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.
Hat tip Ted Kerr. Oh boy, do I have feels about this. I was a teenager in the 1990s, when the hegemonic body shape was either bulky or ripped muscle. It’s kind-of hilarious to see the NYT just now announcing this trend. The shift to a more slender body shape began with emo and scene looks in the early 2000s: to see that, we only need trace the changing look of 90s boy bands through to 1D and 5SOS. (Or the changing body shape of Spiderman.) The shift has enlarged the margins of what counts as desirable masculinity to include features that would previously have been derided as pretty and therefore feminine. It also intensifies ageism, since ‘pretty’ and ‘slender’ are much harder to maintain once you’re past your twenties. It has altered the configuration of gay sexual racism, as well: mid-2000s scholarship on multicultural queer describes prejudice against ‘skinny Asians’, but I now mainly see that enacted by gay men in the South-East Asian circuit culture. I am curious to see whether this trend will intensify or dissipate in the next decade.