“Hot Dudes Reading” Instagram Reverses the Male Gaze and Makes Print Books Sexy

Scattered throughout the history of Western art, one finds dozens of portraits of girls reading. In this popular pose, the male (or female) artist’s gaze focuses on the female subject, while her own gaze rests modestly on her book, unaware of the watcher. Now, a self-described “group of tight-knit friends” has reversed that classic male gaze — along with the troubling trend that has people turning away from reading books on the train in favor of screens.

girl, reading

And they’ve done it all with one canny Instagram account: @hotdudesreading.

Noticing that they were “constantly falling in love on our subway commutes,” the creators began their Instagram account “on a lark as something to do on a snowy day.” The public enthusiasm over the resulting project — which now boasts nearly 370,000 followers, after just 27 posts — is enough to make you put down your electronic device and lift your eyes, scanning your mode of public transportation for that perfect reading partner of whatever gender suits your fancy.

Flavorwire asked the collective a few burning questions on behalf of the reading — and romance-loving — public.

Flavorwire: Surely part of what people are responding to in Hot Dudes Reading is that the type of person who reads a big, thick book on the subway is an endangered species in the age of the ebook. What do you see as the appeal of someone reading on the subway? How does it spark the erotic imagination?

Hot Dudes Reading: We live in a world where people are constantly plugged into the digital world, so seeing someone unplug for a bit and read the old-fashioned way is a rarity that is innately appealing. Specifically for New Yorkers (or anyone living in a city where mass transit is a prerequisite), you’re packed into a car with a bunch of strangers. When you so happen to find one attractive, it’s natural to wonder a bit about their story.

Where are the hottest books you’ve seen dudes reading? Are there patterns emerging for various train lines?

We’ve noticed certain patterns, like bearded hipsters are a dime a dozen on the L, and the Wall Street types dominate the 4/5/6, but there are hot guys reading all over this city. We love capturing the different types regardless of the line.

Seriously, though, where are you finding these people with physical books? Are they all from 2010? 

The pictures are actually all current! We take the photos on our various daily commutes, but lately we’ve definitely found ourselves taking the scenic route. Once you start to take notice, you’d be surprised at how many times you’ll stumble across a hot guy with a book.

Would you like to see Tinder or Match make an online dating app that focuses squarely on what people read?

That’s a great idea — whom do we talk to? But seriously, even though the saying goes “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” there’s a lot to be said about a person based on what they’re reading — it gives you of insight into who they are.

Is the ability to talk about a book together the first sign of true love — or at least a way to light a spark?

It certainly helps. Especially if you make that discovery early on in dating. It gives you something to talk about other than the formulaic “what do you do? How long have you lived here?” etc. Everyone has specific tastes and book preferences — to find commonality with someone on that level is always a plus and can tell you so much about them.

What is your take on Bradley Cooper reading Lolita to Suki Waterhouse in a Parisian park? What kind of hashtags would you use to discuss this phenomenon?

We prefer to think of Bradley as ours, so this was probably just research for a role. As for hashtags: #methodacting #lifeimitatingart.