This article integrates critical gerontology and masculinities theories to examine how midlife gay and heterosexual men experience their bodies in relation to cultural discourses of aging. Analyses of in-depth interviews with 15 gay and 15 heterosexual men ages 40-60 reveal that while both groups of men describe their bodies as deteriorating or declining in terms of functionality and are often distressed by these changes, midlife gay men also articulate a concern with a perceived decline in bodily appearance. Both gay and heterosexual midlife men frame their bodies as fundamentally different from women’s, possibly in an attempt to protect a masculine identity in response to the threat that aging bodies pose to that identity. We argue that midlife men’s embodied experiences are shaped by a discourse of midlife decline as well as inequalities between gay and heterosexual men. We also discuss the implications of embodiment for midlife men’s well-being.
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