TubeCrush Connected Intimacies
Total value of project
- Dr Adrienne Evans, Coventry University
- Professor Sarah Riley, Massey University, New Zealand
Duration of project
01/05/17 - 31/01/2019
The TubeCrush as Connected Intimacies project aimed to explore the website TubeCrush, which allows people to take and share unsolicited images of attractive men on the London Underground. From this website, the project sought to study how such a practice is shaped by desire, digital culture, masculinity, and the urban space of the major financial city of London.
We enacted in a ‘mobile methodology’, following TubeCrush on and offline. The research conducted included a sustained analysis of the TubeCrush website, alongside Tube-based interviews with TubeCrush users and people who had been photographed and posted onto TubeCrush, and an interview with the TubeCrush founder. A significant amount of data was produced through the project featuring in The Daily Mail, which created substantial discussion in the comments section (2,400 comments). In addition, the project followed TubeCrush along lines of wider social issues, including: feminist activism and uses of public space (e.g. #manspreading); antifeminist sentiment and accounts of ‘reverse sexism’; concerns with privacy and non-consensual image capture; and emotion (especially desire) in large, urban and busy spaces. To conceptualize our understanding of TubeCrush, we theorized the creation of a ‘postfeminist intimate public’, where attractions to particular ideals of masculinity are shared as insider knowledge. Empirical evidence for this included material collected from the project website, where a dominant feature of the men appearing on TubeCrush is their adherence to normative notions of desirable masculinity, i.e. white, wealthy, abled bodied, and often either wearing a suit or on the way to the gym. The project has understood this in the context of both the problematizing of financial masculinities in the ‘era of austerity’, and the critique of ‘masculine strength’ by the feminist movement. Thus, the research we have conducted has suggested that TubeCrush neutralizes the politics of men’s image, especially through humor. A further line of inquiry in the project has been developed in line with current directions in human geography, especially given the interaction between digital culture, the on and offline and the urban space of the Tube for enabling the taking and sharing of non-consensual image capture.
The project concluded with an end of award event, where different lines of inquiry in the TubeCrush project were tied to other academic research to create a wider network of ideas. The end of award event included research on: social media and selfies; the mobile phone as an object of comfort; nomadic methodology; and research on women’s experience of advertising in public space (including on the Tube). In addition, the event incorporated two workshops: 1) Lego Serious Play, with models on gendered experiences in public space, and 2) an open café discussion on future research directions/collaborations.
- How do TubeCrush users make sense of the platform as part of their work, social and private lives?
- How does the ‘fleeting moment’ challenge and reinforce gendered and sexual constructs of intimacy? How is technology implicated in this?
- How do people account for the connections and alienations of these mediated intimacies?
The project has helped to develop understandings of desire, sharing practices, intimacies in public spaces, and anti-feminist sentiment in the public’s engagement with feminist research. Specifically, knowledge has been advanced through:
Conceptual knowledge: The notion of the ‘postfeminist intimate public’ offers an innovative and creative application of theory by brining together work on a postfeminist sensibility with the idea of the intimate public (Evans & Riley, 2018a). This theoretical development has allowed us to demonstrate how spaces like TubeCrush represents a shoring up of masculine hegemony by focusing desire on strength, urbanity, financial wealth and whiteness. The account provided by a postfeminist intimate public is important in making sense of the permanence of normative, desirable masculinity. This permanence is despite seismic changes gender relations and the wider recognition of non-heterosexual sexualities.
Methodological knowledge: The project has treated TubeCrush as an assemblage, where we have paid attention to the multiple facets of TubeCrush as existing through an assemblage. We have imaginatively used the metaphor of the map of the London Underground a way to visualise this assemblage. Thus, the map of the London Underground has allowed us to envisage the project’s interconnected themes and our own travelling through the project.
Societal impact: The project received a wide range of press coverage, including pieces in the Daily Mail (both online and in print), Evening Standard, The Sun, The Independent in the UK, by life-style oriented media such as Men’s Fitness and Pink News, and coverage internationally, in Nigeria, Singapore and America. We were interviewed by a number of journalists, including the Evening Standard and for a segment on BBC Wales. This coverage demonstrates a high level of public engagement in the work and that the topic of the project is publically salient – for example, the article on the Daily Mail online received 22k shares and 2.4k comments.
In addition, a non-academic audience has been reached by participation in the British Academy’s public talks on ‘Utopia or Dystopia – Imagining Futures’. Non-academic interest has also been evident in our own social media accounts, and engagement with TubeCrush-related Tweets has been high, especially where TubeCrush themselves re-tweeted content.
- Evans, A. and Riley, S. (2020) The righteous outrage of post-truth anti-feminism: An analysis of feminist research in and of public space. European Journal of Cultural Studies,
- Evans, A. and Riley, S. (2018) “He’s a total TubeCrush”: post-feminist sensibility as intimate publics. Feminist Media Studies, 18(6): 996-1011
- Evans, A. and Riley, S. (2018) “This dapper hotty is working that tweed look”: Extending workplace affects on TubeCrush. In Dobson, A. Carah, N. and Robards, B. (Eds.) Digital Intimate Publics. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
- TubeCrush as Connected Intimacies. Digital Subjectivity and Mediated Intimacy, Coventry University, 22nd – 23rd November 2018.
- "Wowzers this handsome chap is looking super sexy”: public transport, intimate alienation and #tubecrush, Postdigital Intimacies Symposium, 19th July 2018.
- “The feminist lobby would get their plain knickers in a twist”: TubeCrush and gender politics in transit. Console-ing Passions, Bournemouth University, 11th – 13th July 2018.
- TubeCrush and the intimacy of public transport, digitized. Online Intimacies, Intimacies Online, Roskilde University, Denmark 30th May -1st June, 2018.
- Researching gender on the move: TubeCrush as postfeminist intimate publics, European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, KU Leuven University, Belgium, 7th – 9th February, 2018.
- The project was also discussed as an example in: Methods, Gender and Hope: A Blueprint for Social Science, International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, USA, 16th – 19th May 2018.
- Riley, S., Evans, A. and Robson, M. (2018) On outrage and images of attractive men. Beauty Demands,
- Evans, A. (2014) TubeCrush: Privacy, Sexism and Consent in the Digital Age, The Cost of Living blog post http://www.cost-ofliving.net/tubecrush-privacy-sexism-and-consent-in-the-digital-age/.