Chopping out toxic masculinity one log at a time

Jayde Atchison (she/her) // Opinions Editor
Valentina Kruglikovskaya (she/they) // Illustrator

When the world shut down, the masses turned to TikTok for an escape from the unprecedented reality that surrounded them. The algorithm brought content that made people laugh, cry, or in some cases drool. Beautiful people that were previously unknown began to cater to the desires their viewers may not have previously known they craved. BDSM point of views, posting glow-up transitions while lip-syncing seductively, or in Thoren Bradley’s case—looking good while chopping wood.

Bradley was no stranger to the struggles that came with the new way of existing when the pandemic hit. While working as a NCAA strength and conditioning coach, he experienced mistreatment from the higher-ups in the university he worked at. Instead of choosing to pursue his PhD in exercise physiology, he decided to step away from the higher education system and build a life on his own terms.

Growing up conventionally attractive, Bradley never struggled with self-confidence when it came to his looks. However, there always seemed to be an assumption about who he was upon first glance.

“When people looked at me, [they] thought they had me figured out before we had even spoken. It haunted me everywhere I went—I always felt like people were passing judgement or making assumptions about who they knew I was before I even talked,” said Bradley.

Having the feeling that people weren’t taking him seriously inspired him to pursue a career as a professor in order to prove to people that he was also an intelligent person. Walking away from the academic world was hard, as he felt like that was no longer a part of his identity.

Social media marketing shortly became the new way he began to showcase his intelligence. Bradley figured out what the masses wanted to see, and knew he could sell his brand with eye-catching content.

The 32-year-old had his first video go viral in February of 2020, in which he can be seen flipping chicken on his outdoor grill, shirtless with a great view in the background. The comments ranged from blatantly admiring his looks to trying to guess the ingredients used in his food. In the early stages of the app, TikTok did not pay its creators. However, Bradley did have a sponsor that saw his quick and substantial media growth and offered him $1,000 a month to promote their product. This combined with his personal fitness app, he felt he had the financial space to figure things out.

Deciding how to draw in viewers wasn’t difficult for Bradley, as chopping wood is a regular occurrence in his life. His home uses a wood stove as its primary heat source. He didn’t have to change his lifestyle in order to create content that people wanted to see.
“There is so much of my persona and personality that I could share that would be interesting, but I’m just going to stay within the pocket of things that are easiest for me to film,” explained Bradley.
While many influencers may be looking for a moment in the limelight, Bradley tries to stay away from it. When one of his videos hits a hyper-viral level of viewership, he often feels exposed and anxious. “You know when you have a cavity and it hurts to drink cold water? That’s kind of how it feels…I never wanted or needed all of this attention, I did it out of necessity to get out of a career path that wasn’t working for me, so it’s been a necessary evil.”
He may not enjoy the feeling of videos that reach near the 10 million mark, he feels happy when others find success through his videos. He watches users with a small following duet his ‘thirst trap’ content and have a boom in their viewership or following. Realizing that his videos help bring comfort to others through monetary gain makes him happy.
To some, masculinity means taking control, puffing up your chest and showing bravado. To Bradley, masculinity means providing someone an arena to do what they want to do, safely. “The most genuinely masculine moment of my life was allowing my wife the space to do whatever the hell she wanted to do for a living.”
Having a page where many people are admiring one’s physical attributes could easily put a strain on a relationship, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Bradley’s marriage. He advocates for total transparency, shared decision making, and ensuring she is included in every part of the process.
“If there’s a business opportunity, it’s a no if she’s not allowed to be involved. If they won’t fly her, I’m not going to leave her. The whole reason I started doing this was to be independent so I could spend more time with my loved ones—I’m not going to go backwards now.”
What began as an advertisement to draw people into the real Bradley, turned into a realization that the videos were opening up a dialogue about the things that turn viewers on, or what they’re attracted to, in a way that people haven’t always been able to speak about openly.
However, with sexually appealing content comes flak from many viewers. Bradley will often post videos replying to angry viewers firing back against toxic masculinity and trolls putting the videos and viewers down. An observation of not only social media, but society as a whole, Bradley points out the attempt to dismiss anything that women enjoy.
“It’s an attempt to shame what women are interested in,” said Bradley. “[Men] have to find something to reduce the value of whatever the content is, or else the bar continues to be raised.”
Utilizing his physical and intellectual strengths in the ‘ThirstTok’ sphere, Bradley has created opportunities for the kind of freedom that he wants. Between reviewing axes, workout drinks and splitting wood in the forest, Bradley shuts down the toxic comments through insightful replies.
“I wonder how different our consumer culture would look if things were put out there based on ‘women will support it if you put it out there’ versus ‘how are men going to take this when we produce it?’”

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