Whether you realise it or not, you've probably seen a few thirst traps today.
Thirst traps are the social media innovation of posting seductive photos online to get strangers to drool over you. They are typified by tight swimsuits, abs, butts, boobs, and bulges – the king or queen of all thirst traps being the fresh-out-of-the-shower bathroom selfie (with strategically placed object keeping your privates Insta-friendly).
Why do people thirst trap? They love the likes, the validation, the emoji deluge that follows each post. Thirst trapping is a way for people to express their sexuality, for sure, but it's also an attempt to boost self-esteem. Facile, yes. Acceptable? That too – almost everybody's doing it and it's widely taken in society as a way to share your experience.
The problem with thirst traps
I find thirst traps more problematic when you're the consumer of them, not the maker. People who Facetune themselves up the wazoo for online likes know what they're doing and why. But those who view them are drawn into a fantasy. We start to admire somebody under false pretences; surmising a person's entire personality based on one well-edited photograph.
Have you been caught?
I find I often get caught in thirst traps when I start to follow new people online. An unknown person will pop up, I'll browse through their past pics, and decide they're interesting enough to follow. In the coming days and weeks I'm presented with thirst traps on beaches and at gyms, and I start to think, "jeez, this person is so sexy/hot/cool!"
How is it I've been sucked in so quickly? I know nothing about this person. I don't know their age, what they do for a living, or how they talk. I don't know if they're intelligent or stupid. All I know is that they know how to copy and paste inspirational quotes and use artificial lighting to their advantage.
Yet I'm caught in a thirst trap. Drawn in by a fleeting fantasy and captivated by the artistic nature of somebody's Insta-skills.
The original thirst trapper
Who's the original thirst trapper? Kim Kardashian, natch. She's been trapping for a decade now with those curves. The Jonas brothers have a long-standing love affair with thirst trapping too. Amber Rose loves a thirst trap, and Demi Lovato just tried to thirst trap Henry Cavill when the pair reciprocated follows on Instagram.
But thirst trapping is most commonly done by your hot or semi-hot friends nowadays: those with average lives who know how to show off their Adonis belt whilst also making themselves look modest. These traps are posited as if they don't know how good looking they are, and have casually posted a photo for legitimate reasons (e.g. "look how good I've been on my diet!").
What it really means when someone's thirst trapping
The reality behind thirst traps is self-esteem issues. All who get hooked in by them need to know this. Somebody may be able to make themselves look beautiful on social media, but they certainly won't feel beautiful on the inside if they're thirst trapping.
I don't think thirst trapping is wrong, because I don't think having self-esteem issues is wrong. Everybody lacks confidence in one way or another, and it's nice to both feel validated (and to validate others). But is thirst trapping authentic affirmation of one's attractiveness?
No way. The thrill of each post is short-lived; the thirst only quenched momentarily. When anybody posts a thirst trap, they're either feeling emotionally low or temporarily horny. Thirst traps get put out there when one isn't of their usual sound mind, and their consumers are most vulnerable to them when we're feeling equally fragile and in need of attention.