It’s probably not a big surprise that there are gay men who lust after the guys in One Direction (who are all the ages of 18 to 20), but openly gay Bravo TV executive Andy Cohen, 44, may have gone too far by calling One Direction “a room of twinks.” “Twinks” is gay slang for young, boyish-looking gay men, usually between the ages of 16 to 24, who are used as sex objects by older gay men. Because of the meaning behind the word, many young gay men find it offensive to be called a “twink.” Cohen made the remark on live TV on November 13, 2012, while he was being interviewed in a celebrity gossip segment on NBC’s “Today,” less than two hours after One Direction performed an outdoor concert on the show. (Bravo and NBC are both networks of NBC Universal.)
One Direction, the boy band that rose to fame on “The X Factor” U.K. in 2010, is not a homophobic group, but calling One Direction “twinks” — a word that is sexually derogatory to many young gay men — might shock or offend a lot of people, even by the most liberal of standards.
Cohen, who is Bravo’s executive vice president of development and talent, is best known to the public for his on-camera hosting duties on Bravo, including his talk show “Watch What Happens Live” and “The Real Housewives” reunion shows.
In his “Today” interview (which was live in the Eastern and Central time zones), Cohen described accidentally seeing One Direction in the “Today” green room: “This morning, I went into the normal green room that we typically go into. I barged in, there are all these people in front of us. Oh, it’s all the leftover One Direction fans. I barged right into a room of twinks: One Direction! Security was not exactly too tight, with all due respect. I barged right in. It was crazy!”
In case he didn’t make it clear enough that he sees One Direction as gay, Cohen tweeted on November 12, 2012, minutes before his “Today” interview: “No joke just walked right into One Direction greenroom!! The blond dude was shirtless #HolyTwink.”
The “blond dude” is Niall Horan, 19, who has always said that he is straight, as have all of the guys in One Direction. (Many One Direction fans think that 18-year-old Harry Styles is gay or bisexual, and 20-year-old Louis Tomlinson is gay, but that’s a whole other story. Tomlinson has vehemently denied being gay.)
Again, One Direction does not have a problem with gay, but to describe all of the guys in one Direction in a sexually derogatory term is out of line for a TV executive. Stand-up comics might be able to get away with that language. It’s a bit strange and inappropriate coming from a TV executive saying it on a TV show seen by millions of people. Of course, the word “twinks” probably went few right over the heads of millions of people who watched Cohen say it on TV if they know nothing about what “twinks” mean in gay culture.
Middle-aged Cohen has now made it clear where his mind is at when he looks at the guys in One Direction, who are all young enough to be his sons. All the middle-aged female “cougars” who lust after One Direction now have some company.
Cohen has a fun and festive personality, and he probably did not intend to be offensive, so we can only guess that his lapse in judgment in calling One Direction “twinks” has to do with the fact that he freely admitted he was “hung over” during the interview, after spending a late night partying at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards in New York City. If Cohen had used the term “pretty boys” in describing One Direction, then it wouldn’t raise eyebrows. But “twink” is specifically used by gay men to describe young, boyish-looking gay men who are used as sex objects by older gay men who are looking for guys who look barely legal.
When talking about the breakup of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez (one of Glamour’s Women of the Year), Cohen commented in the”Today” show interview: “I think Selena should go come meet some of the 1D guys. She has five to choose from.” It sounds like Cohen also thinks the guys in One Direction should also be paired up with older gay men too. One thing’s for sure, and regardless how people feel about the issue, One Direction is considered a highly attractive group of young men, regardless of their admirers’ sexuality.
UPDATE: Cohen tweeted this message as a clarification to his “twinks” comment: “Misused word earlier — I just meant they’re cute. #1D.”