It’s sure to happen. It’s late at night, maybe 1 or 2 a.m., and suddenly the smartphone user finds herself perusing Instagram, either stalking crushes or gushing over pictures of bunnies. In that duration, she may have stumbled upon a relatively new, yet already popular account called @HotDudesReading.

A double standard prevails.

Yes, there is an Instagram account where a person captures very handsome men reading, with or without their knowledge. One might ask where the problem lies in admiring the beauty of an attractive person doing an attractive activity, and gaining Insta-fame over it. Well, admiration has its limits.

These pictures are creepy. This account features sly photos of men, in crowded areas. Some men look like they posed, and others make us want to smack our foreheads. How could you not tell that someone 10 inches away from you is taking your picture? It doesn’t sound too bad, but if a person were to ride the light rail and suddenly their face was accessible to thousands of online users, the result wouldn’t be good.

The photo captions are also ridiculous—incredibly vulgar and unnecessary. One, for example, is “When he puts down that book I hope he’ll give me some tips.” There’s almost a 100 percent chance that this person wouldn’t say that to the man themselves. This further perpetuates the social media bravery-behind-a-screen scenario that’s become all too familiar.

Most importantly, imagine if the roles were switched. If there were an account of women reading, there would be a feminist outcry, and for good reason. The creator would likely be deemed a sexual predator, and would receive a lot of hate from several angles. However, because this Instagram is solely dedicated to men, a double standard prevails.

It’s not okay for someone to be taking photos of men without their consent, and then commenting on what you’d like to do to them. @HotDudesReading is making these men into sexual objects and nothing more. These men are being judged based solely on appearance, which speaks against openmindedness and acceptance. @HotDudesReading might be enjoyable and we might find these men attractive, but the underlying context behind this account is unappealing.

—Dilkush Khan

Under the all-seeing male gaze, women are constantly surveilled—their actions evaluated and picked apart for the simple fact that they’re women. Flipping that gaze, then, by putting men under the gaze and picking them apart, may be justly giving them a taste of their own medicine.

Creepiness is a form of power.

@HotDudesReading is something of an Internet sensation. The intrepid Instagrammers behind the project snap—and accept submissions of—candid photos of men on subways around the world doing exactly what one would expect: reading. Staged or not, the project’s aesthetic bears resemblance to the creepshot phenomenon, complicating the works.

Whether or not the pictures are staged, @HotDudesReading privileges more voyeuristic pictures, where the men reading seem to be seen without their knowledge or consent. This dynamic is more common in the realm of upskirt shots of women. Switching the script, @HotDudesReading exerts pressure against these norms. Ogling men in public isn’t as openly practiced as ogling women.

The account is creepy, but maybe that’s the point of it all. By being allowed a medium through which to practice the gaze itself, women are given access to a power and privilege they’re not often privy to. At the same time, the very foreign nature of simply watching men contrasts and implicitly condemns the common practice of objectifying women.

Creepiness is a form of power. It’s the ability to insert one’s presence and intent into a space, without it being explicit, to the negation of others’ agency. To make men feel creeped out, then, is a form of protest. @HotDudesReading makes objectifying men the norm in its series, and that is a paradigm shift.

It’s a small and contained shift, to be sure, but that small nature makes the dramatic possibilities it implies much more palatable. Change starts at the lower levels and spirals outward. @HotDudesReading gives a small dose of feminist critique to a wide audience that may not come across it otherwise.

And even outside of that, the dudes themselves are worth a couple views anyways.

—Jordan Anthony

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