• Kendra Richardson

Thirst Trap Theory Ft. Billie's Body-Pos Breakthrough

Updated: May 29, 2021


I HAD A DREAM - THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS SLUT-SHAMING


After observing almost every woman within the Arts & Entertainment Industry subjected to the sexualization of their body, adolescent Billie Eilish decided to take an innovative approach - keeping her body hidden from the scrutinizing eyes of the public.


Performing in sweatsuits and baggy T’s, Billie became an icon of sorts through her strategic attempt to avoid being subject to society's slurs and slut-shaming. [1]

Until 2020.


The year everything changed - including Billie’s stance on the subject of what she should be wearing.


Released to the crowd on her Where Do We Go? World Tour in March of 2020, Billie brought forward a short (under four minute) film, called #NotMyResponsibility, which captures the challenges of “winning” with wardrobe choices as a woman in the 20th century.


This week, Billie released her brand new, boudoir cover for the June 2021 issue of British Vogue.


And as commentary surrounding the content circulates, I was inspired to take a closer look at a few phenomena that have been rattling my brain quite a bit, in the hopes of illuminating barriers that may be blocking us from our own body-positive breakthrough.


BARRIERS TO BILLIES BREAKTHROUGH


As Billie physically unzips her sweatsuit to uncover what’s underneath (a black spaghetti strap), she also peels back the complex layers of clothing culture, in such a way that reveals:


Women can’t win no matter WHAT they choose to wear.


She says:


“If I wear what is comfortable, I am not a woman. If I shed the layers, I am a slut. Though you’ve never seen my body, you still judge it and judge me for it. Why?”


This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this.


Political opinions aside, just think about what was said and shared when Hilary Clinton wore a suit.


Us women are often subjected to society's expectations that we not only ride, but perfectly (and purely) position ourselves upright on a tightrope, as we balance the fine line between being seen as sluts, and being dubbed not lady-like enough.


The problem is, this tightrope appears so extremely thin at times, that there’s simply no room left to breathe, or BE.


Billie explains:


“Some people hate what I wear. Some people praise it. Some people use it to shame others. Some people use it to shame me...and nothing I do goes unseen. So while I feel your stares, your disapproval, or your sigh of relief, if I lived by them, I’d never be able to move.”


With women appearing in a position unable to win no matter our wardrobe route, we’re left wondering:


Where IS the fine line drawn between seeking attention and self love? Between being a slut versus simply embracing, and being proud of, the bodies we were born with?


THIRST TRAPS CAUGHT IN A CLICKBAIT CULTURE


It’s clear we live in a culture uncomfortable with the feminine figure.


And yet, clickbait culture calls to question whether it’s the content that qualifies this uncomfortability or the content’s controller.


As a Copywriter, I can tell you that elements of controversiality, curiosity, eye-catchy-ness and out-there-ness are all KEY in clickbait’s capability to entice consumers.


Yep! This means that thirst traps are most certainly a marketing technique.


Thirst traps are alluded to in the Merriam-Webster as, “the act of disingenuously posting sexy photos-while suggesting the subject of the photo is something else entirely-in an effort to elicit the lust (thirst) of followers.”


And although we see thirst traps intimately intertwined with social media’s rise, this technique is nothing new.


Want proof?


HANDS UP FOR HOOTERS!


Home of the original thirst trap!


#ConfessionSession - For some strange reason, I couldn’t find the complete edition of thirst trap history online...How WEIRD, right? ;)


So although Hooters may not be the first thirst, hang with me here.


Way back in 1983, Hooters was founded by six dudes, (without a drop of restauranting experience), and one desire: creating a place “where men could gather and quench their thirst for the finer things in life.” [2]


Fine like females and fried chicken, baby!! ;)

Hooters now has 420 locations in 39 countries. [2]


How in the HOOT did six men with absolutely no restaurant experience make a multi-million dollar business?


Maybe it was their extremely hard work ethic (*wink wink*), or good luck?


Or perhaps it was because they knew an establishment literally based in the breasts of women would sell?


Something tells me it’s mainly the second option- what about you?


No matter it’s founding member’s motives, the success, and world-wide acceptance of the Hooter’s chain chirps out the question:


What causes our culture to be comfortable with using women’s bodies for clickbait when men control the content, but uncomfortable with what women choose to do with their own bodies, on their own time?


AKA: When thirst traps are controlled by men, and made for men, they’re A-OK?


But if a woman wants to work with her body it’s a major NO-NO?


Why when men use women’s bodies it’s strategic marketing? But when women utilize their own it’s perceived to be provocative, power-hungry, or manipulative?


Although I don’t think either of us have enough information to answer these inquiries at this moment, I invite you to chew on them as you continue reading this blog.


Because beyond the question of whether thirst traps are seeking attention or self love, I believe it equally (if not more) important we examine why it appears our culture is comfortable with thirst traps at times and not others.


As we saw with Hooters, the thirst-trap tactic is nothing new.


But what IS new is just WHO is using the technique.


And as a previously-proven strategy is suddenly looked down upon with great disdain, the #ThirstTrap reveals the reality of the double standard yet again.


SPECTRUMS & DOUBLE STANDARDS


The double standard seeps into the morality of modern day thirst traps, but it sure didn’t start there.


It starts in our social and cultural conditioning and what we see - from shared, mass media to small, family gatherings.


It starts in our schools.


And it started for me, (most significantly), in the second grade, when I was sent home for my shorts being too short.


(Remember, I’m a tall girl - which means finding shorts that look long on me is nearly impossible - now and at eight years old.)


Based on what my Principal shared with me, the shorts sent me home for one reason, and one reason only:


Because too much of my leg = too much of a distraction for the boys.


Not because longer shorts might keep me warmer, protect me against sunburn, or support me in whatever sport I wanted to play at Recess.


Not because it would benefit me to change, but because it would benefit the boys.


And hey - I’ve always been all about helping the boys out - but not at the cost of me sacrificing my education, or igniting a self-loathing relationship with my too-long-legs.


That day in second grade, I was asked to change my clothes just as casually as I was asked to change my character.


In that same moment, I was reminded that the more I covered myself up, the more I could contribute to a patriarchal world, in an “appropriate” way.


Although too slight for your average second grader to sense, it seemed my school reinforced a standard set around protecting men, no matter if it meant nominating women’s relationship with their bodies as tribute.


BUTS & BIOLOGY


Before the “buts” of biological differences ensue, rest assured I am NOT claiming that men and women aren’t different, or that men haven't historically been “the hornier sex.”


But after doing some good ol’ Googling of my own, the research repeatedly reinforced my wondering into whether men’s superior sex drive is, in fact, a biological difference or a bit of a cultural conditioning variant..


What I think you’ll find interesting is that a magnitude of studies, (one of which I cited), shared that there is NO single, clear measure of sex drive. [3]


Because of this, studies surrounding the sex drive of the human species are based around metrics like:

  • Men masterbate more than women do.

  • Men thinking about sex more than women do. (and)

  • Men have sex more than women do.

(Remember, these findings were based on what was *reported.*)


And although a momentary glance at those metrics may influence a person to conclude that YES! MEN are most certainly sexual AF, and bare boning in mind much more than women do..


Couldn’t we also argue that this list reveals three things we women are trained to avoid, and men taught to acknowledge?


With slut-shaming so prevalent in our society, might it be possible that the female sex drive has been stunted (or kept secret) so that us women could continue to claim the position we’ve been conditioned into?


Covered up, kept quiet, calmly, and consciously awaiting our prince charming?


Whether you agree or not, (& whether those studies were spot on OR skewed by societal standards of what's acceptable), I don’t believe we should rely on these responses as the metrics to guide a methodology surrounding the ways we structure society, school systems, or in the way women are taught show up for themselves and their bodies.


Because I don’t believe sex drive is the biggest issue on the docket, but it does assist in illuminating what may be:


The ways in which we perceive women’s bodies.


IS THIS NOT WHAT YOU WANTED?


As Billie continues to call out questions in #NotMyResponsibility, she asks:


“Would you like me to be smaller? Weaker? Softer?..Would you like me to be quiet? Do my shoulders provoke you? Does my chest?...My hips? The body I was born with, is it not what you wanted?”


If our bodies are our temples, or, better yet, sculpted straight from an all-knowing and incredibly pure embodiment of the divine, why should we be embarrassed by what we’re born with?


Now, I’m in no way suggesting the start of a nudist society, but I am saying we should all be held to the same standard, regardless of our sex.


Because (although I’m 99.99% sure you do, if you’re still reading this ;) if you DON’T think a double standard exists, answer me this:


What makes it so the Calvin Klein male models not slut-shamed for their #ThirstTraps, but their sister associates are?


Why are we, as a society, okay with six men strategically selling women over wings at Hooters, but get hot and heavy when we see women showing their bodies for their own benefit and empowerment?


Must we examine what makes it seem so many of us see women’s bodies as manipulation, and not motherhood, beauty, strength etc?


In our schools and at home, should we be teaching girls to cover their bodies, or boys to have control?


At the end of the day, I believe all of these questions ask us to turn inwards, and instead of attempting to interpret the intention behind a woman’s outfit choice, insist that we wonder what our reactions to women’s bodies say about us as individuals, and the system we have set to support our standards.


Because we women can’t change our bodies.


We can’t bury our breasts or pop our bubble butts.


But we can, as a culture, alter our approach, and insist on asking for better.


We CAN change the narrative around human sexuality, seeing bare bodies, and shame, in such a way that supports our entire species.


Finally, I want to leave you with Billie (the BA being who inspired this article!), who says:


You make assumptions about people based on their size. We decide who they are. We decide what they’re worth. If I wear more, who decides what that makes me? What that means? Is my value based only on your perception? Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?"


XO,


Kendra


P.S. Seeking out solutions both for our society and for yourself individually? Be inspired into your own body-positive breakthrough by reading this blog's Part II!


SOURCES

[1]https://www.complex.com/style/2019/05/billie-eilish-explains-why-she-wears-baggy-clothes-in-calvin-klein-ad

[2] https://www.hooters.com/about/history/

[3]https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cultural-animal/201012/the-reality-the-male-sex-drive



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