"Bearded Cap is BAE."
"Mmm, M'Baku is a thicc king."
"Thor is a god, indeed."
These observations are just a drop in the pool of thirst that flows across social media. What makes these particular comments interesting is that they were made by a very specific set of people: female nerds.
Just before Avengers: Infinity War was released into cinemas, Marvel debuted a set of character posters. Fans like myself were overcome with joy, but as I was perusing my Twitter timeline, I noticed something very interesting. There were a couple posters in particular that caught many a lady's eye, namely those of Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). What made these posters stand out were the poses, with their backs to the viewer, giving a clear look at their butts. They were deemed by Twitter user after Twitter user to be "thirst traps."
Before I became active on social media — particularly Twitter — I always felt self-conscious to identify as a nerd for two main reasons: 1) I was always made fun of for how much I loved sci-fi shows and movies, cartoons and romance books; and 2) there was this stigma that nerdy women like me were less attractive and that our interest in hot characters like Captain America and Superman made us seem weird, even desperate. But Twitter has revealed the opposite to be true. Women are now openly declaring their thirst for the male body.
To show that appreciation, women have created a plethora of Twitter hashtags and threads as homages to their favorite actors and characters. There are even podcasts such as Thirst Aid Kit and Tumblr accounts like Richonne Just Desserts, with the sole purpose of discussing all the ways these men make women hot and thirsty, and sharing fanfic inspired by said characters and their love interests. And we at SYFY FANGRRLS are no strangers to celebrating hot genre men and the women who love them (ourselves included).
While this thirsting may seem like objectification, it's actually the opposite. Instead of simply lusting after these men because of their looks (ahem, dudebros), female nerds tend to look beyond the physical and connect with the individual. What makes Captain America — and, by extension, Chris Evans — so attractive to women isn't just his stacked abs and swagger. It's the way he personifies what it means to be loyal, caring, understanding, and, yes, nerdy. In T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), women see a man who doesn't just kick ass while looking good. We see a man who will do whatever it takes to protect his family, who isn't afraid to show his emotions, and above all else, a man who has the utmost respect for women and their opinions.
It can't be a coincidence that a significant number of the women who are present-day thirsters grew up in a time when films like She's All That sold the idea that the awkward, bespeckled nerdy girl always experienced unrequited love for the "hot guy." In those films, she (always white girls, but we can discuss that another time) was encouraged to change the way she dressed, acted, and even spoke in order for her crush to see her as worthy of his romantic attention.
One of the most overlooked character subversions of the trope is Betty Suarez, played to geeky, awkward perfection by America Ferrera in the hit ABC comedy Ugly Betty. When the show started, Betty was a young woman who entered the world of haute couture fashion and its beautiful female models and gorgeous men. She was constantly ridiculed and looked down upon for her outlandish clothing choices and nerdiness, but as the show progressed Betty found her own personal style and became confident in her femininity, all while wearing some of the most badass glasses ever.
Over the last 20 years, there has been an obvious and welcome change in what it means to be a female nerd. Instead of glasses, books, and graphic tees as the markers of a social outcast, women now proudly wear their nerd apparel, professing their love for the MCU, DCEU, Harry Potter, Voltron, and more. They've even turned them into symbols of their sexuality by having nerd-themed boudoir photo shoots. While boudoir sessions are usually used to create photographs for significant others, many women use them as a gift to themselves, as a reminder that they are beautiful. The stigma that was once cast upon women for being avid romance readers is slowly fading away, and more and more women are becoming cosplayers, writing editorials, and hosting shows that provide intellectual discourse on all aspects of nerddom.
But sometimes women just like to admire the beauty of the male body, and sometimes we like to imagine being swept away in muscular arms and listening to the dulcet tones of Tom Hiddleston reciting erotic poetry (excuse me while I get a glass of water). And that's fine, too. Because social media plays such a big part in our lives, it has allowed for the creation of a female nerd community where there is no shame in our thirst game, especially when there are heroes like Luke Cage, Rick Grimes, and Aquaman, and even the occasional villain (hey, Killmonger *wink*).
Yup. There has never been a better time to be a female nerd who thirsts.