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Marilyn Roxie presents … Twink Studies

Since late 2015, I have been compiling references and conducting interviews for my future book Twink Studies. Despite the plethora of writing on bears, leathermen, radical faeries and more, there is not the same level of detail out there when it comes to twinks. Twinks are variously described as “thin, smooth, and buff”, “slim or waiflike”, “unnecessarily bitchy”, or “shallow and air-headed”. With adult film titles like Man on Twink implying an inherent effeminate quality to the twink — while others promote a ‘boy next door’ dynamic — and opinion pieces stating that “being labeled a twink is like getting the scarlet letter of the gay universe”, there is clearly more to unpack than meets the eye.

For this post, I have brought together a sample of my findings so far.

 

.-. What Is a Twink? .-.

Boy Toys by photographer Nathan Rupert.

 

The term “twink” has been used since at least the 1960s to refer to gay men in general, before gaining a more specific definition, possibly related to the effeminate connotations of “twinkle-toes”. The definition of twink often includes young adult men who have a boyish and/or effemininate appearance, are relatively hairless and slender, thought to be lacking in intelligence, fashion-conscious, and members of club culture. The term “twink” is often applied by others rather than used as a self-descriptor by an individual. The term usually is used in reference to gay men though it does extend to pop culture crushes such as male celebrities who get tucked under the twink umbrella as well.

 

 

A common origin story given for the popularization of the word “twink” is from Drummer author Fred Halsted in 1975, who “coined the terms twink and twinkie to define his boyish blond lover Joey Yale who typically represented a certain kind of young, hairless, and cream-filled gay youth.” (Gay San Francisco) T.W.I.N.K. (“Teenage, White, Into No Kink”) is a backronym that emerged long after.

The word twink is applied overwhelmingly to white men, doubtless due to persistent racial stereotypes, such as the hypermasculinization applied to black men.

 

 

Original poster and select comments from an archived /hm/ thread on black twinks.

“because I’m a person of color, I can never really be a twink…like from what I’ve observed. I cannot be both, because the stereotypical twink is white and skinny, and toned, and all these things.” (Critical Articulations of Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation)

 

.-. Twink Variations .-.

As with bears versus otters verus polar bears (the list goes on), there are offshoots to the standard-issue twink. Twunks have “the face of a twink, with the physique of a hunk”.

 

 

“Leo finally, finally shed his stubborn adolescence in September of 2005, at the premiere of Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home. Just look at this red-carpet photo: Can you even tell whether he’s twink or twunk here? You cannot! […] The answer you’ve long been looking for is that on or about September 19, 2005, 30-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio officially went from twink to twunk.” (Vulture)

 

 

Twink Code is one of the most humorous, self-aware articulations of twinkhood, a tech creation from 1993 inspired by other online classification schemes such as Bear Code (1989) and Smurf Code (1990), Smurf is a term not commonly used today that has some overlap with twink, associated with “a “bitchy” demeanor”. Twink Code outlines a nuanced variety of twink types that one could claim in an email or newsgroup signature, each with small descriptions provided, including BeachTwink, The All-American Twink, EuroTwink, and GrungeTwink. Further classification options are many.

 

.-. Adult Film .-.

Porn is where the term “twink” is used most frequently, a content descriptor just as much as “jock” or “muscle”.

 

 

The image of the “barely legal” boy in the process of, but not quite through with, becoming a man is a constant in twink pornography; high school and college fantasy depictions are common; some movie offerings from Helix Studios include Horny Schoolboys and Scandal at Helix Academy. Age play and gender differentials are suggested in titles like Man on Twink (Helix). Though scenes populated by one or more twinks exclusively are common, there is a notable preponderance of daddy/son and teacher/student scenes on paysites and tube search engine sites.

 

 

Kip Noll is frequently cited as “the first major twink porn star”, starring in films such as The Boys of Venice (1978), before the appearance of 1980s and 1990s studios NOVA Studios and First Class Male that cast smooth and slender men in their features. Many studios of the 2000s to the present have utilized the term “twink”, such as Helix Studios, Lollipop Twinks, and BoyCrush.

 

 

A word cloud from FoxType showing the words considered most closely related to ‘twink’, nearly all porn-specific terms.

Despite the industry saturation of (generally white) twink porn, the data on what the majority of people want tells a different story:

“So why is black gay porn one of the most viewed categories on Pornhub, America’s most popular porn emporium (empornium)? And why is it that, across the country, most guys are seeking out anything but your standard twink?” (Vice)

 

.-. Twinks and Danger .-.

 

Headline from PinkNews.

Objectification, exploitation, and harm of twink bodies by older and/or powerful members of bar scenes, dating apps, and the gay community at large remains a major issue and shares some parallels with the problem of straight men’s treatment of women as invariably submissive, sexually available objects.

“Women have feminism and sisterhoods, actively raising awareness of this type of seedy activity in our patriarchal society. This is obviously a great development in terms of individual rights and dignity as they provide a much needed face against the shame and submission that comes with sexual objectification. […] By delving into gay culture, it’s clear there are similarities. While we’re still fighting for equal rights, we should also be uniting against this sort of objectification, rather than splintering within our own minority and promoting inequalities and sexual violation. I’m calling for homoism. Twinks everywhere, join a slut walk.” (Vada Magazine)

 

.-. Twinks in Art .-.

I have thus far encountered two (very different) artistic endeavors showing different sides of the figure of the twink in art, Hugo Blame’s collage art on his website at BLAME201 and zine Harsh Twinks and journalist and photographer Lucian B. Wintrich’s Twinks4Trump.

 


BLAME201.

 

The collage of BLAME201 frequently brings a harsher edge to the squeaky clean image of the twink as porn beauty object.

“Since the beginning, I’ve always been into twinks […] The fact is that I really don’t like the “dynamic executive” stuff like “Ok now I’m 20/21 yo, I’m graduated and need to enter into the business world blablabla I need a suit […] Twinks are a symbol for queer teenagers. You can do what you want, you can be a twink in the Gregg Araki / Dennis Cooper’s style like, but you can also be a twink who’s popular, listen to pop music etc […] Of course you can be a twink in couple, but you’re not supposed to live a certain way. No obligations.

Maybe I’m wrong and it’s only my perception of the “twink” term but in my mind the perfect twink is the cute “straight” boy in highschool. […] Maybe it’s just because I like boys like this so, for me twinks are “men”. “Jocks” are like “super-men” (personal interview with Hugo Blame, July 2017)

 

 

Lucian B. Wintrich, responsible for organizing “the first pro-Trump art show”, and his satirical photo series Twinks4Trump (not to be confused with a no longer extant parody Twitter account of the same name) garnered quite a bit of media attention in August 2016. Wintrich was reportedly fired from his job over the series.

Rabble’s Lucian Wintrich Featured On NBC When Previous Employer Fires Him Over Twinks4Trump

 

.-. Conclusion .-.

Many more twink topics remain to be uncovered; dating apps, dominance and submission, cultural crossovers. I hope you’ve enjoyed this taster of what I’m putting together for Twink Studies. If you would like to be considered for an interview about your own experience in relation to the identity, feel free to fill out my survey here.

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. Major awesomeness for you today as the artist and distinguished local Marilyn Roxie takes over the controls to share some heady research from a book-in-progress Marilyn is writing and composing. Barring instances of twinkophobia, you will have a great time, guaranteed. Importantly, please give a response of whatever kind you like to Marilyn in the comments today to show you were attentive and cared. Thank you for that, folks! And thanks of a very higher order to you, Marilyn! ** MyNeighbourJohnTurturro, Hi, man! It’s so nice to see you! Thanks about the gig, and it’s good to know our taste/mind meld is still in proper working order. I’m good, busy. How are you? I regret not seeing you in Paris too, of course, and I hope there’ll be another opportunity to meet on temporary (at least) common turf somewhere ere too long. Yeah, happy to see you, my friend! ** John Fram, Hi. Baths are/is fun. Oh, oh, I see about the outline. Sorry, my brain jumped the gun there. I hope the right mind state sets in whereby I can try Stephen King again. I really should. No, you didn’t tell me that, wow. What does that mean? You designed it for her house or for  her stage show or … what? That’s very interesting. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I wonder what Jimmy Duvall is up to. I get the feeling he must have stopped acting. I haven’t heard hide or hair of him ages. Really lovely guy. Ah, at last! Everyone, The long awaited piece by Mr. Ehrenstein regarding the great composer and songsmith John Latouche on the occasion of the publication of his bio is now yours to devour. And do! And, if you would like a little extra Latouche via Mr. E, revisit the fine post that was presented here last year aka ‘David Ehrenstein presents … John LaTouche Day’. Thusly. ** Steve Erickson, You beat me to a punch, cool. That ‘MZKFT’ is terrific, right? The Errorsmith album is really, inventive wacky fun. I didn’t get a chance to watch the Vimeo thing yet. I will today. It would be a strange choice to wilfully listen to something like Big Black or Behemoth on acid. Generally when you take acid you want to avoid dark, assaultive things that can magnify and start to indict your own thoughts. ** Jordan Rothacker, Hi, welcome! Oh, let me check for your eBook. It should be on my computer. It might have just gotten temporarily lost via my poor organisational skills. Thank you a lot for the kind words about my stuff and the blog. Really fine blurbs you have there from some excellent people. Take care. ** _Black_Acrylic, You’re free! Ha ha, nice description. Cartoon characters always end up just fine. I hope you had a lovely Xmas dinner in the lovely DCA environs. The future is yours, my man! ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Thanks! Me too: I’m going to get some work in on the script today before we have to buckle down on the assignment, also today. The ‘CROWD’ premiere was a great success! I hadn’t seen the final, finished version of the work before, and I like it very much and think Gisele really came through. It needs a little fine tuning in parts, but even those seem to work okay as is, and I think the whole piece is really fresh and pretty exciting, and it got a rapturous response. So, yeah! Countdown to new SCAB! Tick, tick, … And did today provide you with enough time to do what you hoped to do? I hope it was the epitome of greatness! ** Jeff J, Yes, yes, RIP the great William Gass. His voice will be very sorely missed. A truly great one. No, I only met him briefly once. He did an event at the Lannan Foundation in the early 90s in a series curated and hosted by Michael Silverblatt, and Michael introduced us, so I got to say and receive a hello. I’m happy some of the gig caught your ears. I’ve always liked In Your Nursery, but I’ve never locked into them enough to have any specific faves or suggestions. I do like the new album a lot. Very glad your allergies aren’t tamping down your will to make. ** Amphibiouspeter, Hi! Yikes, that does sound like the journey from hell. I would be beside myself and probably catatonic at the same time. Have you made it okay now? Thanks about the flags post. Yeah, there is a relationship to the gif work. It was interesting to fool around with involving text. That was one of my favourite posts I’ve made in a while. Welcome to mainland Europe! How are you today? ** Okay. Marilyn Roxie has you so incredibly covered today. Luxuriate and pony up with some related wordage, thank you! See you tomorrow.

23 Comments

  1. Marilyn, hi

    Thanks for today’s post – it seems like a really fruitful area to look in to. I guess it’s interesting that the name Twink comes from those popular prejudices of gay men being overtly affeminate, and yet you say there’s a lack of study on that particular subculture/community. But I guess also increasingly people are looking at different versions/perceptions of masculinity beyond the 2D he-man thing, so this seems totally in line with that. Best of luck with the book!

    Hey DC,

    Unfortunately not. The bus arrived in Brussels 2 hours late which cancelled out the 2 hours I had left myself to make sure I was on my connecting train. They made me buy a new ticket for 140€!! So thanks for asking how I am, the answer is grumpy and tired (which has its perks). But I’m visiting a friend for the weekend and trying to make the most of free movement before the whole Brexit thing so I’m sure I’ll feel pretty good this afternoon. How are things with you?

    Take care x

  2. Shakespeare is my go-to author for Twink Studies. Most other treatments of the subject seem stuck on a Plato-Porno axis, going to an extreme in either direction or in both simultaneously.

    Johnson defines “twink” as “The motion of an eye; a moment. Not in use.”

    Johnson takes his usage example from “The Taming of the Shrew” (II, 1, 1158-1161)

    “She hung about my neck, and kiss on kiss
    She vied so fast, protesting oath on oath,
    That in a twink she won me to her love. ”

    There is, however, another time the word appears in Shakespeare in “The Tempest,” in the mouth of none other than Ariel (IV, 1, 1738-1747).

    Ariel: What would my potent master? Here I am.

    Prospero: Thou and thy meaner fellows your last service
    Did worthily perform; and I must use you
    In such another trick. Go bring the rabble,
    O’er whom I give thee power, here to this place:
    Incite them to quick motion; for I must
    Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple
    Some vanity of mine art: it is my promise,
    And they expect it from me.

    Ariel: Presently?

    Prospero: Ay, with a twink.

  3. If I do make this film and can get the music rights, I think I would play Behemoth and Godflesh during their trip. Sessions and Pence wouldn’t deliberately choose these artists – can you imagine them being fans? – but the person who dosed them would have some control of the situation they’re in and could blast music at them. I just read an article last night about Mike Pence getting his fraternity busted for ordering a keg at a party when he was a college student, so I feel even more inclined to write and direct this. But what exactly they would say while tripping is hard to figure out.

    I am having a lot of back pain the past few days, and I am also having difficulty with an editor who keeps assigning me reviews and changing his mind and in some cases rejecting them after they’ve been written, seemingly because they express strong opinions some people might object to. I want to talk to him this morning and sort things out, emphasizing the importance of sticking to the assignments he gives me.

  4. David Ehrenstein

    December 8, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Bravo Marilyn Roxie! So nice to see some specificity on Twinks. The term has been tossed about quite wildly of late to describe almost any desirable gay male. I’d call Twinks “Anyone Bryan Singer and or Kevin Spacey wants to rape.”

  5. I’m really vibing with this. I feel like I could cobble together a bachelors in Twink Studies by this point in my life. I’d be really curious to see some research into guys who start to identify as post-twink as their twenties drag on. I’m not sure I identify as much of anything but it was very funny to realize over the summer that I no longer scratched a particular itch for certain men in certain scenes.

    The escape room for St Vincent was one of those weird only-in-NYC endeavors. I’d gotten involved with an escape room company and was then invited to build an experience that Spotify hosted to promote StV’s new album. They rented out 3 floors of retail space in Times Square and put together this surreal immersive space with actors with puzzles and scripts written by myself with help from my director-friend. The event was for one night only and free to StV’s top streamers on Spotify, which was a very serious bunch. It was a lot of fun. Sadly I didn’t get to meet Annie but she’s been an inspiration for years and it was a pleasure to work in that aesthetic. What do you think of her new album?

  6. Thanks, Marilyn Roxie. I think what we’re seeing here is an assembly of some of your materials, and I’m curious to see more about approach you’ll take to considering “twink” designation as a cultural phenomenon–that is, 1) what conditions gave rise to the need for this category; and 2) how it got defined within a network of differences and commonalities. I think David E’s remark is quite seriously on target: twinks are defined according to what another class wants to use them for, or maybe I should say desires to use them for, since twink fantasy really stays fantasy for most, I think (not everyone is Bryan Singer, or whatever Bryan Singer is reputed to be). I mean, I may be totally off-base, but i don’t get the sense that twinks try to define themselves as a community or interest group as bears, e.g., do, because they feel no need; they’re defining themselves as Gay (or Queer?), and Twink is just an appellation that’s convenient shorthand for type.
    It’s a very, very difficult area, I think, because gender studies and all its allied subdivisions of study are so often premised on generalities, frankly. I have huge trouble reading followers of Judith Butler, because they so often start out from “the culture says this” or “the culture thinks that,” about gender, sexuality, the concept of the norm. So when you say there’s a lot out there on leathermen, radical fae, etc., and not Twinkism, I wonder, yeah, so why is that? And it has a lot to do with some assumption that Twinkism validates some existing norm and the other categories violate it. And yes, I do think that the implicit assumption that Twink = White is a very big part of it. (A black twink hit me up on Scruff last night!–I mean, he identified himself that way.) What came into my mind as I looked through your post was Richard Dyer’s great essay on Marilyn Monroe as the embodiment of Whiteness–a significant experience for every film class I pushed it on. It feels to me like the Twink image is the Marilyn of gay boy-idolatry.
    Do you know the poet and prof D Gilson? I think he may have done something on Twinkism. (By the way, personally, I’m kind of the picture in the dictionary of “daddy bear,” and I have like zero interest in the bear phenom except to the extent that it makes me a ridiculously inappropriate sexual object, but I’m not complaining.)
    Chaim, I’ve taught The Tempest a gazillion times and it’s always fun to see how people react to the “Ay, with a twink” line; and in fact, there’s been more than one discussion of Ariel as proto-twink.
    David E, I’m so excited about the LaTouche stuff, and looking forward to many resurrections of his reputation. I think I told you I got to see The Golden Apple at Encores NYC last year, and it was like the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
    Dennis, I’m so excited about CROWD, which felt major from the get-go, and just sick about not getting to experience it right away. (I’m still having Kindertotenlieder flashbacks. And what’s weird is when you mentioned James Duvall yesterday, I had this sudden feeling that the movie theater scene with Frank in Donnie Darko felt very Gisèle Vienne/DC now. Maybe a dumb thing to say.) (Oh and Xmas season isn’t meaning much to me except recurrences of the Krampus imagery in LCTG.)
    I am in a coffee shop in Salisbury MD where last night I did a kind of “Visual Rhetoric for Beginners” for an art class, and thank god, got paid more per minute than probably anything since I was on a game show. I proposed a semiotic analysis of Everything pizza, with reference to the medieval Christian idea of Plenitude–cause that’s how I roll. The guy who made my breakfast sandwich was in the class last night and gave me rock-star props.
    I really like winter.

  7. Hi!

    @ Marilyn Roxie: what an ultra-awesome post and topic!! Thank you ever so much! I’ll definitely be among the first to buy your book when it comes out!

    Amazing news about ‘Crowd’! Congratulations!!
    I was alone again so I did have some time to work on my own stuff. Luckily, as I’ve been exhausted ever since I woke up today, I don’t know why.
    How was your day? Did you start working on the assignment? If so, how was it? And how’s your back?

  8. To be honest, I have never thought that twink=white. They are 2 really handsome Latino men in their 20s whom I had intense unrequited crushes on and whom treated me cruelly (in a weirdly passive-aggressive manner) rather than just telling me “I’m not interested in you” in the past few years. They totally fit the definition of “twink,” if one exists. I’ve since realized that twinks are likely to think I’m an ugly middle-aged man, to be honest, unless they make the first move and I should stick to guys relatively close to my own age. (That Israeli guy who cruised me at the cafe and whom I thought I might wind up in a long-distance relationship with is 13 years younger than me, but he approached me first.)

  9. Lucien Wintrich is a piece of shit though.

  10. Awesome job Marilyn! I had never heard of the backronym for twink before (also had never heard of the word backronym either for that matter!). Some of the photos in the Twinks4Trump exhibit are actually pretty sexy. If I hung one up in my house I’d have to somehow erase from my mind the fact that the hats aren’t ironic, but i’m sure I could summon the power from somewhere 🙂
    There’s a really fun twink ‘zine I got a while back that you’d be into. I’ll try and find the name for you when I get home.
    Good luck on the book!

    Heya Dennis!
    I saw something about the Duval on the comments and thought I’d drop a note that he’s actually been working quite a bit lately albeit in very small D-grade stuff. Lots of horror.
    Hope you’ve been doing super awesome! 🙂

    xxfrank

  11. @Amphibiouspeter: Yes, I think effeminacy is associated strongly with a stereotypical perception of gayness by straight people, or “sissies”. Additionally, twink is often a porn-specific tag and porn studies are under-researched or stigmatized compared to sexuality / gender studies more broadly, so I think that plays a role as well.

    @Chaim Hender: Thanks for that. Maybe there’s a connection between this twink and “twinkle-toes” and other associated terms? I’ll have to look into it. 🙂

    @David Ehrenstein Indeed, the generic nature of such terms makes them tricky to research; there seems to be a bit of debate over whether twinks are boyish and/or effeminate and/or toned for starters.

    @John Fram: Post-twinkiness is indeed a topic to be delved into. What Comes After the Twink (https://www.theawl.com/2013/07/what-comes-after-the-twink/) and Everybody Twanks (https://web.archive.org/web/20151018030933/http://www.crazytownblog.com/crazytown/2012/06/wikipedia-describes-a-twink-as-a-young-or-young-looking-gay-man-1823-age-category-with-a-slender-ectomorph-bui.html) may be of interest.

    @Bernard Some of what I’ve found talking with others and doing research is that the shift from the clone to the twink as the popular Western gay image coincided with an era beyond the initial AIDS crisis, due to associations of youth / purity with the twink. Yes, it’s absolutely a case of a term that is mostly used by others rather than by the so-called twinks themselves. I heard an interesting Australian radio program with the theme of ‘Twink Pride’ which pondered whether it was time to ‘take back’ the term – http://joy.org.au/hideandseek/2015/02/twink-pride-its-time/ Will definitely look at the Dyer Monroe article and D. Gilson also, thank you!

    @Dóra Grőber Much appreciated 🙂

    @Steve Erickson Of course, one fitting the archetype of twink in other key ways need not be white inherently; that is only the predominant media/adult film image.

    @Justin Bland His project was bizarre and noteworthy enough it warranted inclusion here, whatever his character!

    Thanks again very much to Dennis for hosting my words here today!

    • David Ehrenstein

      December 9, 2017 at 12:27 am

      It strikes me that the “Twink” label denotes plentiful sexual desirability. No actual tree-dimensional individual is attached.

      • In the case of guys I was talking about, they were desirable but had zero interest in going on a date with me – one made plans but stood me up and wouldn’t return my E-mail afterwards. But yeah, this day does give the vibe that most of the time, “twink” refers to porn models.

  12. @Frank Jaffe Sure, if you find the name that would be fabulous. 🙂

  13. I’ve read the synopsis of WORMWOOD in the press kit, and if some of Morris’ previous films have been documentaries with fiction elements, this sounds more like fiction with documentary elements, principally a mix of actors with real people through the very end. The people I know have already seen it say it’s amazing. I am seeing it tomorrow afternoon (in the middle of New York’s first snow storm of the winter.)

  14. PS I just heard on the radio that Hostess says Twinkies have a shelf-life of 45 days. Mmmm-hmmm.

  15. Sir,

    Hey, so sorry for the communication snafu. Ish and I were not in communication consistently leading up the audition. So us Skyping clearly didn’t happen. We fucked up. We are waiting for your input around the last 12, there seems to be major debate with people Ish has asked to look at the dancers. I like three of them and Watkiss and Jeremy are definitely in. I won’t say who that is, so you can form your own opinion. 67 dancers signed up, 47 showed up with 4 women or so. It was somewhat easy to weed out the first bunch, now it has become more difficult, of course. Let us know what you think, it would be very helpful. Hope you are well, from everything I gather from reading the blog, Paris is beautiful, you are busy and we are waiting to hear about the big project. I have some idea, though am not sure. I turned 59 today, who knew that would ever happen.

  16. oh hello, marilyn, this is great stuff!
    as far as twinks on the screen, i prefer them paired with a different body type: muscle daddy, coach, etc. when it’s two twinks with bieber hair and identical body types getting all tangled up i just get confused as to who is who 😉 those videos where the twinks are enjoying lollypops and suckers..ugh. is that supposed to be the gay version of a twenty-something woman dressed in pigtails and a school uniform?

    sometimes when it’s a daddy/twink scene it’s presented as incest, which i suppose can be erotic because of it’s taboo-ness. there’s a series of clips on pornhub under the title family dick that goes into that stuff, and it’s pretty hot. and total fantasy. my all-time favorite twink is a guy named tyler sweet. he worked for a few years and made a few dozen films. he’s more the boy-next-door type i suppose. he certainly knew his way around various coaches, friends’ dads and the odd school janitor or two. he even did a few bondage clips.

    anyhoo, those are my thoughts. thanks again!

  17. The essence of the twink lifecycle is ephemerality. Many twink-identifying boys experience a kind of crisis when nyphish looks fade and an extended period of transition from twink to simply “young man” begins. For those who fail to merge naturally into a new physical reality and corresponding identity, the delusional post-twink moment can last even beyond middle age.

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