Jacob Elordi attends as Tiffany & Co. Celebrates the reopening of NYC Flagship store, The Landmark on April 27, 2023 in New York City. Source: Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tiffany & Co.

We're Entering the Era of the 'SoftJock.' What will this Mean for Gay Men?

Jake Myers READ TIME: 4 MIN.

Move over Tom Brady and A-Rod...a new era of jock is upon us.

For the last few decades (or some might say, the beginning of time), heteronormative culture has elevated the archetype of the masculine, sports-playing, "jock-bro" to the top of the food chain. Jocks, as obnoxious, entitled, and full of toxic masculinity as can be, have often been given a pass in our culture. Praised for their athleticism, prowess, and oozing with testosterone, they've been valued and rewarded in our society for their dominant male energy, aggressive game play, and often douchey behavior. A-listers like Jennifer Lopez, Gisele, and the Kardashians have all gravitated towards them.

But, is all this about to change? Post-#MeToo, it might be time to evolve, especially since it's pretty clear that reverence for the alpha male is deeply rooted in misogyny.

Welcome to the era of...the "SoftJock."

Coming on the heels of TikTok's "Sassy Man Apocalypse," a recent exposé on Bustle describes "SoftJocks" as "athletes (or athletic-looking men) who choose to forgo alpha-maledom and instead embrace sensibilities their teammates might once have decried as 'beta.'"

Too good to be true?

Take a look at some of the biggest male stars today. There's the very "babygirl" (thanks, "Saturday Night Live") Jacob Elordi, who is not afraid to play with his queerness in roles like "Euphoria" and "Saltburn." But does he still read "jock?" His tall 6'5 frame would say so, but Elordi combats that by carrying a designer purse on his shoulder and showing off his obsession with reading.

Then we have Paul Mescal, who Bustle says, "pairs his hulking thighs with a deep appreciation for sad girl music, regularly posting Mitski and Ethel Cain songs on his Instagram stories."

The author is also quick to point out the very cozy, "almost queer-baiting" behavior that both these actors exhibit on the red carpet when it comes to canoodling and flirting with their respective costars, Andrew Scott (who is openly gay) and Barry Keoghan (who is straight and dating rising pop singer Sabrina Carpenter). A far cry from the homophobic days of yore.

Just to be clear, the SoftJock is still a masculine dude, but he's able to show a sensitive, non-threatening side of male behavior that was once considered too "effeminate." Sure, he can still be into his fantasy football league, but he also loves the "Barbie" movie. He may have played "Grand Theft Auto" with his bros earlier today, but when home with his girlfriend on the couch, he's sobbing to episode three of "The Last of Us," or secretly counting the days until Anne Hathaway's new romantic comedy.

Pedro Pascal, winner of the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series award for "The Last of Us" poses in the press room during the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on February 24, 2024 in
Source: Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Forget Hollywood, the Softjock has even hit the sports arena. Whether it's Travis Kelce unabashedly gushing over his girlfriend, Taylor Swift, at her concerts, or Miami Heat power forward Kevin Love spouting mental health advocacy and collecting fine art, jocks are no longer the hazing, beer-guzzling a-holes they once were. As Bustle says, "Men have learned they can cut a formidable figure while maintaining a decidedly unformidable vibe – or, more simply, they can have their sports and their feelings, too."

So how do gay men feel about this?

We've always had a complicated relationship with jocks. When young, we may have felt conflicting feelings of both lust and fear for the hyper-masculine sports-loving dudes in our classrooms. After all, the handsome quarterback undressing in the locker room was irresistible to look at, but at the same time, if he were to ever sense your fixation, you might be ridiculed...or worse.

So, if the SoftJock means the death of the old school jock, that's a good thing, right?

Some think so. When masc daddy Pedro Pascal flashed a leg in short-shorts on the red carpet, maybe what he was conveying was that all of us should learn to be more flexible when it comes to our gender expression. Perhaps, if the jock is softening, society as a whole is becoming more accepting, and we can lean into our gay-ness even more, with less fear of judgement.

At the same time, some critics feel that the "soft" part can only exist if the "jock" part is attached, so we have a long way to go. If Travis Kelce wasn't 6'5 and able to bench 250 pounds, would he be as accepted for his adorable antics, like adorning the cutesie nickname "Tay" to his main squeeze while on a podcast with his brother, Jason? The verdict is still out. Is the SoftJock a refreshing move in the right direction, or a false sign of progress, proving that male vulnerability is only accepted if it comes with ripped abs and a Super Bowl victory?

Regardless, we applaud the widening of our definitions of what it means to be a man, or even a jock. Maybe they don't have to be as one-dimensional as once thought. Our only caveat – let's not wipe away the traditional jock archetype completely. As gay men, do we really want to eliminate all jock porn and locker room fantasies?

Somehow "Softjock" porn doesn't' quite have the same ring to it.

by Jake Myers

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