Especially now that they’ve kissed other men in public venues in the past two weeks—Exhibits A and B—singer-turned-actor Harry Styles and Latin trap star Bad Bunny have stoked accusations of “queerbaiting,” in that critics suspect that the two men are pandering to queer audiences without identifying as queer themselves. But are these accusations fair, given that neither Bad Bunny nor Styles have put definite boundaries around their sexualities? And can celebrities even queer-bait to begin with?
On Twitter, there’s a raging debate about whether queerbaiting even exists—and whether it’s the domain of real people or just fictional storylines, as you’ll see below. And definitions found around the web seem to split the difference. Dictionary.com, for example, says queerbaiting “refers to the practice of implying non-heterosexual relationships or attraction (in a TV show, for example) to engage or attract an LGBTQ audience or otherwise generate interest without ever actually depicting such relationships or sexual interactions.” But the site also notes that the term also “is used to criticize the practice as an attempt to take advantage of and capitalize on the appearance or implication of LGBTQ+ relationships without actually having real LGBTQ+ representation.”
Related: Guys call out queerbaiting OnlyFans creators: “Low-effort cash flow and ego boost”
Filmmaker Leo Herrera also cited both usages of the term in an interview with Rolling Stone last year, saying that queerbaiting is when a celebrity “capitalizes on the suspicion that they may be romantically involved with another same-sex person for the sake of publicity, promotion, or a capitalistic gain” and when content creators “play with our lack of representation and desires to get us in the theaters or get us to watch.”
(Also important to note: Queerbaiting had a different, more pernicious definition in the 1950s, as Julia Himberg, director and associate professor of film and media studies at Arizona State University, told the magazine. In those days, queerbaiting “was about drawing out ‘suspected homosexuals’ using various tactics including entrapment, blackmail, affiliations with various organizations, and artistic traditions.”)
Nowadays, many young celebrities are refusing to label their sexualities, even to fend off queerbaiting accusations, as we’ve previously covered at Queerty. Ariana Grande, notably, said on Twitter that she doesn’t feel the need to label herself after singing that she likes “women and men” in “Monopoly,” her song with the openly-bisexual Victoria Monét.
Such refusals “in some ways … can feel like an erasure of LGBTQ identities,” Eve Ng, professor of media and women and gender studies at Ohio University, told BBC News in 2019. “People fought for the right to call themselves lesbian and gay.”
But as Ng explained, we demand better from celebrities and content creators because we’re seeing better representation of LGBTQ identities in pop culture and society in general. “It’s only because LGBTQ representation has improved that people would accuse producers of queerbaiting,” Ng said. “It’s progress. Ten to fifteen years ago, the majority of female fans would have been super psyched if an artist like Grande or someone of her stature said something like that.”
Here’s what Twitter users say about queerbaiting and its alleged perpetrators…
Related: Thirst trap TikTokers called out for running separate gay and straight accounts
i present to you: the queerbaiting pyramid pic.twitter.com/EqarC8z6Ih
— SLAYlor swift supremacist ? (@ivy10minversion) September 5, 2022
i am begging you people to learn what queerbaiting means and stop embarrassing yourselves, real people are not queerbaiting you by dressing in fun colors and being comfortable in their relationships with other real people https://t.co/UHnC5XH7Ix
— Kate Bishop????? (@hawkeyesquared7) September 6, 2022
the word queerbaiting has no meaning anymore https://t.co/HkTtq1IQpo
— ?? (@stancylover) September 6, 2022
this culture of guilty until proven innocent when it comes to celebrities and queerbaiting is extremely harmful. you are forcing another human being to come out for your comfort and if they don’t, the queer community vilifies someone who may very well be unable to come out.
— percy ? || who the fuck is gonna stop us? (@percystardust) September 7, 2022
if a man is remotely interesting it is queerbaiting
— tooti (@dhrvti) September 4, 2022
straight women being hot is queerbaiting
— Rio (@riomat7) September 2, 2022
He was losing his fight against the queerbaiting allegations, Bad Bunny had his foot on his neck, and the watermelon sugar high was wearing off. He had one chance and he took it. https://t.co/x6hHNTEj72
— machofucker kio (@kzzrttt) September 5, 2022
y’all learnt the word queerbaiting and run with it every time someone you don’t like moves
— lottie? (@chrrysmoon) September 5, 2022
harry styles could have leaked personal photos of him naked with a man and you'd still call it queerbaiting for the love of god let him kiss his friend in peace it's not that deep why don't you show this energy to cishet girls who kiss other girls for male attention
— gaïa ? (@fireproofghost) September 5, 2022
can ppl stop fucking trying to become the LGBT+ police and learn to mind their own business "this celebrity is queerbaiting" "this person is straight" "unlabeled people are not queer"
like let ppl suck a dick without having to explain u what they identify as
— felix! DYLAN DAY (@dreamsmassivepp) September 2, 2022
I am begging people to realize that men of any sexuality finally dressing interestingly is not queerbaiting and it is okay to just enjoy the creativity that we are normally deprived of when it comes to men on red carpets
— Anya Volz (@AnyaVolz) September 3, 2022
Also that queerbaiting should never be used to describe actual human beings living their lives. It's something a writer can do with a story, not something a real person can do with their actual life.
— Bring me flesh and bring me wine (@overthither) September 5, 2022
We really need to take the term “queerbaiting” away from the Internet for a while, until we can learn to use it. It’s not queerbaiting when you just make assumptions that turn out to be wrong!
— comicalArchitect enjoys funnybooks (@gynoidprincess) September 4, 2022
the conversation around queerbaiting has reached a confusing place — on one hand we say don’t worry abt labels and on the other hand, if an artist presents even remotely “queer” we interrogate them abt their sexuality?
yes queerbaiting bad but also there are limits to this
— matt (@mattxiv) June 10, 2021
quiet down queerbaiting is ok bc i like it
— 14 (@purinjwi) September 8, 2022
the whole joke about Bad Bunny, Harry Styles and Charlie Puth queerbaiting is funny until you remember that they are praised for it while other queer artists like Troye Sivan or Holland were criticized for just being queer
— Mexicanaylor (@innerloonachild) September 1, 2022
queerbaiting isnt real u r just horny
— swedish fish (@marxinista) September 7, 2022
twitter choosing which celebrities they think are queerbaiting or not pic.twitter.com/HMPMvnXenH
— ? (@jortsrry) September 6, 2022
the queerbaiting isn’t even funny nor is it sexy. stop encouraging y’all favs. pls.
— $ (@friesxo) September 9, 2022
implicit in the queerbaiting conversation is that there is a “right” way to be queer and that anyone who doesn’t abide by that definition should be excluded from the community……which is the opposite of what we’re fighting for, i hope y’all get that
— amaIia²? ? | 6 days! (@hrtbrksunflower) September 6, 2022
The whole “baiting” shit got old and tired quick, as do most Internet phrases. And it became too much about controlling people’s behaviors and how they present themselves. There is no doubt however that “queer aesthetics” have become commodified on a mainstream level. And there’s also little doubt that when you’re perceived as “straight” or there’s a bunch of mystery around your sexual dimensions, preferences, love life, where you are in the gender, sexual, affection, romantic, emotion, relationship, commitment spectrum- doing some form of “gay shit” will be perceived as edgy and will get you attention. You can get that attention and validation and possibly make a profit without having to worry much about sociological or career ramifications. There is a certain privilege to that, and it’s important to acknowledge that privilege.
Folks don’t seem to understand that conversations can have nuance, and contradicting things can all be true.
The leftist social engineers out there wanted to destroy the patriarchy and gender roles and then get upset that it worked. Be careful when you think these social engineers aren’t both crazy (literally) and dangerous to us as a society and politically.
I fully support everyone behaving in any way they like as long as it is not intended to cause harm or insult.
Most people have too high an opinion of their opinions; especially most of these twitter trolls trying to police harmless behavior.
It’s always adorable how the right wing trolls attack “Leftists” for not liking Queerbaiting but are fine with Republicans trying to make LGBTQ lives and civil rights illegal.
Your trolling is sad and weak.
So sad for you cam that your comment has nothing to do with what I wrote. Be a better person.
Awwww, sweetie, I’ve already pointed out that you attack “The Left” and then try to add in a vague tepid little comment to try to mask that. You do it under multiple screenames and have been caught each time.
As always, your trolling is sad and weak.
I think the craze has cooled down for Pietro Boselli
one of the biggest queer baiters of them all..
I love it when famous straight celebrities queerbait because it makes homosexual behavior more acceptable
Right? I mean, wasn’t that the plan?
No, it is a way for them to try to attack LGBTQ audience while at the same time the entertainment industry still makes it more difficult for ACTUAL Queer performers to participate and get famous.
Cam, that is such nonsense. Really, try harder.
I don’t think straight men should be somehow disallowed to display affection to other males because it will somehow offend gay people. WTF? Or why should they be disallowed from wearing colorful, gender-divergent, sexy or tight clothing?
I just don’t feel that men are required to “confess they’re gay” because their tastes don’t line up with some bizarrely restrictive interpretation of heterosexuality. Why are we trying to force people to fit into Box A or Box B – no exceptions!! These are the attitudes that generate otherness, conflict and resentment – when what we need is acceptance, freedom of expression and unity.
Isn’t that exactly what people wanted? Freedom from boxes?
Of COURSE the right wing troll wants “Labels” to go away. If there aren’t any people willing to label themselves as Queer, then there is nobody to fight against right wing attacks.
Your trolling, as always, is sad and weak.
cam, have you paid your dues to my fan club? Dead beat?
My definition of “queer baiting” is when straight celebrities deliberately get coy about their sexuality in order to deceive gay men into thinking they “might” be queer in order to build and profit off a gay fan base. There are many big performers doing this now. A lot of them claim to be “bi” and proud but are NEVER seen with same-sex partners… they’re always in opposite sex relationships (Lady Gaga, Myley Cyrus, Harry Styles, etc.) If they’re so proud of being bi, why are they never seen with same-sex partners? I believe they’re allies to the community and they’ve brought recognition to us, but they’ve also made a lot of money from us in the process. David Bowie started the “I might be gay” trend because it brought him notoriety, Prince continued it, then both denied later in their careers after they became famous that they were gay at all. Another aspect of this is how the internet plays it all up: for instance, the “kiss” between Styles and his co-star that is all over the internet was nothing more than a half-second peck on the mouth, if you watch the actual video. People have chosen to post a photo of it that was taken during that half a second in order to make it look like it was something long and passionate.
You definitely make some points but are still looking at things a bit basic. I am surprised that the comments aren’t super messy and hateful, yet. My first long ass post in a while:
Terminologies change and evolve over time. So, I’m not that focused on how queer/gay “baiting” has been updated in today’s world. I will say that using it as this catch-all term that could fit perhaps the majority of celebs is kinda silly and does trivialize the term, no matter how you’re using the term.
People have to remember that this stuff is nothing new. We’re seeing it on a more widespread level now. But you don’t think Bowie or Brando were “baiting” decades ago? They may have had queer dimensions, probably did. But they also used ambiguity and their attachment straightness and hetero relationships to play a game. They knew they could get away with coming off a bit fem or could hype up “gay-ish” behaviors while not having to truly worry about homophobia, femme-phobia, toxic masculinity, hetero expectations stifling their egos, opportunities and ambitions. Bowie even admitted to playing such a calculated game with his image and with the media. Prince never really indulged that game though. People just assumed he was queer because he was effeminate. If I had to guess, I’d say Prince as well likely had queer dimensions but never really confronted his insecurities and internalized phobias.
I ultimately don’t care how folks present themselves or the images they want to craft for the public. And there in general needs to be less focus on public figures’ identities, sexual dimensions, sexual journeys, lifestyles, relationships, where they are in the gender, sexual, affection, romantic, emotion, commitment spectrum. We’ve also seen that there are plenty of reasons why some celebs play coy or seem to “bait”. It’s not always about careers or ego. Some of these celebs have a lot of fetishes, paraphiliacs, traumas, mental health struggles or they indulge some f-ed up behaviors. And they do not want these things to be exposed. They feel opening that door only a tad but not completely is not only beneficial to their career and sense of freedom but also will help keep what they want to be concealed behind the door. While “baiting” doesn’t mean you don’t still contend with hetero pressures or queer insecurities or gay resentments or internalized phobias or hetero supremacy. It just means you likely don’t contend with gay panic.
So, it’s a complicated topic. But there’s no doubt that “queer games” are very different for people who truly have gay/non-hetero preferences, leanings, commitments. It’s rarely as beneficial to their careers and images. And there is a privilege to being able to approach “gayness” but still reap the benefits of hetero dynamics and hetero world acceptance. That privilege and double standard does need to be acknowledge no matter how sexy or cool someone may find these dudes.
You nailed it.
Claiming that somebody who disagrees with you is looking at things in a way that is “Basic” is ridiculous.
“Queerbaiting” used to be defined as someone luring someone who is suspected of being gay to either beat the crap out of them or blackmail or murdering them. Not how it is defined today someone who dresses colorfully or goes shirtless or in underwear or even nude who isn’t gay but is showing support for the gay community causing lustful–aka “thirst–“desire in gay men who can only look but cannot touch invoking sexual frustration in these same gay men resulting in petty labeling and name calling
Queerbaiting is one thing only: luring gay men to a secluded area in order to arrest, victimize, rob, beat up or kill them.
Straight performers teasing or flirting with gay fans is not queerbaiting. Use some other term for that, don’t trivialize the term ‘queerbaiting.’
Good point. I also suspect that musicians, regardless of their personal sexual tastes, may empathize with the romantic travails of others and hope that their music represents and speaks to a wider audience. Does that mean that they make more money? Sure, fine. We musn’t be so laser-focused on one “identity” that we forget that many of us are also lovers, capitalists, artists, men, Americans, human beings and a host of other “identities” that figure into our attitudes and behaviors.
Oh my God, the horror some straight guy might act gay just to seem appealing to gay men.
Seriously? WTF? What’s next on our list to b!tch about??
Like sexuality, identity, love, etc. – this topic isn’t a simple one. But of course, a poster who constantly boasts about hooking up with “straight dudes” and how they have “straight” guy preferences would post something so basic and pick-me like.
To me, the main thing here is that I will never meet Harry Styles. Or Bad Bunny. Or Pietro Boselli, and neither will you. Accordingly, I choose to enjoy the music that they produce or just the fact that they are drop-dead gorgeous and cute, and I do not care whether what they are doing is or is not queerbaiting. What difference does it make?
There are definitely political and social ramifications. Some people see Harry Styles as “queer representation” in mainstream entertainment. Therefore, there’s less pressure in the music and movie industry to promote actual unabashed queer-presenting artists. Some view Harry and Bad Bunny as representing “male femininity”. Therefore, men who come off effeminate no matter what they’re wearing or who regularly look “fem” could be seen as redundant and basic. It also has an effect on the entertainment that’s made. A lot of “gay” movies and tv shows are being designed to appeal to women first and foremost, and one of the ways to get that appeal is by hiring straight-presenting or vaguely queer-ish performers rather than guys unabashedly into their sex. The industry can promote and utilize “queerness” while also still leaning on hetero dynamics and homo inferiority. There are definitely ramifications even if it doesn’t always directly affect you.
My thing is it’s really not our business how people want to present themselves, the dimensions of these people and their lifestyle is or where someone is in the gender, sexual, romantic, emotion, commitment spectrum. And I suspect around half of the entertainment has queer dimensions/is somewhere in the spectrum. But to say none of this affects anything is kinda naive. Also, most of these people don’t care much about “gay appeal”, even gay-presenting artists don’t care a ton about that. It’s more about stepping stones.
I love romancing unwilling straight women lol its so hot when a cute petite gal rejects me, i follow her until sge feels harassed..
Very senior software engineer
You are the problem.
Public perception and scrutiny comes with the territory. Harry’s actions often seem contrived and the public has every right to call him out.