Please Stop Hypersexualizing Harry Styles


Styles is receiving a lot more criticism than adoration from fans this year. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Rolling Stone crowned Harry Styles the new king of pop. The New York Times referred to Styles as this summer’s pop prince. Styles is the first man to ever grace the cover of Vogue solo, appearing in a controversial dress in the magazine’s December 2020 issue. 

His career is thriving. The beloved musician released “Harry’s House,” his third studio album, in May 2022. All 42 dates of his Love on Tour shows were sold out. Scraps from cheap feather boas slither down the streets surrounding Madison Square Garden early in the morning, reminders of Styles and his fans’ presence. 

But lately, Styles is receiving a lot more criticism than adoration. This year alone, Styles has faced angry responses since Rolling Stone unsolicitedly swore him in as the new king of pop after music legends like Michael Jackson. There are even theories that Styles is secretly bald and just a big fan of wigs. 

Longtime fans of the singer are also worried about his performance in “Don’t Worry Darling,” suggesting that Styles should stick to singing. The film has circulated a fair share of drama surrounding his involvement and his public relationship with “Don’t Worry Darling” director Olivia Wilde. 

Most serious of all, though, are the queerbaiting accusations being launched at Styles. It is easy to draw a connection between fans’ queerbaiting accusations and Styles’ recent interview with Rolling Stone titled “How Harry Styles Became the World’s Most Wanted Man,” a reference to the intense, adoring nature of Styles’ fans. However, the article leaves fans wondering if Rolling Stone was attempting to make Styles the most wanted man in a less endearing, more accusatory way. 

Styles opened up to Rolling Stone about his budding acting career, revealing that as a child, he loved participating in theater productions. He discussed his role in “Don’t Worry Darling,” but he also touched on “My Policeman,” in which Styles plays a 1950s policeman named Tom who develops feelings for a man, but must hide his sexuality. 

Styles spoke about the intimate nature of the film, saying, “It’s not like ‘This is a gay story about these guys being gay,’” and “So much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it.” 

These quotes sparked a strong reaction from the internet, some going the route of humor and making memes about Styles discovering that gay sex includes “guys being gay.” But Styles’ comments also upset a large part of the LGBTQ+ community and led to accusations of queerbaiting. 

To understand if Styles is guilty of queerbaiting, we have to understand what queerbaiting is. 

There is little consensus on the exact definition of queerbaiting. According to, queerbaiting “refers to the practice of implying non-heterosexual relationships or attraction (in a TV show, for example) to engage or attract an LGBTQ audience.” This is often used as a marketing technique to entice gay individuals to consume certain media without actually discussing gay relationships. 

So, does Styles create these rumors that he is gay? Certainly, there is no denying the fact that these rumors exist. There has long been speculation from Styles’ fanbase about his sexuality, with a substantial portion of the One Direction fanbase attempting to find proof of a gay relationship between Styles and former band member Louis Tomlinson

It is impossible to know for sure if Styles spurred these rumors. Perhaps his public relations team thought it would be good for his branding and sent rumors to the tabloids, but this idea is far-fetched, especially considering that Styles has said that he is uncomfortable by these rumors

However, Styles has done nothing to discourage these rumors, and this is what makes it difficult to take the possibility of queerbaiting off the table. Styles teases fans about his sexuality, planting Easter eggs connected to gay icons in his concerts. He wears flowers pinned to his lapel like Oscar Wilde and has a quote from the proudly out George Michael tattooed across his feet. 

The problem with berating Styles for queerbaiting is the idea that queerbaiting involves harming and profiting from the gay community. It is clear that Styles makes a large profit from his song and album sales and from his sold-out tours, but fans loved Styles long before he danced on stage with pride flags and dressed in leather and rhinestones. Fans have loved Styles since he was a shy teenager on The X Factor U.K. 

More importantly, Styles is not harming the gay community. He is not propagating gay stereotypes or using harmful language. If anything, he is encouraging more conversation about the spectrum of sexuality and trying to keep his sex life private. In the same Rolling Stone interview that spurred all of this online criticism, Styles explains that one of the main things he works on in therapy is shame– the shame he feels from having his sex life publicly scrutinized for the majority of his teenage and adult life. 

This is the real problem at hand. People are too comfortable hypersexualizing Styles. There are tons of articles from various media sources trying to pin down Styles’ sexuality. But it’s not just the media who are hyper focused on Styles’ sexuality. There are endless conspiracy theories about Styles dating other men, with videos zooming in and analyzing every touch and every word said. There are fans who dedicate entire accounts in the attempt to expose Styles’ relationships. 

Then, there are the aggressive reactions from fans anytime Styles is reported to be dating a woman, the latest target being Wilde. There are few women on the internet right now less liked than Wilde, with a clear start date of these attacks being when the relationship was first rumored. 

These attacks are not just based on the “Don’t Worry Darling” drama or the age gap between Styles and Wilde, but countless videos making fun of Wilde’s body, outfits and face. Despite a large demographic of Styles’ fanbase being women, his fans seem more than comfortable body-shaming and insulting the women dating Styles.

We cannot address the queerbaiting rumors at hand without acknowledging that Styles is a victim of his own fanbase, a pop star who has been hypersexualized since he was a teenager. Styles has been lovingly labeled a “ladies’ man” and someone who is into older women. Yet, this label emerges from Styles dating Caroline Flack when she was in her 30s and he was just 17 years old. This was a relationship that would have been criticized for grooming if it was anyone but Styles. 

Fans are way too comfortable talking about Styles’ sexuality. It is dehumanizing and unsettling. However far our generation may think we have come in gender and sex issues, Styles’ treatment by fans is proof that there is work left to be done. Stop talking about Styles’ sexuality and please stop posting about it. He is quite literally begging us to. 

Taylor Herzlich, FCRH ’23, is a journalism major and English minor from Mt. Sinai, N.Y.