Gay Men and Body Image: The Internal Battle For Visibility

Published: December 15, 2014

Steve Williams
Original Article:

If we were to define gay men by what is currently on television at the moment, we would mostly find overtly pretty white gay men of slim to athletic build and abs a-plenty.

It has to be said, however, that the community itself as a collective tends to identify certain body types as acceptable while others are not. We might assume that the divide is easy: gay men should look muscular and athletic. They should be well groomed and have low body fat. These are often the kinds of gay men we see represented on the front of gay-interest magazines and even in cinema and shows targeting gay men. However, it might be surprising to hear that while certainly those with power in the community may push that aesthetic (possibly because it is their aesthetic or the one they find attractive), the divide isn’t as neat as that.

Anyone with even a mild interest in so-called gay culture will be aware of the various nicknames gay men give to certain bodytypes: bears, (the slightly derogatory) muscle queens, otters, jocks, twinks, and other variations that describe particular traits or interests. Of itself, these labels are largely harmless. However, the tropes can and have at times become weapons.

For instance, there are some gay men who actively rebel against the “muscle” aesthetic and label those who have spent time in the gym as preening and frivolous. On the other side of the coin, there are those who say men who don’t have abs are not attractive because they are “too fat,” as though anyone over 10 percent body fat is guilty of a cardinal sin and is doomed to die alone.

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