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.