The Lowdown on Thirst Traps: What They Are & How to Respond

Get the details on how to respond when loved one's thirst traps find their way to your feed.

Published October 27, 2023
Young Sensual Female Lying on Sofa and Taking Selfie at Home

For many people who have grown up with social media, bearing witness to images that might show a little more skin or are a little sexier than expected probably isn’t something they think twice about. But others might find it a lot harder to see their friends or family members in compromising positions.

Instead of railing against these acts of self-love and liberation like a teetotaler during Prohibition, learn some positive ways to respond to a thirst trap.

What Is a Thirst Trap?

Simply put, thirst traps are pictures of people in revealing positions or clothing to show off their best assets. Part of the mystique behind thirst traps is that you knowingly post them, doing so to elicit a complementary (usually sexual) response (aka invoking thirst). It’s not inherently sexual in the way that skin magazines like Penthouse and Playboy were, though. Rather, it’s an interesting intersection between flirtation and self-love.

But people have been getting scintillating portraits and pictures taken for hundreds of years, so why this phenomenon and why now? You can thank not only selfie culture but social media as well.

Circa the 2010s when social media first broke onto the scene for the masses, people had a new platform to share their pictures with a much bigger audience than Flickr or Photobucket provided. The bigger the audience, the more comments and admiration, the more dopamine, etc. So, thirst traps — which are driven by wanting to have a positive response — are directly connected to that whole development.

Fast Fact

Adults of every age may be posting thirst traps and embracing their body confidence. Martha Stewart, for example, has received lots of attention for her thirst trap photos at 80+.  

6 Tips for Responding to Loved One’s Thirst Traps

Man taking a selfie after exercise at home

Knowing the meaning of a thirst trap is just the beginning. When you’re aimlessly scrolling through your feed and a sibling or family friend’s thirst trap pops up, you’re probably caught off guard and a little panicked about what to do. Thankfully, there are some ways you can prep yourself to know what to say when you come across an unsuspecting thirst trap.

1. Rule #1: You Don’t Have to Respond

When you’re online, there’s this huge push for engagement. People want you to interact, and sure, thirst traps are encouraging people to do so. However, you don’t have to interact with every single thing you see online.

So, if your older brother posts a workout photo with questionably low sweats, keep on scrolling. It’s his page, and he’s entitled to the type of content he wants to put out. And he’s not looking for you to comment, either positively OR negatively — so just keep scrolling.

2. Keep Responses Positive

If you want to comment on a loved one’s thirst trap, keep things positive. No backhanded compliments in the comments section, please. A few easy responses you can toss out are:

  • Look at you feeling yourself!
  • I love to see that confidence!
  • Stunning!

3. Don’t Make Comments About Body Types or Shape

Society has been making moves towards a more inclusive approach to body size and shape, but that doesn’t suddenly zap insecurities away. So, it’s best not to make body-specific comments if you’re unsure about how the person who posted the thirst trap feels.

Quick Tip

Go for the safe route and stick with comments about their energy, vibes, confidence, and so on instead of anything body-specific. 

4. Keep Your Tips to Yourself

Yes, everyone’s a critic, but you don’t need to post a five-paragraph-long essay about how someone could look better in their thirst trap if they changed XYZ. A thirst trap isn’t meant to be that deep, and talking about the techniques of someone’s thirst trapping borders on invasive. The idea is to admire the pictures, not analyze them like you would for a review.

5. Have Their Back & Watch For Accidental NSFW Content

woman in white lingerie taking selfie in the mirror

There’s always a danger when you’re taking cheeky photos of accidentally capturing a few bits and bobs that you didn’t intend for people to see. So, if a loved one is actively posting thirst traps on the regular, have their back and check for any NSFW content.

It’s easy for a pair of bikini bottoms to ride a little too far in one direction and expose your genitals. Be quick to text them and let them know if you find anything questionable so they can take it down.

6. Discuss Things Privately If They’re Underage

Take one look at MySpace photos back in the day and you’ll see that teens can push conventions without thinking twice. If you’re a parent or guardian and happen to come across your child’s thirst trap, take it as an opportunity to have a constructive conversation with them.

You can approach it from a positive angle. Tell them you’re glad they’re exploring their image and embracing their body but ask if they understand the dangers of posting that kind of content online. When it’s out there, it’s out there, and they might not understand the real permanency of the internet or the type of attention they might be drawing. Safety is a concern here, and they might not understand the risks they're taking. 

Quick Tip

Parents won't curb teens' behavior by being judgmental, but you can open a line of communication so they can feel comfortable asking you to help them make safe, smart decisions.

Thirst Traps Are Part of Life on Social Media Now

Thirst traps are here and they’re not going anywhere. Sure, you don’t ever have to post one yourself, but you’ll probably come across one at some point in your scrolling hours. But just remember that they don’t bite! The only thing you’ve got to do is either keep on scrolling or spread some positivity in your loved one's comments section.

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The Lowdown on Thirst Traps: What They Are & How to Respond