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By Hein Kaiser


Thirst trapping: The new body positive

Thirst trapping is naughty but nice and this year's biggest online trend.

Sexiness was once the domain of a select few models. People used to fall in lust with collections of curated pictures of sexy people in lad mags like FHM and Loaded with more skin in Playboy and Penthouse. For women, Playgirl served up guys in the buff while lifestyle magazines provided the necessary eye candy.

Now, anyone can do it. And they do. As the body positivity movement continues to grow, so too will thirst trapping on social media channels like Instagram, X and TikTok.  It’s all about posting sensually titillating images of yourself, getting DMs (direct messages) from admirers and to express individual sensuality. 

It’s one of the biggest online trends forecast for 2024. 

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It’s not just a quest for attention, said psychologist and medical doctor Jonathan Redelinhuys of Medicare24. “Thirst trapping also reflects reflects a more authentic, diverse, and self-directed portrayal of sexuality. They provide a realtime experience where the models are everyday individuals showcasing their sensuality without the filter of professional photography or editorial policies,” he said. 

“It challenges the norms created by glossy magazines and traditional adult content,” said sex educator Lisa Welsh.

She added that it is a democratisation of sensual expression and as the movement grows it will seed greater body positivity, inclusiveness and celebrate individuals. “Traditional media has done a good job of narrowing the norms of desirability, it’s time to break that mould,” she said. 

While thirst trapping first emerged as an attention-seeking sortie in the early part of the last decade, it has evolved into an important aspect of body positivity and the self-realisation of individuals as beautiful, sensual beings no matter their body type, said Welsh. “Because everyone has a different preference, and it is finally coming to the fore.”

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Thirst trapping manifests in various forms. For many women, it could be about sharing images in bikinis, tiny tops and lingerie. Anything goes, and outfits, or the lack thereof, often highlights an individual’s natural body features. It also embraces movements like ‘free the nipple’ or going braless. 

“These posts are not just sensual but carry a message of body confidence and defiance against traditional modesty norms, all of which were created by prior generations and dictated by the media. Now that the people are the media self-expression is now on a person’s own terms. Sensuality is now a rebellion against set down norms,” said Dr Redelinghuys.

Men typically showcase their physical fitness, often shirtless, with their poses and document workout sessions. “These posts also attract attention,” said Dr Redelinghuys, “but it also goes a long way to reflecting male body positivity and the fact that men can be vulnerable too, because when you post thirst trap pictures, you are expressing vulnerability too,” he said.

Celebrities have been at the leading edge of this trend, Kylie Jenner, Lizzo, Ricky Martin and Chris Hemsworth count amongst the notables noted for thirst trapping.

“It is a vibrant expression of self-love and must be encouraged,” said Welsh. 

Thirst trapping pictures have also impacted fashion, and it’s often less about bikinis and lingerie than it is about form and shape, in various incarnations. “Ditching bras and underwear in favour of showing off your own individual sculpting and embracing your natural body forms the basis of these powerful images,” said Welsh.

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She said that this counts for men and women who unabashedly embrace their natural bodies. “They’re not just about sensuality; they’re statements of freedom and body autonomy, pushing back against the stigma surrounding body exposure,” said Welsh.

Dr Redelinghuys agreed, but said that images must be shared responsibly, because people have no control over end consumers of their posts. Yet, he added, it is a pivotal tool in breaking down barriers that end up promoting a more inclusive society. “This is no longer just a digital trend. It’s a social movement, empowering individuals to redefine beauty on their terms. It’s no longer about just wanting attention.”

“Thirst trapping is not just a trend; it’s a testament to the power of digital platforms in creating a more accepting, liberated, and inclusive society,” added Welsh.

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