What Is a Twink?

Here's what to know about the origin of the word, and the different "types" of twink.

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If you look a certain way—skinny, smooth-skinned, young for your age—then there's a possibility that you might have been called a "twink." This term, coined and originally used exclusively by gay men, refers to a man in his late teens or early 20s, with a thin build, and no body hair or facial hair.

There are a few types of twinks. A muscle twink, or twunk (twink+hunk) is somebody with that youthful, clean-shaven appearance, but a more visibly muscular physique; think Tom Holland or Darren Barnet. Other types of twink sometimes used in gay culture include femme twink, which refers to a young, thin man whose mannerisms or gender expression don't exclusively fit into a conventionally masculine binary.

The word "twink" can be found on most if not all gay dating apps, where users can search potential matches by body type as well as listing their own. It is also a commonly used term in porn, where the popularity of models with this physique "normalizes both whiteness and youth through what are ultimately racist and ageist tropes," according to academic and former porn performer Zeb J. Tortorici.

"My earliest experiences as a gay porn model personally demonstrated to me how age and race are fetishized in complementary ways to convey a particular type of desirable masculinity," he wrote in the essay Queering Pornography: Desiring Youth, Race and Fantasy in Gay Porn.

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While the term twink has been in popular usage among gay men and the wider LGBTQ+ community for a long time, and has been lampooned alongside other queer descriptors like "bear" and "otter" in popular culture, it officially entered the mainstream in 2018, thanks to Nick Haramis' New York Times article, 'Welcome to the Age of the Twink', and the seemingly endless discourse that followed.

Haramis presented the popularity of slender, fresh-faced young male celebrities like Timothée Chalamet, Troye Sivan and Lucas Hedges as a sign that the twink was Hollywood's latest standard of male beauty, providing stark contrast to the swole, superhero-style body that has become increasingly prevalent among the leading men of the 21st century.

"These twinks... aren't just enviably lean boys or the latest unrealistic gay fantasy, but a new answer to the problem of what makes a man," he wrote.

Of course, one could argue that categorizing youth, thinness, and frequently whiteness as the new masculine idyll is just as conducive to body image issues in guys whose bodies don't fit that mold. Similarly, transposing aesthetics from a subculture onto a broader audience without examining the nuances and potential pitfalls might also be deemed a fool's errand. But that's a whole other conversation.

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