Here’s why everyone is calling hot men ‘breedable’ this summer
Summer is an undeniably horny season and, in these months of newly vaccinated debauchery after a year and a half of isolation, compliments are fittingly depraved. Thanks to a series of copypastas circulating on TikTok, Twitter, and Tumblr, this summer’s motto is “breedable.”
There is no hidden meaning in this phrasing. This isn’t youthful slang that older generations will have to Google to understand, though the word’s explicit nature may incite another round of fear-mongering articles failing to decode what teens are texting each other. When people refer to themselves or others as breedable, they literally mean so hot; they’d like to procreate.
The word breedable is ingrained in misogyny both online and offline, but a complex one in fanfiction circles, which are largely populated by queer writers and readers.
The phrase “submissive and breedable” stems from a June tweet that reads, “normalize platonically telling your bros they look submissive and breedable,” per Know Your Meme.
Though the term breedable has been used in fandom circles for years — particularly in the Omegaverse genre of fics — the tweet’s viral reach directly contributed to bringing breedable to more mainstream vernacular. Google searches for “breedable” skyrocketed after Twitter user @T4RIG encouraged complimenting other men as “submissive and breedable.” The tag #breedable has 1.8 million views on TikTok as of Tuesday.
Upon the tweet’s viral success, Twitter users — particularly in reference to male Twitter users — began referring to themselves and each other as “breedable,” “fertile,” or “submissive” as a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of desirability.
Online, people will pair a steamy thirst trap with a caption calling themselves breedable, or point out a (real or fictional) man’s attractiveness by commenting on their “fertile” qualities. The lighthearted degradation is inherently sexual.
The phrase “submissive and breedable” comes from another copypasta, which circulated online after a TikTok user captioned their video, “feelin petite right now maybe a lil vulnerable in this cardigan, perhaps breedable.” The now-deleted TikTok, which appears to be from a deactivated account that went by the name yeahthataintme, was posted as early as March 2021.
The copypasta was especially popular in stan communities, in which fans would describe photos of their favorite K-pop idols, anime characters, and other hot men as “petite and fertile, perhaps breedable.” The phrase was also used for beautiful inanimate objects, like the new line of colorful iMacs.
Sophi, a 21-year-old TikTok user who posts under the name i_am_a_toad, referenced both copypastas in a recent video. Recording herself in the mirror, Sophi said, “Feeling submissive and perhaps, even breedable, on this fine summer eve.” Her video’s sound has been used in videos by other TikTok users fawning over attractive anime characters.
For an inordinate majority of human history, “breedable” has been used to describe female herd animals. When applied to women, it’s either misogynistic, kinky, or both. The NSFW subreddits r/BreedingMaterial and r/KnockMeUp are dedicated to lewd photos of buxom women posting for those with breeding or pregnancy fetishes. Anonymous forum site 4chan is abundant with breeding kink art and debates on a woman’s worth based on her assumed ability to procreate. Unlike the kink subreddits, where users consensually post their own photos to engage with those who share their fetish, many of these 4chan discussions are explicitly misogynistic and border on pedophilic; in one 2016 thread discussing the age of consent, some users claimed that once teenage girls begin menstruating, they’re “old enough to breed.”
With access to reproductive healthcare and abortions threatened in the U.S. by restrictive conservative measures, morality and medical care are inextricably linked in pop culture. The Handmaid’s Tale‘s red cloaks and starched white bonnets — distinguishing the show’s protagonists as enslaved women who were forced to bear children for the aristocracy — are now symbols of resistance against policies restricting birth control and abortion access. The show, based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, take the concept of “breedability” to a horrifying, dystopian extreme.
Referring to non-consenting women as breedable is offensive to its core. But in this iteration of the descriptor, it’s predominantly men who are lauded as breedable, not women. Though some women online have self-identified with the phrases “breedable,” “fertile,” and “submissive” in line with the copypasta’s kink references, the bulk of its uses are applied to both real and fictional cis men.
The colloquial rise of breedable may have happened in conjunction with TikTok’s brief but spectacular obsession with the Omegaverse. The alternate universe known as the Omegaverse is a speculative erotic fiction genre that revolves around a lupine mating hierarchy that classifies characters as “Alphas,” “Betas,” and “Omegas.” Under the rules of this fictional universe, Alphas are dominant, sexually aggressive beings who can impregnate others and not be impregnated themselves, and Omegas are submissive characters who are subject to either consensual or nonconsensual impregnation during their fertile cycle known as “heat.” Betas occupy the middle of the hierarchy, but are typically left out of stories altogether. Breeding, fertility, and relationship power dynamics are at the center of these fictional stories — many revolve around characters’ insatiable need to mate and produce offspring.
What the hell is the Omegaverse, and why is it all over TikTok?
Regardless of cisgender biological functions, a character of any gender character can be categorized as Alpha, Beta, or Omega. The trope often crosses over with “mpreg,” another online subculture that imagines a universe in which male characters experience menstrual-like cycles, pregnancy, and childbirth. A majority of Omegaverse works are slash fics, which are fanfiction that focuses on same-sex romantic or sexual relationships.
Fanfiction overall revolves around male-male relationships, as University of California, Berkeley, student Yvonne Gonzales, who researches fandom and fanfiction as literature, has found. The undergrad senior analyzed data from the popular fic site Archive of Our Own (AO3) and concluded that an overwhelming majority of fanfictions posted to the site focus on male-male relationships, which she refers to as M/M.
Works on Archive of Our Own are overwhelmingly tagged for male-male relationships.
Credit: Courtesy of Yvonne Gonzales
Using an algorithm designed by Sarah Sterman and Jingyi Li, students at University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, Gonzales scraped the top 3,500 works across all fandoms sorted by “kudos,” or AO3’s version of likes, and the top 500 most recent works in four major fandoms as of June 23, 2021. She found that more than 70 percent of fics categorized as “popular” were tagged as M/M. In comparison, just over 10 percent of “popular” fics were about female-male relationships, and roughly 5 percent were tagged for female-female relationships.
And while many Omegaverse fanfictions revolve around cis men falling in love with other cis men, most fanfiction overall is not written by cis men. Modern fandom culture was born from female Star Trek fans, and is now carried by queer fan bases. In a 2018 Masters in Sociology thesis presented to Humboldt State University, Lindsay Mixer analyzed how fanfiction influenced sexual development in young adults. Of Mixer’s 1,368 survey respondents who identified as “fanfiction participants,” 73.9 percent identified as female, 6.5 percent identified as male, and 16.9 percent identified as nonbinary. Only 17.2 percent of fanfiction participants identified as heterosexual.
“The freedom given to participants of reading or writing any gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual act that they wish, without worrying about the real-world consequences of such actions, is a powerful draw,” Mixer concluded. “While it is beyond the scope of this study to state whether this form of sexually explicit material is or is not harmful, the data suggest that many young adults, queer or not, find themselves in it.”
“When queer women write M/M fanfic, they’re allowing an expression of queer desire for romance, but without all the messy politics that come with writing women having sex.”
While data alone can’t explain why M/M relationships are so popular, Gonzales theorizes it’s because the majority of fanfiction participants are queer women. The fetishization of M/M relationships in fandom circles is a complex issue, but it can’t be fairly equated to the way heterosexual men fetishize lesbian porn.
“Women aren’t allowed to accept their own desires for sex, and that’s even more stark when you’re looking at women who are also not heterosexual,” Gonzales added in an email to Mashable. “Women aren’t allowed to be horny. When queer women write M/M fanfic, they’re allowing an expression of queer desire for romance, but without all the messy politics that come with writing women having sex. It’s self expression without the weight of self reflection.”
The breedable meme is often applied to cis men in the way that queer fanfiction participants express their attraction to men. When the trend began in early spring, it was typically used by fan accounts lusting for fictional men or real life celebrities. The men first described as breedable rarely embody aspects of traditional masculinity; they appeared gentle and unthreatening. Like idealized versions of M/M relationships, these men are so popular among queer fans because they aren’t what heterosexual women are expected to be attracted to. And while the word has taken on a broader, more feral meaning to encompass any hot person, its original context is still deeply queer.
The Omegaverse fanfiction that catalyzed the spread of “breedable” as a meme provides platforms to discuss consent and power dynamics within relationships. In a 2017 paper written for the Digital Cultures Research Center at the University of West England, Milena Popova analyzed three Omegaverse fics to exemplify the ways partners with innately less power may communicate (or not communicate) their non-consent to sexual activity, and the discussions that followed the fics’ publications. Popova wrote that the fics “clearly problematize issues of power and consent” and more importantly, “offer ways of negotiating meaningful, consensual intimate relationships within wider abusive social structures.”
Despite Omegaverse and mpreg fics opening the door for larger discussions of consent, the meme itself, out of context, also makes way for non-consensual interactions online.
Fanfiction is celebrated as an outlet for exploring one’s sexuality and gender expression, but the “breedable” trope also exposes people to harassment from those who don’t understand the context, particularly those who aren’t cis men. In very online fandom circles, referring to men as breedable is a subversive acknowledgment of their physical appeal. When applied to women, and taken out of context, it’s fodder for unwelcome interactions because of the word’s misogynistic associations.
Sonj, a TikTok user known as shishkabubba, described herself as “3’11 and breedable” in a now-deleted TikTok. Her original video parodied a TikTok trend in which adult women infantilized themselves by filming from a high angle so they appeared smaller, and dancing to a song from the Disney short Small Potatoes. The song is meant for children, and sung by children.
In a Twitter DM, Sonj explained that her parody was meant to criticize the straight men who fetishize childlike qualities and the women catering to that by sexualizing themselves when they participated in this trend.
The first wave of TikTok users who watched Sonj’s video understood the trend she was trying to critique, as well as the trope she referenced. The second wave, however, did not, and used it to justify harassing her under the pretext of kink.
“I’m honestly not sure it was the best way to do it but because the sound was used by girls infantilizing themselves, I thought saying ‘I’m 3’11 and breedable’ was kind of an exaggeration of what they were doing,” Sonj told Mashable in a Twitter DM. “Specifically because the men in their comments were finding it really cute — sexualizing childlike qualities, almost.”
Sonj ultimately took it down because of the “huge inflow of men being extremely inappropriate.” Without the context of the word’s popularity in fandom circles, some viewers though Sonj was using breedable either in its traditionally derogatory sense, or as an invitation to those with breeding kinks.
Even as the word is taking off as internet vernacular, breedable is still associated with uncomfortable values. If you’re going to openly thirst online, brace yourself for the potential wave of unsavory comments. Regardless of the word’s history, though, you’re likely to see “submissive and breedable” hornyposting throughout the rest of the summer, thanks to fandom circles and their unrelenting affection for slash ships.