BENCH PRESS

 
 

The New Gay Man

 
Anon. "Untitled" 1998
 

 

The body in all its glory becomes both an active and a passive site of desire. In the Prevail Sport advertisement (left) from the same issue of 'Exercise for Men Only', we can see the gaze of the model at top left actively challenging the desiring gaze of the viewer. At bottom left the hard body as phallus compliments the outlines of the erect penis in the underwear, hinting at its hidden power. At middle left and right the body becomes a passive masturbatory landscape for the viewer as the model is seemingly asleep, allowing the viewer to caress the body with his eyes without fear of rejection. The crotch and arse become the focus of this desire.

 

(For more information on the gaze please see the menu at left and go to the Eye-Pressure chapter).

 

 

Anonymous.
"Untitled."
Prevail Sport underwear advertisement.
'Exercise for Men Only' magazine
1998

   

 

 

It is very difficult not to take binary positions in regard to the positive and negative contributions of gym culture to the gay community throughout the Western world. Nothing in the world is ever solely black/white, straight/gay, masculine/feminine, but many shades of grey in-between. There are both positive and negative effects that emanate from gym culture and the desire of many gay men to attain a muscular mesomorphic body but on balance I believe that gym culture and it's 'lifestyle' are quite exclusive and elitist. I would suggest that if you are going to try and attain the body that you desire then the best way to go about it is to fully understand the implications of your decision to try and attain that body before you start, and the reasons that lie behind your decision.

 

 

 

"Proudly serving the gay and lesbian
community for over 24 years."

 

 

Anonymous.
"Untitled."
City Gym advertisement.
Sydney Gay and Lesbian
Mardi Gras Festival guide.
1999

Anon. "Untitled" 1999

 

Brian Pronger has observed that,

"The 'new gay man' ... is the man who has developed his body to reflect his desires and therefore his understanding of himself."

I disagree with this statement. Contrary to what Brain Pronger proposes I suggest that the 'new gay man' who has developed his body has not necessarily developed a greater understanding of himself compared to any other gay man. I propose that what gay men are attracted to is a reflection, and it is only a reflection, a mirror image of how they would like to see themselves; this is not a greater understanding of themselves and having a developed body does not necessarily lead to a greater understanding of the Self. The (self)reflection of a person's desires through the development of their body may indeed tell them (and you) something about their desires (for a similar body?), but I suggest that this desire has, in many cases, been directed by external forces; by society, reflected appraisal, social comparison and rituals of learned behaviour for example. In some instances developing the body can be seen as a cure all by gay men to the problems that beset them - insecurities, fear of rejection, and the lack of love, intimacy and connection with other men to name just a few. Unfortunately the development of a muscular mesomorphic body may mask these problems behind a hard, armoured facade where no one can see what is going on, least of all the person that lives in the body. I believe that this is not encouraging or developing a greater understanding of the Self but is perhaps just the self gratification of personal desires enacted through the (self)reflexivity of a perfect image.

Is it not ironic that in a community that prides itself on diversity, the reliance of that community on one type of physical ideal of attractiveness mirrors the discrimination that so many gay men have suffered over the years at the hands of heterosexuals. The muscular mesomorphic stereotype, much as the stereo-typing of gay men as effeminate in the past, does not serve the gay community well. It just provides a reinforcement of traditional 'masculinity' and its values in the form of the muscular mesomorphic body. I suggest that this type of body has become the outward sign of a patriarchal homosexuality, the dominance of some gay men over other gay men through a desirable visible symbology.