some grand response to #MeToo or to the concept of masculinity.

Never mind the fact that this body type has existed forever, in many celebrated artists like Prince and Freddie Mercury. The article mentions the latter, but claims he was much too “costumed,” as opposed to current gay artists like Troye Sivan and Olly Alexander. Alexander, for one, is 27 and not a twink. And second, both artists are openly gay and express their artistry much in the way Prince or Mercury did, so the odd, internalized homophobia from this author in describing Sivan and Alexander as more masculine by contrast smacks in the face of their initial thesis.

The article comes on the heels of another silly co-opting of queer culture: the pop song “Girls,” as sung by Rita Ora, Cardi B, Bebe Rexha, and Charli XCX. The lyrics, “Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls / Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls,” have come under fire from out bisexual artists such as Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani. “I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life. This type of message is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community, we can and should do better,” Kiyoko wrote on Instagram. Kehlani chimed in with, “hate to be THAT guy but there were many awkward slurs, quotes, and moments that were like, ‘word? word.’ and don’t make this personal. i have an incredible song out with one of the artists, and would love to work with the other three as well. & have met them all and respect them. there. were. harmful. lyrics. period.”

Though Cardi B has had lyrics before like, “I need Chrissy Teigen / Know a bad bitch when I see one / Tell RiRi I need a threesome,” and Ora fumbled through an interview when asked if she was bisexual (“I think the way… If people look at it like that, it’s very narrow-minded, and I don’t think that’s what this record is. I don’t think that that even matters. Yeah.”), Ora has since come out as having had “romantic relationships with both women and men,” and fans have been quick to defend her and Cardi B on Twitter. But the fact still remains that the song is pretty much a modern “I Kissed a Girl.” It’s not a bisexual anthem; it’s an anthem about getting drunk or high and kissing on girls. It’s stripped of romance, of meaning, and frankly a letdown as a pop song given Ora’s excellent prior singles “Anywhere” and “Your Song.”

As LGBTQ culture becomes ever more mainstream, it’s easier to package and sell it to straight people, and “Girls” and The New York Times have both hopped on the bandwagon. Luckily, there are queer artists like Kehlani, Kiyoko, and Alexander—who jokingly mentioned he’s far from a twink on Twitter—who are more than happy to voice their dissent.


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Entertainment News: The Retrograde Queerbaiting of Rita Ora’s ‘Girls’ and The Times’ ‘Age of the Twink’
The Retrograde Queerbaiting of Rita Ora’s ‘Girls’ and The Times’ ‘Age of the Twink’
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