What's A Thirst Trap? This Selfie Trend Is All The Rage

by Alison Segel

Thirst trapping — what a drug! There's no greater high you can get when you're at a severe, emotional, rock bottom. Are you begging for attention from social media strangers or simply displaying your confidence to the world? It's a heated debate, debated by mainly no one, but still. However, if you're wondering what a thirst trap is, you're not alone. Actually, you probably are alone. Where the hell have you been? Do I need to spend this article thirst-trap shaming you? I don't have time for that. I'm busy!

To put it simply, and to be explained in more detail later, a thirst trap is when you post a provocative picture of yourself online in the hopes of garnering attention either from one person or from all of your followers. Urban Dictionary defines "Thirst Trap" as:

A sexy photograph or flirty message posted on social media for the intent of causing others to publicly profess their attraction. This is done not to actually respond or satisfy any of this attraction, but to feed the posters ego or need for attention, at the expense of the time, reputation and sexual frustration of those who view the image or reply.

Cycklops November 22, 2015

I can tell you one thing: I never thirst trap when I am feeling emotionally centered. I usually do it when I've been dumped, am spiraling, bored out of my gourd, want to get someone's specific attention, or am waiting for a man to text me. However, I know this isn't true for everyone.

So here is a short history of thirst trapping. Because in this political climate, it's important that you stay educated and on top of things! I am doing God's work. This is activism at its best.

People Have Always Been Thirsty

Was the self-portrait the original thirst trap? Perhaps. Am I an art historian? No. But did I take AP Art History in high school and think I can speak pretty confidently on this matter? Yes, and don't roll your eyes at me.

Frida Kahlo did tons of self-portraits — aka old-time-y thirst traps. She even did one painting, The Two Fridas, where she depicted herself twice. That's like some old-school Snapchat filter or something. JK, no disrespect to Kahlo. Van Gogh was also a popular male thirst trapper, as was Picasso. Let's get rid of the stigma that thirst traps are just a female thing.

But Then, Thirst Trapping Moved To Social Media

Look, 'tis me, the author of this article, revealing a thirst trap to the world through social media, which is what we kids do these days. I am 31, but I still consider myself a kid because my dad has to help me do my taxes. What is money? Lol, help me, daddy.

Anyway, since oil painting takes a lot of time and cell phones were invented, thirst traps are now displayed on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter, where celebs in Tinseltown began popularizing this trend quickly. For example, here is Justin Bieber doing a thirst trap video! Wow. Talk about levels. This is quite meta. (Side note: Do we like his full stomach tattoo? I feel weird about it.)

Kim Kardashian, a ton of celebrities, that girl from the Blurred Lines video who talks about feminism a lot (Emily Ratajkowski), influencers, old contestants from The Bachelor franchise, and models with famous parents have continued to both popularize and normalize thirst-trap culture, which has its pros and cons. We should all feel confident in our appearance and be able to display ourselves radiantly to the world if we want to, but it's important to find value in other, more internal qualities as well. Hmm, what a debacle!

Now, Us Commoners Do It, Too... All The Time

Anyway, now, the whole world is thirst trapping. Well, not the whole world, but a lot of us. Yet, as a woman, I wanted to ask a guy A) if he does thirst traps, and B) what his perspective is on woman who do. I'm curious.

So I reached out to my friend Dexter, 33, for his input on why he posts thirst traps:

OK, so for me, it's targeted to a specific woman. And it's, like, an inside joke, engineered for them to see. And even if it doesn't make sense to everyone else, it makes sense to them. And I do it to pull at them heartstrings. Duh.

Yes, yes, very relatable content. But what about when women do it?

My friend's ex was doing it to get back at him. Like, you don't think I'm sexy, but all these motherf*ckers do.

I literally just did this yesterday in hopes that a guy who ghosted me would notice. So I guess this reveals something important: Thirst trapping is a transparent endeavor. It's a way to get someone's (or everyone's) attention. And for the most part, a lot of people who see it are totally aware of the intention, but we do it anyway. It's like a subtweet, but for pictures. It's sub-picturing.

I also asked one of my lady friends, who wished to remain very anonymous, to describe what thirst traps mean to her:

Any staged pic where you know you're going to evoke some kind of lusty vibes. Why? 1) 'Look what you're missing out on.' 2) Ego Boost! The DMs and comments are life-affirming. 3) Mischievous boredom, and this pic usually gets deleted.

My other friends pretended not to know what thirst trapping was, and also maybe hate me.

Ali Segel
Ali Segel

So there you go — a brief history of the thirst trap. Do you feel educated? This is important stuff. Take the rest of the day off work. You've contributed enough to the world today!

Check out the entire Gen Why series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

Check out the “Best of Elite Daily” stream in the Bustle App for more stories just like this!