Connor Robinson, a 17-year-old British TikTok star with rosy cheeks and a budding six-pack, has built a huge following by making his fans thirsty. Between the daily drop of shirtless dance routines and Skits about his limp hairMr. Robinson posts sexually suggestive curve balls that he said “break some barriers”.
In an eight-second video shot by Weeknd on a lewd hip-hop track, he and another teenage boy Elijah Finney, who calls himself Elijah Elliotfilmed each other in a London hotel room, rubbing against each other as if they were embarking on a passionate make-out session. The video ends with Mr. Robinson being pushed against the tiled wall.
But as racy as the video is, the fans don’t pretend that the two are in the middle of love for gay puppies. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Finney identify as straight, but as some TikTok influencers have found out, man-on-man action is a surefire way to generate traffic. The video uploaded in February received more than 2.2 million views and 31,000 comments (lots of fire and heart emojis).
“I usually do funny dance videos and the like, but it seems like things have changed somehow now,” said Robinson of his Cumbria, England bedroom, which is painted forest green to highlight on TikTok. He estimates that 90 percent of his nearly one million followers are female. “Girls are drawn to two attractive TikTokers who have a huge following and show a sexual side to each other,” he said.
Gay and bi-curious male followers are also welcome. “If watching my videos makes you happy and stuff, that’s cool,” he added.
As fans of TikTok’s young male stars know, Mr. Robinson’s hotel seduction video is becoming a modern cliché. The youth-centric social media platform is full of videos allegedly showing straight young men spoon in cuddly puddle formation, cross each other on the street while walking with her friends, share a bed, make a kiss, admire each other’s chiseled bodies and engaging in countless other homoerotic situations served humor and ultimately beliefs.
Pretending to be gay as a form of clickbait isn’t just limited to tiny TikTok developers trying to grow their audience. Just check out the party Sway boyswho made national headlines for tossing this summer noisy gatherings on their 7,800-square-foot Bel Air estate in violation of Los Angeles coronavirus guidelines.
As you scroll through the TikTok feeds from the group’s physically enthusiastic members, it feels like you were witnessing what would happen if the guys at Tiger Beat had an uninhibited summer at Fire Island Pines. There’s a deluge of sweaty half-naked workouts, Penis jokes, playful kisses and Share lollipop.
Josh Richards, 18, one of the group’s breakout stars, has posted videos of himself drop his towel in front of his “friends” Jaden Hossler and Bryce Hall;; pretend to lock the lips with another buddy, Anthony Reeves; and kissing his roommate Griffin Johnson on the forehead to keep his 22 million followers entertained.
It certainly didn’t hurt its brand. In May, Mr. Richards announced that he would be leaving the Sway Boys and Join Triller, one of TikTok’s competing appsas Chief Strategy Officer. He also hosts two new popular podcasts – “The rundown“With Noah Beck and”BFFs”With Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports – and is the first artist to sign with TalentX Records, a label from Warner Records and TalentX Entertainment, a social media agency.
“These guys feel like a sign of the times,” said Mel Ottenberg, Creative Director of Interview Magazine some of the sway boys in her underwear for the September issue. “There doesn’t seem to be any fear, ‘If I’m too close to my boyfriend in this picture, will people think I’m gay? ‘You are too hot and young to care. ”
Fun to be gay
A decade ago, intimate contact between two young men could potentially have meant social suicide. But for Gen Z, who grew up in a time when same-sex marriages were never illegal, it is not the insult to be labeled “gay”.
Young men on TikTok can push the boundaries of homosocial behavior “because they arose in a time of declining cultural homophobia, even if they don’t recognize it as such,” said Eric Anderson, professor of masculinity studies at the University of Winchester in England.
By embracing a “softer” side of masculinity, they are rebelling against what Mr. Anderson called “the anti-gay, anti-feminine model ascribed to the youth cultures of previous generations.”
Mark McCormack, sociologist at the University of Roehampton in London, the examines the sexual behavior of young men, thinks the decrease in homophobia is just one aspect. He believes many of these TikTok influencers aren’t having fun at the expense of queer identity. Rather, they parody the idea that “someone would even feel uncomfortable playing with the idea of being gay at all”.
In other words, pretending to be gay is a form of youthful rebellion and disagreement, a way for these young straight men to show how their generation is different from that of their parents or even the millennials before them.
“In the new generation, everyone is fluid, so men are less hesitant about physical things or showing emotions,” he said. “It would be ridiculous if you didn’t agree with that.”
In fact, his father called his videos “really weird” and “gay”. His mother was also surprised by his public affection for male friends, but now appreciates the pressure students are under to stand out.
“If you’re just getting started on the right track, this won’t be very interesting to these kids,” said his mother, Virginia Van Lear, 50, general contractor. “When you’re straight, you want to kick out something that makes people leave.” But it is, right? “It’s more individual and draws your attention.”
Parents aren’t the only ones at a loss; These videos also confuse some older gay men.
Ms. Van Lear said that one of her gay male friends came across a TikTok video of her son joking about a crush on a man and telling her, “You know, if Foster ever wants to talk to me when he’s gay …” She had a good laugh. “People of my generation don’t understand these guys are straight,” she said. “It’s a whole new world out there.”
Meet the “homiesexuals”
But there’s no confusion among the mostly teenage fans who can’t seem to get enough of these gay-for-views videos.
Whenever Mr. Robinson posts videos in which he comes into physical contact with another male friend, he is inundated with feverish comments such as “Am I the only one who thought it was hot”; “I dropped my cell phone”; “OMG like I can’t stop looking.”
Ercan Boyraz, Head of Influencer Management at Yoke network, a social media marketing agency in London, said the vast majority of commentators are female. And instead of feeling threatened or confused by guys who are playful with other guys, they find it sexy.
“Straight men have always been attracted to girls who flirted with each other,” said Mr. Boyraz, who worked with Mr. Robinson. “Girls just take the same idea and switch it up.”
Let’s call it equality objective.
Meanwhile, straight male fans feel like they are caught up in the joke. And while they may not find these videos exciting, they want to mimic the kind of light-hearted male attachment these TikTok videos represent.
“Showing emotions with another man, especially when expressed as a joke, puts a smile on someone’s face or makes them laugh,” said Mr. Van Lear, who lends himself to hugely popular TikTok developers like the men at Sway House oriented. In addition, he added, “it increases the chances of higher audience engagement.”
There is even a term that describes straight men who go beyond bromance and show non-sexual signs of physical affection: “homiesexual. “A search for”#homiesexual“Achieved 40+ million results on TikTok. There are also Memes, YouTube compilations, and Sweatshirts with sayings like: “It’s not gay. It’s homiesexual.”
Queerbaiting or clickbait?
Still, videos of straight men jumping into each other’s laps or admiring each other for the TikTok views can feel exploitative, especially to gay viewers.
Colton Haynes, 32, an openly gay actor from “Teen Wolf” took to TikTok in March to highlight the homiesexual trend. “To all the straight guys out there who keep posting these ‘kiss the brothers gay’ videos, laughing and joking: being gay is not a joke,” he said. “What’s a joke is you think you’d have followers or likes without us.”
“So stop being homophobic,” he added vulgarly.
But some gay fans see it as progress.
Steven Dam, 40, a social media predictor for Art and Commerce, a New York talent agency, said he initially assumed these videos were homophobic. But the more his TikTok feed was populated with young men call each other “beautiful” He said the more he began to realize that there was “a new way of defining heterosexuality for younger men”.
The popularity of these sensitive videos, he said, was “less about being gay” and more about a “paradigm shift for an evolving form of masculinity that is no longer ashamed to show affection”.
Even so, some of them can’t stop watching whether they think these videos are homophobic or progressive.
For the past year Nick Toteda, A 20 year old YouTube gay personality from Canada posted videos on his channel. It’s just Nickand usually responded to what he called “Bromance TikToks” with a mixture of sarcastic humor and confusion.
in the a clipTwo teenagers are sitting next to each other in class when one drops a small stuffed animal on the floor. When they both reach down to pick it up, they close their eyes and agree to a kiss. Mr. Toteda likes what he sees.
“When I was in high school four years ago, it might be cool to be gay, but now it might be gay to be cool,” Toteda says in the video. “Even straight guys pretend to be gay to be cool. Just like when I pretended to be cool, now they’re doing the opposite. “
“You know what,” he adds with a laugh, “it helps that they are attractive.”