Twink (gay slang)

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A twink couple at the 42nd Baltimore Gay Pride Block Party in June 2017

Twink is gay slang for a young man in his late teens to early twenties whose traits may include: general physical attractiveness; a slim to average build; and a youthful appearance that may belie an older age.


Although its seemingly most obvious etymology is as an abbreviation of twinkletoes, the exact origins of the term twink are disputed. Some trace its first appearance to 1963, although it may be derived from an older British gay slang term twank, which means: "The quarry of a homosexual prostitute (male); a man willing and ready to become any dominant man's 'partner'".[1] Oxford Dictionaries claims twink has origins in the 1970s.[2][3]

Another possible origin of the term may be a derivation from the snack cake Twinkie, commonly regarded as the quintessential junk food. The food is described as "little nutritional value, sweet to the taste, and creme-filled";[4][5][6] by comparison the young men are described as "short, and blond, and full of creme".[5] Cream is among the well-known food-related euphemistic terms for semen,[5][7] The definition of twink has broadened, and qualifiers (such as muscle or femme) narrow the meaning to a more specific type of twink.[8]


Due to its suspected origins,[1] the term has been accused of relying on "agist and racist tropes of youth and white desirability" by Susan Driver.[9] In regards to the term, Susan Driver's epistemology finds that it is "a young, white, and performed masculinity that can be fetishized, consumed, ... clearly coded in terms of race and age: White, young",[9] thus establishing the intersection for which race and age come together to create a hyper-sexualized denomination, often associated with sexual acts and the pornographic industry.[9]

Twinks are often clean-shaven to emphasize a youthful, fresh-faced appearance.[10] They are generally in their early 20s and slim, often with a boyish appearance.[11] Some use the term to refer to those generally effeminate in nature, though this is not universal.[12] The term has been used by 'bears' and other gay men, often in a derogatory / pejorative manner.[10][13] In some cases, it is a neutral descriptive term, and can be contrasted with bear.[14] The term is often modified by various descriptors, e.g., femme twink, Euro twink, and muscle twink. The term is used in the gay pornography industry.[12][15]

A backronym has been constructed for twink according to which it stands for "'teen-aged, white, into no kink", although these specified traits are not universally accepted as either necessary or sufficient to classify an individual as a 'twink'.[16][17]


Grindr survey asking users what subculture they identify with
Grindr survey asking users what subculture they identify with prior to its update in 2017, using twink as an example

Popular culture[edit]

In his book, Never Enough (2007), about a murder committed in 2003 in Hong Kong, described by the New York Times Book Review as hard-boiled clichés with a cartoonish first impression,[18] Joe McGinniss describes a court case in which "twink" was defined as "a gay slang term used to denote an attractive, boyish-looking gay man between the ages of 18 and 23, slender ectomorph and with little or no body hair, often blond, often but not necessarily Caucasian."[19]

Essayist Zeb J. Tortorici notes that gay twink porn thrives on the production and performance of "consumable and visually/anally receptive masculinity."[20] A twink is "memorable for his outer packaging", not his "inner depth".[5] Twink can be seen as a popular subgenre in gay porn widely consumed across the globe.[9]

The term also serves to identify a subculture within gay culture for which members of the community may self-identify, but their stable assurance mostly comes from acceptance by other members. The subculture, as examined now, serves as a purely physical marker for attributes any one person may hold and/or acquire, highly dependent on normative society's take on beauty standards as a whole and what the community puts forth and prescribes to.[21]

The popular dating app for gay men known as Grindr also utilizes the slang, in reference to "tribes" for users to "identify themselves with a niche group and filter their search to help find their type of guy."[22]

Twink code[edit]

Like other "codes", such as the bear code, the twink code is a set of symbols using letters, numerals, and other characters commonly found on modern, Western computer keyboards, and used for the describing and rating of twinks.[23] These codes are used in email, Usenet, and Internet forum postings to identify the physical type and preferences of the poster, but have mostly fallen out of usage. The code includes: physical traits, such as "c" for color of hair (from blond to black); "l" for length of hair (from bald/clean-shaven to very long); "h" for degree of hairlessness; "y" for youthful appearance; and "e" for endowment;[23] as well as personality traits, such as "q" for "queeniness"; and sexual preferences, such as "k" for "the kinky factor".[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Eric Partridge (2 May 2006). A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. p. 1276. ISBN 9781134963652. Retrieved 27 August 2015 – via
  2. ^ "Twinkie". Oxford Dictionary. Oxford Press. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary".
  4. ^ Baker, Paul (2002). Polari – The Lost Language of Gay Men. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-26180-5. Retrieved July 10, 2008 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b c d Reuter, Donald F. (2006). Gay-2-Zee: A Dictionary of Sex, Subtext, and the Sublime. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 215. ISBN 0-312-35427-4. Retrieved December 4, 2007 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Sagon, Candy (13 April 2005). "Twinkies, 75 Years And Counting". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 11, 2008.
  7. ^ Petkovich, Anthony (2002). The X Factory: Inside the American Hardcore Film Industry. Headpress. ISBN 978-1-900486-24-8. Retrieved August 2, 2013 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Jacobson, Scott; Levin, Todd; Roede, Jason (2010). Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk. Random House, Inc. pp. 204–205. ISBN 0-307-59216-2, ISBN 978-0-307-59216-3.
  9. ^ a b c d Driver, Susan (2010). "Queering pornography". Queer Youth Cultures. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-7337-5.
  10. ^ a b Wright, Les (2001). The Bear Book II: Further Readings in the History and Evolution of a Gay Subculture. Haworth Press. p. 8. ISBN 0789006367.
  11. ^ "The Four Young Murder Victims of Serial Killer Stephen Port". ITV News. 23 November 2016. Archived from the original on 24 November 2016.
  12. ^ a b Williams, Joe (May 8, 2015). "Man Arrested for Having 'Twink' Images on His Computer". Pink News. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  13. ^ Sunderland, Mitchell (February 25, 2015). "It's Hard Out Here for a Twink". News. Vice. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  14. ^ Baker, Paul (2004). Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 79. ISBN 0-8264-7343-1. Retrieved December 4, 2007.
  15. ^ Mowlabocus, Sharif, Dr. (28 December 2012). Gaydar Culture: Gay Men, Technology, and Embodiment in the Digital Age. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 9781409492627.
  16. ^ "Terms and Definitions". OSU Pride Center. Pride Panel. Oregon State University. Archived from the original on January 18, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2008.
  17. ^ "Twink". The Free Dictionary. Acronyms. Retrieved March 13, 2008.
  18. ^ SHACOCHIS, BOB. "Sunday Book Review, Here Comes the Bride". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  19. ^ McGinniss, Joe (2007). Never Enough. Simon and Schuster. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-7432-9636-6. Retrieved July 10, 2008. McGinniss never enough twink.
  20. ^ Driver, Susan (2008). Queer Youth Cultures: Performative and Political Practices. SUNY Press. pp. 199–215. ISBN 978-0-7914-7886-8. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  21. ^ Maki, Justin L. (2017). "Gay Subculture Identification: Training Counselors to Work With Gay Men". Ideas and Research You Can Use: VISTAS: 1–12 – via ACA Knowledge Center.
  22. ^ Grindr. "The New Grindr: Zero Feet Away". Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  23. ^ a b c Baker, Paul (2004). Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 207. ISBN 0-8264-7343-1. Retrieved December 4, 2007.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]