You're scrolling through Instagram on a Sunday afternoon, looking at intricate curations of brunch. You scroll through the leaves carved into latte foam, the prettily arranged pancakes, the avocado toast. Then, there it is: a thirst trap set by The Game.
"It" has a lot of meanings here. In a larger sense, "it" refers to the actual photo of The Game. "It" also refers to the shockingly detailed outline of The Game's penis, arranged in his underwear with the same care and precision as that of a leaf carved into latte foam. His briefs are so tight, there is no doubt he had to reach inside and carefully place his penis at just the right angle, so it could be hugged by 1000 tiny strands of fabric.
In the event that you remain unsure that The Game wanted you to see the outline of his penis, look no further than his hashtags, including but not limited to #WhereverYouAtInTheWorldDatPussyBoutToBeWetYouHearMe.
The whole thing might have seemed like a fluke, a singular instance of an attractive male body being put on display. But then, just in time for Thanksgiving, Usher shared a thirst trap of his own.
"Workin' hard so I can eat this turkey," Usher captioned his tweet, executing perhaps a bit more subtlety than The Game.
Bloggers immediately jumped on the tweet, pointing to Atlanta rapper B.o.B. (whose #eggplantfriday photo was yanked from Instagram last January) as evidence of a trend. "It appears that between The Game and B.O.B., they have now started a wave of male thirst trapping," Hot97 wrote.
That's all it took. Three photos and we have a "wave" of thirst-trapping, a fledgling tsunami of penis bulges threatening to engulf our timelines.
We've only recently started using the term "thirst trap" as a label for a sexy selfie, or "thirst" as a stand-in for desire. While the term was first defined on Urban Dictionary as early as 2003, its proliferation can likely be pegged to the release of Soulja Boy's "She Thirsty" in 2007, continuing with Missy Elliot's "Ching-A-Ling" (2008), in which she sings, "Thirsty, baby, bring it over here / See my money maker, do my money maker."
Since then, "thirst" (with and without its accompanying traps) has been stretched out and appropriated across social media in the way of, well, pretty much all African-American vernacular English.
Thirst trapping, as defined by The Cut, is "a provocative image intended to elicit compliments, high praise, or words of obsessive lust." Typically, thirst trapping has been associated with women posting lurid selfies (see everything Amber Rose has ever posted), with men as the indirect objects of the traps.
Thirst traps, much like selfies in general, are directly associated with the negative stereotypes of women being superficial, self-obsessed or trying to get attention.
Yet, male thirst trapping is a wholly new behavior in a female-centric space. "Ladies have been thirst-trapping since the dawn of time," Marisa Mendez wrote, "But it appears that the men are finally getting in on the fun as well."
While women's bodies are praised in terms of a variety of qualifiable body parts (boobs, ass, etc.), the male thirst trap is unique in that it is all about that dick. The most obviously male-oriented "thirst trap" definition on Urban Dictionary has an amazing sample sentence to help us get a closer read on this:
"Jane: Did you see bills thirst trap?"
"Nancy: yes omg it's huge."
In this context, "thirst trap" is pretty much synonymous with "penis."
You might be wondering how thirst traps are different than all those unsolicited dick pics you and Debra Messing get. It's the element of privacy that separates the male iteration of the thirst trap from typical Internet harassment. On Twitter, a guy named Richard can email you about his 32cm member. But on Instagram, dicks are displayed with a veil of safety and remove.
Having a dick is pretty integral to the experience of being a man, but we rarely see straight men presenting themselves with the intention of impressing women, without trying to intimidate them. Male thirst trapping breaks the mold of secrecy men maintain, allowing women to objectify them instead of the other way around. There's a kind of utilitarian power about being able to evaluate a man's aesthetic based on the revealing underwear impression of his penis.
Women are judged for the quality of every inch of their bodies, constantly criticized for showing either too much or not enough skin. And yet, for the most part, having a working penis is all it takes for a dude to qualify as a sexual being. A guy can have a great butt and abs and all that, but they really aren't evaluated on the same multi-dimensional spectrum of attractiveness that women are.
The female gaze in The Game's pic is hyper-focused. "This is what I have to work with," he seems to be saying, "#EaseOutAndPutSomeOfThatStickIckyOnThatPearlTongue."
It should be noted that The Game is far from a paragon of ideal masculinity: He's been accused of assaulting a cast member of his reality show, and ex Tiffney Cambridge accused him of domestic violence in March 2014. Knowing this, one can't help but feel a little uncomfortable at the fact that so many women have drooled over his photo.
It's also worth pointing out that there's a racial element in male iterations of these photos. Their appeal is inherently rooted in the sexualization of black male bodies, which extends far beyond the realm of Instagram. Consider, for instance, what it might look like for a famous white male artist to post a photo of his bulge. Would Ed Sheeran be called a "ho," as The Game was by some of his Instagram followers? Probably not. But then again, who would want to see Ed Sheeran in boxer briefs in the first place?
There's still something inherently subversive about the thirst trap, particularly in how it flips the standard male gaze, providing women with the opportunity to objectify men rather than the other way around.
Yeah, these sort of photos are still mostly Instagram superficiality. Thirst traps aren't going to change the world anymore than photos of pretty latte foam will. But at least now, men are flipping the status quo and engaging female sexuality in a way that is new and deceptively subversive.
Because, let's face it — sometimes, we all get a little thirsty.