Back in May, the New York Times Style Magazine made quite the pronouncement: “Welcome to the Age of the Twink,” characterizing the oft-referenced gay subculture as “young, attractive, hairless, slim men.” And the article name-checks a few household names as well, particularly Call Me By Your Name star Timothée Chalamet, Ready Player One star Tye Sheridan, Hollywood royalty Jaden Smith, pop stars Troye Sivan and Olly Alexander, Olympian Adam Rippon and Zac Efron (though technically he’s a “twunk”).
But more recently, in a profile piece by NME of Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander ahead of the group’s performance last week at London’s O2 Arena, the pop star reveals he’s not so keen on being referred to as a twink.
In fact, the pop star is actively attempting to veer away from twink classification.
“Oh God, there’s just so many feelings I have about it!” Olly Alexander tells his interviewer about the New York Times piece. “I think the article had some really good points, and I think it’s great that there are successful young gay guys out there who maybe lean into a specific aesthetic. And it surprises people that [this aesthetic] can be so popular among a young female fanbase. But at the same time, I’m like, ‘Guys, there have been skinny white boys forever. Think about Leonardo DiCaprio.’ There’s a difference now, I guess, in that a couple of us are openly gay and enjoying agency over our sexuality and our bodies. But personally, I’m 28 and a half now, so I’ve been trying to like, manoeuvre myself away from being a twink because I know it has a shelf life!”
Citing personal body issues, Olly Alexander also mentions the eating disorder he once had, remarking, “Personally, I’ve always been ashamed of my body and I’ve hated being so skinny.”
And Alexander calls out another phenomenon that seems to go hand-in-hand with identifying certain gay men as “twinks” — namely, bottom-shaming.
“‘Twink’ feels like an easy way to put someone down and say, ‘You’re dumb, you’re just a bottom that wants to be fucked,'” he tells NME. “There’s a lot of bottom-shaming that goes on in the [LGBTQ] community. I mean, my Twitter is just literally … people are obsessed with placing someone as a bottom or top.”
Ultimately it seems Olly Alexander has more questions about the New York Times article than he actually takes issue with it. “Are we meant to be happy that it’s the age of the twink? Are we meant to be encouraging it? Is it a good thing, or is it a bad thing we need to dismantle? I just feel like I don’t need to refer to myself or anyone else as a ‘twink’ because it’s just lame,” he says.
He also calls society’s — particularly gay men’s — obsession with sexual positions “super-reductive.”
For what it’s worth, during a recent video that saw Troye Sivan read thirsty tweets by his fans, he too pushed back about being labeled a bottom, remarking “not true” to a fan’s tweet that referred to him as “already a bottom.” And he has a point. How does anyone other than Sivan’s sex partners know what the pop star prefers under the sheets?
Hornet’s own sexpert Dr. Chris Donaghue, in a piece entitled “You’re Not a Top or a Bottom. You Just Don’t Understand Sex,” once wrote that until gay men get past the idea that great sex must involve penetration, they will continue to “cock block” great partners and eventually end up in a land of sexual boredom.
As for the “Age of the Twink,” the New York Times piece remarks that the new era is actually a step forward when it comes to undoing the “legacy of toxic masculinity,” which is definitely something we can get behind. But as we asked months back when the Times piece was initially published, by fawning over “twinkdom,” are we merely encouraging men to trade one type of unrealistic body image — the “buff gym rat” — for another?
What do you think of Olly Alexander’s thoughts on the “age of the twink” and bottom-shaming?
Featured image of Olly Alexander by GQ