Some years back, my best friend and I went through a brief but intense obsession with Supernatural, the soapy, long-running CW show in which two kind of dumb but extremely hot brothers (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) team up to battle (and occasionally sex up) demons, ghosts and any number of other mythical baddies. The series is filmed in Vancouver, B.C., which means that wherever a given episode happens to be set, the hot hottie protagonists are pretty much always bundled in layer upon layer of denim and flannel.
As a result, much of the fun of watching the show lay in waiting for an errant flash of skin. If my bff and I did get so lucky, our prize was rarely a rippling set of abs or even a bulging bicep—typically it was nothing but an attractive forearm, modestly revealed by a rolled-up plaid sleeve.
In one blessed episode, the brothers get themselves sent to prison in order to root out a murderous cell-block spirit, and the orange jumpsuits they wear as inmates have short sleeves, revealing several inches of above-the-elbow flesh. But more often than not, it’s forearms only, flannel sleeves pushed up to show the brothers mean business. Who can say how many times one of us texted the other a screenshot accompanied only by the words, “FORE.ARMS.”?
We’re far from alone in our fervent enthusiasm for a part of the male anatomy generally deemed innocuous. Consider, for example, the highly popular subreddit r/forearmporn/, which is not in fact porn but just a bunch of guys posting photos of their forearms for the benefit of women and others who happen to enjoy pleasing, SFW masculine visuals.
So I was surprised yesterday when The New York Times asked, “Should a Man Roll Up His Sleeves?” Of course a man should roll up his sleeves, I thought. Every man should roll up his sleeves. (Except, of course, Paul Ryan, the Times’ nominal news peg, whose arms are so unappealing they should be considered a pre-existing condition.)
But I’m a journalist, and journalists don’t just take our own opinions for granted. We investigate. So I conducted an extremely representative and scientific survey of my immediate social circle to figure out what, exactly, makes that flash of forearm so dang distracting.
It’s casual. Unlike the tank-top-clad gym bro or the shirtless Tinder dude, the man who pushes up his sleeves isn’t trying to be sexy — or, at least, he doesn’t come off that way. He just happens to be airing out his wrist region. Oh, did you notice?
“I don’t know why this is so much better than short sleeves (because Lorde knows I like upper arms too), but something about the exposed forearms feels like a treat or like a nice surprise,” my friend Mary* says. “I feel extremely Victorian saying that, like, ‘Ooo look at that exposed ankle,’ except it’s 2017 and I’m talking about men’s forearms.”
The casual element also means it’s easy to ogle the male brachioradialis in a circumspect way. “I stare at them when they hold the subway pole,” Anne admits. (Way to utilize that commute time wisely.)
It’s functional. The pushed-up sleeve is all about getting shit done, and that’s exactly what makes the forearm so appealing. “Forearms aren’t a typical ‘glamour muscle,’ so they suggest useful strength in a way that, say, big biceps don’t,” Liz M. says. “A guy with big biceps looks great, sure, but a guy with big forearms can make bread or fix my car or build me a log cabin or some shit.”
Turns out women love to watch a man with nice forearms do, well, pretty much anything (except destroy the Affordable Care Act). My friend Stefa, known for her longtime crush on Martha Stewart’s gardener, says his sexual magnetism stems from his functional forearms: “His strong hands and forearms, so gentle with the plants….” (If you’re reading this, Ryan, call Stefa N.)
And Liz N. says she’s watched this 30-minute instructional video about bike cleaning “at least eight times.” Girl, you know how to clean your own bike by now. No matter:
Sure, the velocipede enthusiast in the video is a super-skinny dude with super-skinny arms, but plenty of women are into that! Women such as Liz, who’s gone ahead and saved a number of screencaps from the video to her Google Drive.
Yes, there’s a forearm for every woman, and a woman for every forearm — or, you know, every set of them, anyway. Which brings me to the final and perhaps most important piece of the forearm’s allure.
It’s universal. “Carry me through the field and take me in the back of your pickup,” as Steph puts it, is indeed the ultimate forearm fantasy. But the truth is that every man has nice forearms, even if he couldn’t haul my decidedly unwaiflike bod five feet across his fluorescent-lit cubicle. All forearms (except Paul Ryan’s) are hot — hairy or smooth, pale or dark, thin or fat or muscular, doesn’t matter — and all men so fortunate as to possess a pair can engage in some of the activities that best display them.
“The best is when they’ve rolled up their sleeves to knead bread,” Anna says. “Can’t watch that without picturing their hands working me.”
Other lust-inducing ways to deploy the power of the flexor carpi radialis? “Holding a baby,” Meg says. “I don’t even like babies!”
Rieke: “Handing me some coffee, snuggling a cat. Unfolding a newspaper. Moving heavy objects. Uncorking wine bottles.”
Dennie: “Writing on a chalkboard gets the number-one slot. Honorable mentions: lifting a heavy bag or writing in a notebook.”
And MEL Staff Writer Tracy Moore just wants to see a guy wear a watch nicely: “I think it’s a proportion thing, the balance between the wrist and the forearm and the rolled-up shirt… It’s one of the first things I notice.”
Honestly, a man can even sit there doing nothing and still look pretty with his pretty forearms, as long as he’s put in the effort to display them. “[Today I attended] a meeting in which my boss’s boss, who I secretly find VERY attractive, rolled up his sleeves to expose his hairy, muscular, tanned forearms and I haven’t gotten ONE THING done since,” Liz M. admits.
So as summer approaches and temperatures rise, it’s time to roll up those sleeves, flash a little wrist and make a woman’s day. Hell, roll them up year-round. Even if it’s winter. Even if you’re filming a cheesy television show in frigid British Columbia. It’s the right thing to do.
*All first names and initials are real; last names have been withheld to protect the privacy of the extremely thirsty.