In Defense of the Word 'Twink'

By: Daniel Villarreal
11.15.2012

TV executive Andy Cohen recently apologized for calling the members of British boy band One Direction a bunch of "twinks" while appearing on NBC's Today Show.

His apology seems to have been in response to a related article by Carla Hay from the Examiner. In it, she called "twink" a "sexually derogatory" term for "young, boyish-looking gay men, usually between the ages of 16 to 24, who are used as sex objects by older gay men," adding that "many young gay men find it offensive."

But Ms. Hay's definition is all kinds of incorrect. So we've decided to help out both Cohen and Hay by explaining what "twink" means and how it can actually be an endearing term for a guy who is sweet, light and desirable.

To begin with, "Twink" is gay slang, but it isn't slang for a gay guy - it's slang for a body type, namely a young skinny dude. That's all.

And while it gets used a lot in sexual descriptions, there's nothing inherently sexual about the word; it just describes a body type, kind of like the gay slang for heavy guys (bears), scruffy guys (otters) or older men (daddies).

One Direction fans shouldn't take offense because the guys from One Direction are twinks... and most of their fans love them for it.

After all, what's not to like about young, boyish guys, especially when those guys get affectionate with one another in a pop group?

By nature, twinks are playful, fun, and cute. In fact, the word twink stems from the Hostess snack cake "Twinkie" — a light, spongey, cream-filled dessert that has become one of America's most popular and imperishable food items — an honor indeed!

Granted, some gay men use "twink" perjoratively to mean dumb, slutty, inexperienced, anorexic or shallow, but people use non-offensive words like that all the time.

Just look at the withering way some people use the words "Mexican," "woman," or "body-builder." Those words have nothing inherently hateful about them, but they can imply hateful things like "lazy," "bitchy" and "stupid."

Cohen certainly didn't say twink in an derogatory way, and whenever someone does use it that way, it says a lot more about them than their intended subject.

Also, Ms. Hay has it wrong when she says that older gay men use twinks as sex objects. Truth is, everybody uses twinks as sex objects: young people, old people, straight, gay, male and female alike.

And anyone who's worried that twinks are just a bunch of innocent fuppets waiting to be "used" by older gay men should visit a twink porn site. There you'll see the hairless, horse-hung lads destroying many an anus of all ages and body types. Twinks "use" other people just as much as they get "used" themselves. And it is hot.

Lastly, by equating the word with old sexual predators preying on young men, Hay reinforces the homophobic stereotypes of gays as pedophiles and young gay guys as unwitting, easily manipulated victims, an image that most modern gay guys would spurn.

Ms. Hay is obviously not a gay man (and if she is or used to be, I apologize). But I say that because gay men know that twinks are wonderful: they serve our drinks, they dance in our clubs, they populate our hook-up sites, they make our art, they serve our community and buy the skin tight clothing that keeps the gay ecomony spinning.

If anything, a lot of gay guys view twinks with a sort of jealous envy because of their seemingly effortless ability to stay young and thin. It's as if these slender nymphettes have made a Satanic pact with Joan Rivers to stay boyish and light for eternity.

But Hay's definition does stumble upon one weird truth about twinkdom — it fades after age 24. We already know what to call old men who dress and act like boys (we call them "sad"), but what the hell are we supposed to call twinks when they hit the quarter-life and beyond?

Seriously, we need a word. Beacuse if cubs get to grow into bears and otters get to grow into daddies, our beautiful and oft-dismissed twinks deserve to evolve into an older, more experienced incarnation of their younger selves.

My co-editor suggested "twonk" (as in, "once a twink"), but there are probably others who think we'd be better off abandoning body-labels altogether so we can be known for who we are rather than how we look.

And to those people, I'd say, "How dreadfully boring. What are you, straight?"

Tags: TV
READER COMMENTS ()