Why Men Are ‘Rawdogging’ Flights

Everyone has their own tricks for staving off boredom on a long-haul flight. Some people load up on podcast episodes, others power through the available in-flight entertainment. But no one simply sits, staring silently at the real-time flight map on the screen in front of them, for the entirety of a trip. Right? Wrong. A small group of hardy men—the gender that brought you frat hazing and Logan Paul—are now doing exactly that, and for a variety of surprisingly solid reasons.

A 26-year-old Londoner named West (who asked to use only his first name) went viral in May when he posted about his decision to forgo any entertainment and pass a seven-hour trip watching the flight map. “Anyone else bareback flights?” he asked in the caption.

The concept—referred to in a vivid and perhaps unfortunate parlance as “rawdogging,” “flying raw,” and “bareback”—resonated with many in the comments on West’s TikTok page, @WestWasHere. “Yup, from London to Miami this week…pure bareback no food or water,” one wrote. “I swear barebacking flights make it go quicker,” another added.

“I’ve got DMs on Instagram like, ‘Bro, you need to teach us how to bareback flights,’” West tells GQ.

“I am a nervous flier and generally cannot focus on anything on a plane—movies, TV shows, books, articles, whatever—with any success,” says Luke Winkie, a 33-year-old staff writer at Slate, who has used the flight map as his only in-flight entertainment for years. “For some reason I don’t like processing new information when I’m in the air. I want to stick to things that are predictable and safe.”

For West, who has since posted multiple videos from his raw flights (including his longest, a 21-hour slog from London to Perth, Australia), the practice simply resulted from how much he has to travel for his work in the music industry. “I got sick of watching the same movies,” he says. West likens flying raw to meditation. “Visually, you are kind of impaired. You only get to look at the seat in front of you, to your right or left if you’re at the window. All you hear is that drumming sound of the engine. It’s just white noise.”

But West and others have also come to see rawdogging flights as a kind of challenge, like the Tough Mudder or No Nut November, the goal being to see how fully participants can deprive themselves of creature comforts, up to and including free snack and drinks and even bathroom visits. A true rawdogger takes no indulgences.

West says that the women who have commented on his videos are usually doing so to express shock. Taking flights raw seems to be a “masculine thing,” he says. “Everything’s about looking cool. Most guys embrace it as a joke or like, ‘We are so hard. David Goggins has nothing on us.’”

Winkie agrees. “I don’t think men have the same ‘treat culture’ that women do, which is frankly a shame,” he says. “A long flight, for women, is the perfect venue to organize an entire itinerary of treats, and I do think men tend to be more stoic and weird about the spaces in which they allow themselves to receive pleasure.”

Still, West says that a recent trip from London from Bali (20 hours) taught him that there are benefits to rawdogging beyond its meditative nature. His best ideas, he says, have come from the time spent locked into the flight map, just thinking. “I’m there like, Oh, we’re flying over Afghanistan. Oh, we’re going at 36,000 feet instead of 37,” he says. “Or like, Oh, I think that’s a good idea as a new series on my TikTok.” The experience left him refreshed. “When I saw my mom [upon landing], she was like, ‘You have so much energy,’” he recalls. “And I’m like, I feel fine. I feel recharged. I feel like I’ve been able to have time to myself.”

The last benefit may be the most significant: Everyone else leaves you alone. West recalls how a man who was seated next to him in a middle aisle opted to squeeze past two people on his other side rather than disturb West. “He must have been like, ‘I do not want to bother him right now,’” West says with a laugh. “‘He’s locked into this altitude.’”

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