BENCH PRESS

 
In this research project I have taken this obsession with possessing the ideal muscular body in the gay community into largely unexplored territory. As can be seen from two of the interviews that I have conducted (See Story 4 and Story 5 in the Personal Press chapter) gay men are placing themselves at greater risk of contraction of the HIV/AIDS virus because of their need to possess the body of their 'ideal' man. This may mean taking risks such as having sex without a condom in order to achieve their desires. Personally I suffered from an acute lack of self-esteem in respect to my body image; I went to gym for years wanting a bigger body, desiring this kind of body for myself and in others. I could never achieve what I wanted and this made me really depressed; it undermined my self-esteem. But I learnt to live with the body I had and came to enjoy its familiarity. Now as I get older youth and beauty are passing and I am no longer 'forever young'. This is a difficult time for gay men and a lot [of gay men] enter counselling after the age of 35 to cope with this situation. Magazines with covers, articles and quotations like the one below, using the imagery of young men when advertising an issue on anti-ageing, don't help either. You might not be this young but you can drool over (t)his aspect of youth that WE ALL strive to maintain.

 

Martin Ryter "Untitled" 1998

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Talk about anti-ageing - our cover model looks as if he just graduated high school. The important thing to remember is that Martin Ryter's cover shot reflects the aspects of youth that we all strive to maintain. You may not always look quite this young, but there is no reason why you can't look your best at any age."

100 anti-ageing tips. Special Longevity/Anti-Ageing Issue. Age-Defying Shoulder Regimen for men Over 35 [as though all our shoulders fall apart after 35]. Human Growth Hormone: Nature's Fountain of Youth. Total Body Training Builds Muscle after 40. Power Chest Routine Halts the March of Time.

 

Martin Ryter.
"Untitled."
'Exercise for Men Only' magazine
1998

 

 

 

I'm afraid nothing halts the march of time. What you have to get used to is accepting that fact, accepting that your body is getting older and changing, and you move on from there. Using a model that, as they say, looks as if he has just graduated high school is promoting the 'ideal' of the eternal youth. Gay men are obsessed by youth and beauty, and this magazine panders to their insecurities, telling them that they can beat the march of time, remaining ever youthful and desirable. This is a fallacy much as the strong muscular body is a deceptive phallacy, a hard armoured body that signifies the supposed sexual mystique of the phallus and the omnipotence of the hidden penis.

Another tool 'Polite Porn' magazines such as 'Exercise For Men Only' use are the poses of the models. 'Shredded, ageless abs in just 6 weeks' scream the headlines and there is the model with his hands wandering seductively down to his genital region via his unbuttoned trousers - the suggestiveness of the pose links abs and sex together in a provocative pose.

 

 

Atomic Studio/Mark Howland.
"Untitled."
'Exercise for Men Only' magazine
1998

 

Many of the poses in these magazines come straight out of pornography magazines and videos. Arms raised behind head to reveal the erotic underarm area, genitals pressing against skimpy Lycra outfits so the outline of the cock can be seen, as in the example below. This has to be one of my favourite photographs from this issue, close to one of my ideal body types. What would I do to have sex with him?

 

J. Neu.
"Untitled."
'Exercise for Men
Only' magazine
1998