A man, his hands, his pants

(That’s AmE pants, roughly equivalent to BrE trousers. This posting is about men’s clothing and men’s bodies and gets fairly racy — it starts with a guy with his hands in his pants and sex on his mind — so some readers might want to exercise caution.)

So you’re a straight white guy, from North America or some place culturally similar. A photographer wants to take your picture. How do you pose your body? In particular, what do you do with your hands? More generally, what do you do with your hands when they’re not actually involved in your current activity? Then, what role do your lower garments — trousers, shorts, maybe underpants — play in the placement of your hands? And what, if anything, does your choice of placement signify?

So: adventures in hand-pants (or manual-bracal) kinesics.

Sexy hands. Let’s dive right into the image from yesterday’s Daily Jocks ad:


(#1) From the DJX Trough line [troughs are for pigs, in particular sexpigs]: harness and shorts in white, model with his hand in those shorts, inspecting his equipment

The extremely hunky model has recently appeared on this blog with his hand once again in his shorts — decidedly revealing black mesh shorts, and he’s visibly holding his penis (fuzzed out in the reproduction below) between thumb and forefinger — while flashing an intense cruise-face:


(#2) An underwear ad framed as a sexual advertisement (or vice versa), from my 10/1 posting “Up to the line, and sometimes over”

Before these two pants-hand ads, the same model, also in mesh harness and trunks (but in white this time), with his fists framing the pouch, and with that intense facial expression (now in a sidelong glare), which I read here as a challenge: fight or fuck:


(#3) Once again a significant conjunction of hands and pants, and a sexually freighted one, but now with the hands outside the pants

So far two sexual scenarios for hand-pant hanky-panky (handy-panty?): trolling for a partner or going solo (in either self-admiration or self-satisfaction). And, independently, with the manual gesture either outside the pants or in them, but in either case engaging with the pants via metonymy: the pants figure in it through their association with the man’s genitals.

Three more hands-in-pants shots, one playful, two intensely sexual:


(#4) A Valentine’s Day one-hand twink image, skirting “the line between covering the genitals and revealing them and also, independently, the line between protecting the genitals and fondling them” (text from my “Up to the line” posting); an image that offers a face and a (shirtless) torso as well as a crotch, for a three-faceted display of masculinity


(#5) A very steamy two-hand hunk image (whose ultimate source I haven’t traced), another three-faceted display, with a different body type from #4, and with the crotch figuring in the composition only by suggestion


(#6) A carefully composed photograph (a Getty image by Fuse): entirely crotch-focused, with one hand in the man’s jeans, apparently fist-stroking his (not visible) penis while the other hand holds his fly open

Negligent hands. Men put their hands in their pants with sexual intent, as above; but also, of course, to urinate, or to scratch an itchy crotch, or to adjust the position of their genitals or their underwear. And also without conscious purpose, negligently, usually for reasons they can’t clearly formulate. The gestures are often associated with particular social groups,  particular presentations of self, and particular contexts, in complex ways; to some degree, men (tacitly) pick up these gestures within their (sub)cultures, in much the same way they pick up phonetic gestures associated with dialects and personas.

There’s a certain amount of popular writing that aims to explain why men engage in displays like these two (from well-known actors):


(#7) Luke Perry in Teen Beat magazine some years ago: both hands


(#8) Zac Efron (photo by Gonzalo): one hand (with some bare torso)

And not just in such very public contexts: a fair number of men, relaxing at home in jeans or underwear, rest one hand (or sometimes both) in their pants, and some put their hands in their pants without thought on more public occasions. The popular-media explanations offered for this behavior — for instance, in a Men’s Health article of 9/4/15 — are that the men are protecting their genitals; that they are warming their hands; that they find the gesture comforting (but not sexual), soothing in much the same way as a light massage (grabbing their junk is an anxiety-relieving gesture for some men); or that they are performing a display of dominance over other men.

Hands in pockets. Searching on “hands in pants” pulls up a fair number of sources about hands in pockets, a state intermediate between being outside the pants and being fully inside. As here:


(#9) Scott Disick, actor and ex-boyfriend of Kourtney Kardashian, with his hands fully in his pockets

Very often, though, the hands in pockets have their thumbs out, so they’re only partway in the pockets, and also frame the crotch:


(#10) Actor Daniel Craig, hands in pockets, thumbs out


(11) Tennis player Novak Djkovic, hands in pockets, thumbs out (also shirtless)

Hooked hands. One step further, preserving the C-shaped framing of the crotch by the hands, but with no more than a thumb in a pocket. A progression of photos of gay pornstar Dirk Caber (all shirtless):


(12) Thumbs hooked on both pockets (of trousers)


(13) One thumb hooked on a pocket, one on a waistband (of jeans)


(14) Both thumbs hooked on a waistband (of a jock strap)

And, finally, actor Victor Webster, shirtless:


(15) Both thumbs hooked on a waistband (of briefs)

None of the hooked-hands poses actually have a hand inside pants, but they do mirror hands-in-pants action from the outside of the pants — displaced gestures related to crotch grabs. As in Calvin Klein’s celebrated underwear ads featuring Marky Mark / Mark Wahlberg:


(16) Crotch grab on the left; on the right, Marky’s package framed merely by his hands at his sides

Hands in pockets are sometimes said to indicate shyness, on what evidence I do not know. Certainly, the thumbs-out variants don’t look insecure or inhibited to me. And then the hooked-hands gestures look assertive or even aggressive to me.

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