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Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006, 12:27 am
OUT

When I want to connet to "gay culture," I always pick up lesbian magazines. I don't read publications like OUT, where page after page consists of full-page photographs of six packs and bulging pecs and perfectly molded hair. I visit political and social events rather than dance clubs where half-naked men are rubbing against each other, toned bodies appearing perfect in the dim, angled light. I hate websites like connexion.org where hundreds of profiles consist of unnatural and self-posed bodies, heads cut off, looking as ideal as possible in the glow of yellowed bathroom incandescent lightbulbs.

It's not that I identify more with lesbians or refuse to associate with gay men. It's not that I don't think dance clubs can be fun or that there is no value in the ideal human form. It's not that I am a monogamy-only puritan who loathes sexual adventure or nudity. To the contrary, I am as sexually liberal as reason permits and believe that any consensual, safe encounter is wholesome. And it isn't that I have a problem with porn. I love porn. Porn is about having something to do when you're lonely, it's raw and dirty and isn't trying to say something.

Advertisements and profiles clearly have a message. They're asking you to do something, besides jack off in front of a computer screen. And I ask myself, what is that advertisement really saying with that picture, and what are the boys in the dance club really doing when they prance around with their chests out and oogle at each others' crotches? What is the nineteen year old really trying to say when his profile picture consists of a bare chest, low-rise jeans, flexed abs and no face?

When I see those stunning bodies spread across the page, dopamine triggers fire in my brain and my heart quickens. Whether or not I am physically aroused, my mental stimulation kicks up a notch and I enjoy what I see. But the problem is that the overriding feeling I get is not lust or joy, but JEALOUSY.

My body doesn't look like any of those images on that page. I'll never look like that, and I'll never have anyone who looks like that. Hell, the models don't even look like the the images on the page. Sometimes I think, if only I worked out more, ate more protein, I would look that good. That's how powerful the message is - it makes me want to change my entire lifestyle for something absolutely meaningless in the end. This is how we all feel, so we all, in our angst, try so hard to replicate in ourselves and our partners what we see in the impossible forms in gay male media.

So back to the question: when an entire magazine consists of images of only the most glossy, muscular, and romantacized men, and when boys pose themselves like mannequins on personal websites, what are they really trying to say?

I'm seeing someone right now, and he's not perfect. When I saw him the first time I didn't think to myself shit, look at that bulge. (I would have been intimidated if I had.) When I run my hands across his body I don't feel ripping, sinewy flesh or perfectly waxy skin. But I can say with utter certainly that I am every bit as attracted to him as I am to those images, and it isn't because of what he is but the because of the way I know him. He makes me smile. He makes me sweat. I look into his big blue eyes and he's gorgeous, and his smile melts me. He is as perfect as anything I could ever ask for and I feel no need to think of any more "ideal" form when I am with him. Why pollute my mind browsing through images of what I can never have, when there is something so goddamn beautiful in front of me? Why pollute my mind with something that gives me initial gratification and desire but ultimate unhappiness?

So I look through lesbian magazines to see what's going on. Somehow, women understand something that men don't, probably because they've been objectified for thousands of years while men are only beginning to experience the phoenomenon. Lesbian magazines show real, normal, beautiful women and don't say "this is what you should have." I see no point in looking for the perfect sex encounter when I'll have the perfect person sleeping next to me tonight.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 08:25 am (UTC)
forsberg21

Wow, interesting post. I've never thought of that. Actually, I've never looked at a gay men's magazine, nor have I see a gay women's magazine, though in discussions with my aunt, who's lesbian, it seems to go with what you say.

I think the gay guy friends I have are difficult to speak to sometimes because they seem to embody some of the shallow attitude even when they aren't dealing with gay people. Although a gay man is a girl's second best friend, it's just a little too much at times. Not even straight girls like the über-ripped boys all the time. Just remember, though, that those ultra-attractive models are used to sell things... and to me, the cold, ever-changing world of advertising doesn't exemplify the real beauty of the world.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 09:22 am (UTC)
larrysphatpage: Re: OUT

Amen, brother.

You have put to words, in the most eloquent way I have ever seen, the frustration that the 90% of us gay men who don't meet the so-called "standards" of "perfect" feel and deal with all the time. IMO, every gay boy/man ought to read this and heed its lesson.

In fact, to that end, I'm going to place a link to this update on the main page of the "Being Gay" section of my web site (http://www.phatpage.org/gay.html), with a short explanatory blurb there, unless you object -- I think this is that important for a lot of people to be reading.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)
pizzuti: Re: OUT

lol ok. Thanks for the link.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 12:31 pm (UTC)
theyare45

'when an entire magazine consists of images of only the most glossy, muscular, and romantacized men, and when boys pose themselves like mannequins on personal websites, what are they really trying to say?'

well - it's obvious.

'fuck me [or let me fuck you] and give me your money.'

or one might say 'bless you, curse you, it's all the same.'

i once interviewed for a job at the parent company that publishes Out (not a job working on the magazine). i went to their building a number of times. flipping through the issues in the lobby, waiting for my first-second-third-fourth interview (and naw i didn't get the job), it was pretty obvious to me that said magazine was aimed largely at women. mostly at straight women. but who really really wants to ogle boys? some boys yeah, and a lot of those boys are beautifully girlish at heart, but mostly, in my experience, it's the girl who wants to see the kind of image you're describing.

just think about slash fiction. or, god, xy magazine, a publication obviously aimed mostly at straight teenage girls.

and as a dykey girl, it's xy i buy - not Out (barf), but not Bitch or On Our Backs either. i could say it's as simple as 'gender reversal' - that i want to see the pretty boy objectified, not the pretty girl - but there is more to it than that.

we who lick your images apologize for our conscious exploitation of you.

is that enough? probably not, but try getting someone at Playboy to say that.

love you, math+

ps- 'be yourself'

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 08:43 pm (UTC)
pizzuti

Somehow, the thought of women looking at those magazines with a sense of "conscious exploitation" doesn't bother me. Probaby because those women are looking at the magazine only to enjoy the pictures. I, a male, am endowed with that pervasive competitive streak, and since I am a guy and the photos are men I feel like I have to look like they do.

If there were magazines full of skinny boys and hippies and punky guys kissing, it wouldn't bother me. It would be about celebrating life, physicality, and sexuality. But it isn't; it's about saying "body is superior to mind, six-packs are superior to flat stomachs."

Mon, Jan. 16th, 2006 01:42 am (UTC)
theyare45

well of course, but isn't that the thing, gentle one? first off, cosmo, glamour, etc, actually ARE mostly designed, edited, written, and generally 'run' by women, though of course the parent companies are owned by men. but that isn't what i want to say...

i want to say that is The Thing, courageous one. you make an unusual division between pornographic and non-pornographic images by saying that non-pornographic images are meant to do 'more' than make you jerk off at your computer (or tv or wherehaveyou), but how, why, is said action really different from making you want/buy something/someone? both place you at a location. both prescribe a course of action. both shape, unshape, reshape, your desires.

women who read gay magazines are indeed 'only' enjoying the pictures, but that's all straight men do too when they peruse the most vulgar, corporate pornography... so...

i'm not saying you're wrong to feel competitive or envious, and as noted below many women also have body issues due to exploitative cultural images

but, but, always but

beauty manages to be beauty

always

and i have gone on

love math+

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
gavtron18

Ah, this is why I added you to my friends page. Bravo, really. This perfectly summarizes what I believe should be something of a new anthem for this generation of homosexual men. We're headed in a new direction of acquiescence on so many levels that it's really frigthening.

I would like to see the day where that open-minded fellow is actually open-minded. I would like to see a day where those men, respective of their positions in society, have the foresight and intelligence to remove those detrimental bonds which have so obscured and abjected them.

This essay was very enjoyable, thank you very much.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)
uriebaz

I never read an OUT magazine.

But i will admit unattainable abs.

Make me very very jealous.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 04:00 pm (UTC)
ukelijah

Your post perfectly represents my feelings on all these issues - it's amazing.

At the same time, I dislike going to so-called 'pride' events because they're anything but. They're "Look, channel 13! Look at me walking my bitch down the street wearing nothing but a couple pieces of leather, one of which is a dog collar complete with lead! I'm just like all you straight people! I demand equality!" or a parade of drag queens or other camp ideals that make *most* straight people cringe. People get together on the steps of some political arena and chant about how they're going to change the world. Then they go to the after-party and get drugged and drunk out of their heads "for a good cause" and do absolutely nothing differently at any point in their lives after the event.

You never see the quiet "normal" people who just want love, to be loved, and to be accepted in the world without fear of Bubba and friends beating them and leaving them for dead on an isolated fence in the middle of a field.

That sickens me, and that's why my first "pride" event was my last.

I'm not "proud" of being gay. I'm rather indifferent to it, actually. I do want to be treated the same as everyone else and I feel the only way we're ever going to accomplish that is by stopping all of this ridiculous acting out and "being" what we want to be. There's no need for pretence - they know we're here and they think we're all drag queens who prey on little children and have 'disturbing' sexual fetishes - all of them. Hmm, wonder why...

Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006 11:25 am (UTC)
soul_meets_body

"Your post perfectly represents my feelings on all these issues - it's amazing."

Ditto.
The thing that impresses me most about your writing is that takes no effort (on the part of the reader) to relate to you.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
matthewtroxel: Thank you!

Thank you for saying this! Advertising as an entity disgusts me, but I especially hate how the media has mind fucked us all into believing that we're not perfect unless we look like an Abercrombie model. It's a daily battle I go through after years of seeing these examples of "perfect and worthy" men. Everytime I sit down to eat I think "If I just suffer a little now, I'll get rid of those love handles and then I'll be attractive"
And the sad thing is, it's a rarity to see any sort of self affirming image in the media. Even in the Dove campaigns, where we see average woman modeling, the message still is "Your not okay. You need softer armpits. Buy Dove. It will complete you."

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC)
mroctober

Well said.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
acerbic_wit

Well, I can't speak for lesbian magazines because I've never really read them, but I would disagree with the sweeping statement that "women understand something men don't." If you ever pick up magazines like Cosmo or Glamour, etc., they are filled with those same sorts of perfect images that people agonize over. Perfect make-up, perfect flowing hair, and even though you sit there and tell yourself that those photos are definitely air-brushed anyway, it doesn't stop the jealousy and it doesn't stop you looking in the mirror and wishing you looked more like that, because those images of beautiful celebrities are marketed not only to women as "ths is what you should strive for" but also to men as "this is what you should want to fuck."

No one can live up to those images in real life, not even the models who appear in them . . . but I guess my point was it's not gay male culture alone that objectifies like that. It's everywhere.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
pizzuti

My only answer to that is that Cosmo and Glamour aren't designed and run by women. I'm not 100% sure on that, but it's a hunch.

But I do wholeheartedly agree that women face the same issue with objectification that I do.

Sun, Jan. 15th, 2006 09:45 pm (UTC)
coldrainyday

true story.

Mon, Jan. 16th, 2006 04:19 am (UTC)
moxxus: exactly!

i can really relate to what you described so well about being with someone that YOU find attractive--even though they don't fit the profile that is force fed on us every day by OTHER people. i've never understood why people think that what they like will also be what turns me on. to me no one could be sexier or more desirable than my boyfriend. he may never be on the cover of cosmo--even if only becuase of his hairy chest. but i can tell you that when we are snuggled up in front of the fire on a cold night like tonight and i just bury my face in his chest and just breath him in...i wonder how we can sometimes fall for that crap in the magazines. the real thing is sooo much better than the illusion.

Mon, Jan. 16th, 2006 11:53 am (UTC)
(Anonymous): faceless

an interesting observation. but maybe part of it is that people want to protect themselves. so they enter as no one and speak to no ones, hoping that somewhere in the nothingness their voice can be heard, which can lead to a conversation, which can lead to faces, hands and friendship.
it is even more sad to see people meeting face to face, sitting there, talking to each other. but off course they aren't really talking. because one soul does not see the other, instead, together, they sit isolated, engaging only with the fantasies in their heads.
i like what you write. but more than that, i like how you write.
would be cool to chat some more.
pbocetti@aol.com

Tue, May. 23rd, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)

Thank you. You are beautiful. I love your eyes so much. I never told you that. I get lost in them and all I see is your amazing, glowing soul.

Tue, Jun. 6th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC)
schwarzedrache

I know this entry is old, but I reached it from a link from another website. I just wanted to say that there are alternative magazines out there, the dutch magazine 'butt' comes to mind. While it is primarily a porn magazine, it represents a more 'balanced' view of attractiveness in it's advertising, and even it's choice of models. It shows that attractiveness and sexiness can be raw masculinity, or glitter twinks, or just normal everyday guys. Although you do see some sixpacks and perfectly chisled pecs, there are just as many barrel chested men with interesting tattoos or thick hairy legs, or very captivating eyes... The photography is also -really- well done.

Wed, Jun. 7th, 2006 04:05 am (UTC)
(Anonymous): Kuddos!

I'm new to the blogging world and I was researching on our gay "culture" because I'm not a typical gay as portrayed by so and so person/s I speak with in different settings ... I used to think, "gee, how come MY life is not like that and I'm still gay?!"

That's how ptowndate.com came about, my partner and I thought that our current cultural movement should coincide with online culture and so we created an online dating web site for the glbt community where personalities count and not just the body type, it's still fun to see those cuties but I'd rather be able to talk to them in plain speak and for more than 10 minutes.

We just launched and it's tiny steps but we'll get there, one member at a time.